When ‘I Don’t Know’ is the Best Answer

I don't knowBy Amanda Quraishi

Having to know it all is exhausting.

Let’s face it, most of us are sophists these days.  We act as if we have the answers to the global crises du jour, but at best we only have opinions. Like many others, I log on to the internet every morning and spend the day arguing about all kinds of topics on which I really only have a partial knowledge.

To back up our opinions we use any logical fallacies we can get away with, regurgitate talking points from our favorite pundits, use hyperbole and anecdotal evidence to make our case, and when all else fails we just get abusive. But I really think all this ‘knowing’ is actually getting in the way of us acquiring real knowledge.  We spend more time talking/typing than reading/listening.  We skim articles and blogs to find ONLY what we need to support our own views and rush off to thrust and parry with the nearest opponent.  When someone refuses to agree with us, we insist that they are either evil or stupid.  Or both.

I think it’s ok to admit that we just don’t know. There are problems out there that we simply don’t have the answers to.  We are limited by our own relative understanding of the world.  We usually only know half of any story that gets to the public, if even that much.  We don’t know what goes on behind the scenes in political meetings, inside celebrity bedrooms or even within the hearts of the people we work with every day.

Heck, even if we do have some working knowledge that can be applied toward big issues, it’s ok to admit that there are usually multiple ways to solve a problem.  No one person or group has cornered the market on solutions.

I am writing as much for my own benefit as anyone else’s, because I’ve realized lately just how much I don’t know what to do about many of the things that bother me about the world today.

I don’t know what to do about the millions of people being slaughtered in Syria, the insane clown posse that *is* ISIS, or the systemic oppression of Palestinians. I don’t know what to do about the fact that unarmed black kids keep getting shot in the streets of America. I don’t know what to do about our horrible system of factory farming that is destroying our health, the fact that we spend billions of dollars on making new weapons every year and the destruction of our precious environment.

I know that I have my own opinions about a lot of these issues, but I don’t know how to SOLVE THEM.

But I do know this:

Contrary to popular belief, any response that itself resorts to violence is NOT a solution.

Real solutions don’t perpetuate the same problems they claim to be solving.

Real solutions don’t just stop oppression, they dismantle the systems responsible for it, put new systems in place to avoid power imbalances from recurring by new leaders and find ways to repair the damage that’s been done by those old systems.

I know that there are real problems in the world, and they need to be addressed because they are putting a lot of us in peril.  I know that we need a lot of good ideas from smart people who are humble enough to keeping learning at the same time they are working toward solutions.  I know that I need to try to be one of them.

Yes friends, NOT KNOWING.

I’m working on embracing it, and surprisingly, it’s not as bad as it seems.  It’s almost a relief.

And I think it might be the first step toward figuring some of this sh*t out.

Amanda Quraishi is a writer, interfaith activist and technology professional living in Austin, Texas.  She currently works full time for Charity Dynamics, a marketing and technology consulting agency that works with non-profit organizations.  She also leads a populist-based interfaith initiative at InterfaithActivism.org, and blogs about the American Muslim experience at muslimahMERICAN.com.

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  • 4ever49

    Yes Amanda, there are many things unknown or unsolvable.

    Perhaps we can focus on the things we do know.

    For instance, what is the driving force behind ISIS, Al Qaeda, Hamas, Boko Haram, Sunnis, Alawites, and the Shia including the governing mullahs of Iran?

    Isn’t their one common theme Islam and the teachings of Mohammed?

    What can Muslims do to change your religion’s murderous aspects?

    • Tlynn

      The driving force behind Hamas is the fact that they are usually the only people protecting their land and avenging the death of their people. Every Religion has had some bad actors doing horrible things in the name of their religion. it took a while before Christianity lost it’s murderous aspects. I say this as a former Christian. I liked this piece. Too many people give their opinions as stated facts around the internet.

      • 4ever49

        Isn’t Hamas an extension of the Iranian government? How can
        they then be “protecting their land”? Aren’t they using the Palestinians as shields – storing weapons even in hospitals and firing from housing projects?

        You may like this piece but I think it is an admission that Muslims cannot or will not change their “religion”. I don’t know if they lack
        the spine to call out their religious leaders but changes have to be made or it is only going to get worse.

        Your equivalency argument often used in an attempt to soften
        the view of Islam & is nonsense. They teach hate against Jews and kafirs and it is what drives their violence.

        • Tlynn

          Hamas is the only force willing to fight for Palestine as I previously stated. Palestine does not get support from the international community because of US support for Israel. There was no force to stop Isreal from doing military operations in Palestinian territory or building on their land. If you would like to see Palestinians not support Hamas, protest for sending the Palestinian government the same amount of funds Isreal gets from us. From your rant your hatred of Islam and Muslims shows. I seriously don’t understand why you think Christianity, especially . Fundamental Christianity, hasn’t been equally as horrendous. UGANDA is currently imprisoning not only homosexuals, but also the people who support them. You would not want your religion to be only associated with the evil some people do in it’s name. The evangelical and catholic community has been silent on this. We won’t even go into the catholic abuse scandal. It would be nice change to you have the charitable oppions of other religions that you seem to give your own.

          • 4ever49

            Hamas is not fighting for Palestine or those in Gaza; it is
            trying to kill Jews by attacking Israel repeatedly. Hamas has no legitimacy and is simply a terrorist organization determined to take Israel – read its charter.

            I am not “ranting” hatred of Muslims or Islam. I am merely
            stating the obvious – that the core values of their “religion” seek to dominate and subject others to their code of laws (sharia) and openly teaches hatred of Jews and others. Even in the US Islamic schools in Virginia were found to be teaching hatred of Jews. Look it up. Muslims have a real problem on their hands and they need to deal with it.

            You cite some fundamentalist Christian group in Uganda supporting their governments imprisoning of homosexuals. If true it is reprehensible. Would you care to comment on the execution of homosexuals in Islamic countries? Iran was recently in the news is this regard. While you are at it would you care to provide examples of Christian’s teaching hatred of them as well as other groups?

            You don’t need to go into Catholic sexual abuse scandals – prosecutors in the US and elsewhere have charged and convicted the abusers.

  • Rin

    Saying violence isn’t the answer in *any* case is either naive or you were only considering Ferguson when you were making that statement. Context matters. In Syria, weapons would certainly help, speaking as someone whose family is actually affected in that conflict.

  • KomaGawa

    I realize this isnt your thing, but I am getting a little desparate to finish this paper for my class, so I am contacting any place Islamic.

    I am not Muslim. In my class, Discussions of Islam. I agreed to contact 20 Islamic leaders and ask them 2 questions.

    1, Do you REGULARLY contact members of another Faith, Christianity or Judiasm concerning issues of mutual concern?

    2. Does your organization regularly contact members of another Faith (Christianity, Judiasm) concerning issues of mutual concern?

    I will send the same question to 20 Christian clerics, and 20 Rabbi. I want 50% of all clerics to be outside USA/Canada. So I can use Google-Translate to translate my questions into Arabic, or European language or Persian. If people dont answer my survey, this is ok, it is part of my result that religious people refuse to communicate with me.


    Thomas Asada-Grant

    Saitama, Japan

  • 4ever49

    KomaGawa – have you tried to contact the author directly? That hopefully will yield results.
    I have found that Islamic proponents are very reluctant to engage in direct discussion about their religion so good luck.