“I believe that one is only truly free when learning, and one can only learn when one is free.”
—-Actor Peter Fonda, Henry’s son, Jane’s brother, and Bridget’s father, who died yesterday.
Memorable ethics quotes come from unexpected places sometimes, and this is a striking example. It’s also important, wise and true. I have never heard or read of anyone putting that thought quite that way.
Fonda’s observation focuses nicely on the roots of today’s existential cultural peril. A vast segment of the population has grown to adulthood with insufficient or defective knowledge, making them easy prey for power-seekers, demagogues and charlatans peddling theories and nostrums that a basic comprehension of history would instantly undermine. Instead of being imbued by their teachers and parents with intellectual curiosity, a healthy and intrinsically American suspicion of authority, and a reluctance to follow mobs of any kind, they lack the intellectual defenses to fend off ideological cant, the most dangerous of which holds that society will only be made virtuous by the unthinking acceptance of approved doctrine. That requires locking in dogma early, and creating a public that is inoculated against learning by being cut off from non-conforming information. Continue reading