Tag Archives: 2000

They know and they ignore that knowledge

It’s interesting how people know lots of information now, especially info about health, but people don’t always act in accordance with this knowledge. They know, but they don’t act like they know. They know and they ignore that knowledge.

I submit that’s because that person is making a choice, a choice based on value. I believe there is a conscious choice there. Example—nearly everyone who’s in college now knows that smoking is bad for their health. They’ve heard it from many sources: ads, parents, health class, etc. So they aren’t ignorant. They may even believe it—in the long-term , smoking will hurt me. But I won’t smoke that long—smoking won’t hurt me in the short term. So they discount that health knowledge, and it is outweighed in the values scale by something else, some other belief—maybe that claim is “I like smoking, the experience of it,” or “Smoking helps me cope with stress,” or “It’s fun to smoke while drinking,” etc.

The formula: value of information vs. value of other belief

And I say this valuing that supersedes raw information is within the realm of ethics. (I think this is J___’s argument, as told to me by G__.) That you can teach people information—about health, pollution, whatever—but unless you also tell people the value of that information, the student cannot be expected to act in accord with the info. This isn’t to say teaching values is easy or always successful—if the teacher says X has value, and the peer group negates that, the student can’t be counted on to do X. Belief formation is influenced by the beliefs of those people who have the most influence on us, people whom we judge to be Important. Their attitude matters to us. If I don’t believe school is important, a teacher’s approval or disapproval won’t be very compelling.

Teaching values isn’t easy. But info is just raw data, useless, unless the teacher also teaches how to use the information, and the importance of the information. My philosophy prof this semester says ethics can be defined as the process of deciding what’s good and what’s not good—of all the choices, which is the best one. And this is important to tell kids.

“Pollution is bad because …”—Unless they can see an immediate danger, like imminent or certain death, you must explain the dangers. Kids can intuitively understand why not to step in front of a moving car. It’s less easy to see how eating too many fats for 30 years can lead to a heart attack. It’s especially hard for kids to see this, because they are young enough to feel invincible. They don’t have the experience, the sense of all the possibilities that can happen in a moment.

[From journal of 21 Sept. 2000, Journal 29, pages 7-9]

Their bodies have significance now beyond their physical form

Older people’s bodies are past their peak, but somehow they are substantial—they have a weight to them, a presence, my tall thin body does not have. (And middle-aged bodies are adult, but not proven, not patriarchal, not time tested.) Theirs are the bodies of patriarchs and matriarchs—I’m culturally an overgrown adolescent. Their bodies are not what you would consider attractive, not by current sexual standards or even by classical (Greek) sculptural standards either. And while their bodies do show signs of wear or use—my grandma’s blue leg veins from her pregnancies, my grandpa’s perpetually flexed fingers that were cut by the saw—I don’t mean their their bodies are worn out like a miner’s body. More like the idea that their bodies have significance now beyond their physical form. They have raised a family and maintained a farmstead, and they have nourished their bodies with food from the same land they live on—for 36 years now, their bodies have [been] of this land and for this land.

As living creatures, they surely will one day die—and that is surely hard to imagine. They are still too strong, too hale and hearty, too strong of the life force and one with this land. What this farm is—the animals, the mowed lawn, the living gardens—is a function of their ongoing activity. This is a rich and lively community and something so rare on farms these days is the simple fact of animals—chickens, goats, dogs here on this farm. And these are only because of the ongoing commitment that they make to keeping this community going. It ‘s because they do chores every day that this farm is what it still is. If my grandma decided she didn’t want to get up, go out, and milk twice a day, her goats would be gone and this would be a different, and I think diminished, place.

[From journals written Friday 18 Aug. 2000, in Journal 28, page 105-7]