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

When ‘I Don’t Know’ is the Best Answer August 15, 2014

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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