The word ‘rude’ was originally used to denote behaviour – especially speech – that displayed a crude unlearnedness. Those individuals who knew a thing or two clearly found it irritating to be pestered or challenged by those who clearly knew a lot less. I am not excusing the fact that the knowledgeable were very likely to belong to a privileged elite that in many ways helped keep the masses in ignorance in order to better exploit them, but the preference of knowledge over ignorance was in itself not a negative trend.
Flash forward to today, where it is considered the height of rudeness for someone with greater knowledge to attempt to challenge people’s beliefs and try to help correct their misconceptions. Where there once existed a preference for knowledge over ignorance, we now see an antipathy towards correction, and the view that challenging information is generally very rude.
Given that anyone labouring under a misconception is by definition wasting some of their time and energy, not to mention missing out on opportunities that true insight could afford them, it seems completely backwards that anyone should so strongly hate being corrected.
You may have heard the story that Richard Dawkins tells of the biologist who, upon being corrected of a mistake he had been victim to for 15 years, thanked the man whose revelation (and the research that led to it) assisted him by replacing false knowledge with facts that contradicted it.
Why is this example not more commonplace? Why is it, that in wider society, people react with such hostility to people trying to enlighten them?
Is it that people simply fear the cardiac arrest of self-esteem that would likely accompany the realisation that they had been duped (or duping their selves) for so long? And why can’t people take pride and pleasure in their learning, rather than make the further mistake of assuming that it makes them a bad person to be wrong?
Personally, I look back on my past errors with a soupçon of mild embarrassment, but a far greater amount of gratitude, that I moved past the disinformation and eventually found a more objectively correct comprehension.
I thank all the other individuals that have aided me in my quest, and want to wish everyone (them, as well as you) well on your own roads to erudition.