Why can’t some people see the obvious?

Why can’t some people see the obvious?

When we try to explain something to someone and they just don’t get it, we may wonder, “What’s wrong with them?” Maybe they are afflicted by motivated ignorance — that is, they have a strong motivation to stay ignorant. 

Why would anyone want to stay ignorant? Because they have a particular agenda; so, they push aside facts or insights that come in the way of that agenda. 

Suppose a government wants to promote a particular medicine to boost its revenues. The medicine may not cure and may even harm. Yet due to its agenda, the government may neglect, malign or reject such ‘problematic’ research. 

What applies to medicine applies even more to things with subtler malefic effects, such as a hate-inducing narrative. Politicians who want to grab power may promote a particular narrative about how some group of people are systemically corrupt; they utterly refuse to see facts that run against their narrative. Such deliberate blindness reflects intelligence in the mode of ignorance (Bhagavad-gita 18.32), wherein people (mis)use their intelligence to forcibly interpret things the way they want them to be. 

When discussing with others, if we find that they stubbornly refuse to consider facts or arguments that contradict their beliefs, then we needn’t waste time arguing with them. Instead, we can focus on those who want to expand their understanding. 

Of course, before presuming that others are motivated to be ignorant, we need to consider whether we ourselves are similarly afflicted. How can we check that? By letting our conceptions be subjected to logical scrutiny, thereby deepening our grasp of reality. 

Gita wisdom stands ready to provide us the tools for both understanding reality and understanding how our (and others’) minds impede our perception of reality. 

One-sentence summary: 

Be motivated to help the ignorant and avoid those who are motivated to stay ignorant.  

Think it over: 

  • Why may people be motivated to stay ignorant?
  • What is intelligence in the mode of ignorance?
  • How can we deal with motivated ignorance? 


18.32: That understanding which considers irreligion to be religion and religion to be irreligion, under the spell of illusion and darkness, and strives always in the wrong direction, O Partha, is in the mode of ignorance.


To know more about this verse, please click on the image


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