With knowledge comes responsibility, for how then can you explain the very popular saying “Ignorance is bliss”. I have since come to realise the full extent of this saying and in a twisted sort of way looked at my days of ignorance with a certain sense of longing. Ignorance is bliss because knowledge imposes on you a sense of responsibility. Nietzsche once alluded to this, albeit on a different issue, and his had to do with a world that chose to deny the existence of God, a world in which man became God, the “Ubermensch” or super man, as he referred to this godlike man. Nietzsche believed that with this disregard for God, comes responsibility to fill the very big shoes that God had previously filled. Man had to define notions such as morality on his own terms, notions that were bound to be contested by all involved. Unlike many existentialists and atheists he bore no disillusionment of the prefect godless world. Of course one should not attempt to associate Nietzsche’s view on this with his take on faith or religion, Nietzsche did not believe in God.
However what I admire about him was that he was wise enough to point out the inherent problems that were bound to plague the godless world, the responsibility that came with this decision. His was a life spent trying to fill that void left by the denouncing of God.
Like Nietzsche, I have come to learn that knowledge does not always have that liberating effect that people constantly associate it with. Yes, knowledge opens one’s eyes to things previously unseen, their ears to ideas unheard before, and this is great. Knowledge allows us to finally see things as they are and is associated with a veil coming off one’s eyes. The liberating effect inherent in it has been described as the unshackling of one’s mind, a powerful statement and one I would say is very true. I understand the importance of knowledge, especially as an African woman who has seen the results of a world deprived of knowledge.
Also, I have seen how liberating knowledge is for those that had been forced to live in the darkness of ignorance, having their own stories told to them and with that depriving them of the right to define their own identity. I have seen how with the realization of this (a result of knowledge), they have taken back the reigns to decide their own identity and they have indeed fought back against oppression. Believe me, I am not blind to the importance of knowledge.
And yet, I have come to the realization that for me, knowledge of things places yet another weight over my shoulders. No longer can I wrap ignorance around myself, as though a shield against the stark reality of the things out there. Things I would much rather not know and yet curiosity begs that I find out. It always shocks me how willingly people throw knowledge around as though not bearing any weight or repercussions.
You see, for me knowledge has repercussions, it has forced me to question long held ideas, objective truths, as I considered them. I am unable to take anything at face value without fully rationalizing it, and here I join Nietzsche in blaming Socrates and Plato for steering the world towards rationalism. For how can one have faith if they must rationalize everything they encounter. Isn’t faith starkly opposed to this? Herein lies the dilemma of a young African Christian in this post enlightenment period.
By, Louise Umutoni
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