“It doesn’t matter to me who’s Prime Minister, (…) ordinary people fill their heads with all kinds of rubbish, (…) What does that matter?! So we go around the sun! If we went around the moon or round and round the garden like a teddy bear, it wouldn’t make any difference! “, said Sherlock Holmes (actually, Benedict Cumberbatch) while having a conversation with John Watson (Martin Freeman) in the TV Show Sherlock, which by the way I hardly recommend.
Is he right? I would say so. We know that in TV shows everything tends to be exaggerated and involved in some drama and atypical stories, but that interesting thought Sherlock gave us is what we’re going to use as starting point. Is it really important to know things people believe are important? What should be occupying our minds?
One thing is true: if we didn’t know that we go around the sun, we would still go around the sun. And if we didn’t know who’s Prime Minister, it’ll still be the same person. The only thing that will actually change, it’s the way others (or ourselves) think about us. They may call us ignorant (not spectacularly ignorant, like John called Sherlock) or simply stupid. So, does that really matter?
As a journalist, I always have this discussion with myself. Should I know everything? Ok, that’s not possible. But should I try to know as much as possible? Reading the papers, watching the news, listening to the radio, being up to date with social media, etc. That all takes times, and sometimes I find myself saying “I don’t give a f**k“. Learning about politics, history, social movements, dates, important people around the world; all that is kind of important, but it’s not strictly necessary. Nothing at all, and I repeat, nothing at all would change if we just stopped bothering about what’s going on out there.
We’d feel a little bit guilty if someone asks us what the capital of Spain is and we don’t know. Or if someone says to us “have you heard the news? I just can’t believe what happened” and we reply “no idea”. It’s considered a bad thing to be outdated. But let’s be honest: sometimes we just don’t want to know. What shall we do? Well, it’s easy, isn’t it? Don’t read, hear or watch anything and you’ll reach your knowledge-free goal.
Why do we sometimes feel like that? All the things that are considered important, like politics or economy, are human inventions. They might be good or not, but they are in this world because we brought it to our lives. You may ask yourself, is it necessary to know about something I just can’t see or touch? I wouldn’t blame you if you believed so. Instead of spending our time learning about something that happened and that will change in a couple of days, months or years, we can watch a movie, go for a walk, cook, whatever. Both are good things to do, that’s true, but don’t watch the news just because you thing you have to. No! It’s up to you. If you don’t bother, then don’t do it in order to fit in a social mould. You don’t know who’s Prime Minister? Awesome! Why would you want to know?
There are some cases in which knowing is a must. Some sad and unfair things have to be told to the world in order to avoid them to happen again, mostly when it’s about people’s lives. Things like wars or human rights violations can’t be hidden and we, as people, are obliged to know that, somewhere in the world, someone is dying while we watch our phone waiting for the delivery guy to arrive. Also, if we were to write an article or give a lecture, we must know what we are talking about. So, in these cases, knowing is definitely important.
“Anything on the news?”. Normal question among colleagues at work. That means there’s nothing interesting to talk about, so let’s move onto some banal stuff, which is one step below the things we really care about. If the weather and the news both are considered small talk topics, why do we keep saying that knowing what’s going on is important? If you make a decision and want to be a conscious ignorant, then congratulations! You know less “important” things, now it’s your job to replace that useless stuff with interesting new information.