We don’t know we don’t know

In the islands hundreds of miles off the coast of Australia
there’s a primitive people.

The religion of these natives is called ‘Cargo Cult’.

They worship aeroplanes, the pilots, and the goods they
bring.

Amazingly they were pretty much a stone-age people until
about fifty years ago.

Up until then they’d had no contact whatsoever with the
outside world.

So they were living just the way man had lived 10,000 years
ago.

Then, mainly due to World War 2, planes arrived.

And the natives began to mix, and trade, with the people who
flew and serviced the planes.

They went fast-forward 10,000 years in a matter of weeks.

They didn’t have time to evolve.

They were more like time travellers.

They saw things they’d never seen before.

And, or course, they could only interpret new things based
on their existing knowledge.

Anything outside that was magic or religion.

So they interpreted aeroplanes based on their stone-age
reality.

They could only be huge silver birds.

And these silver birds carried what must be gods.

They came down from the sky.

They looked a bit like ordinary men, but whiter and taller.

And they brought their entire civilisation with them
wherever they went.

Strange magical things never seen before.

Things like small silver sticks that could make black liquid
marks on paper.

The white ‘gods’ would try explaining that all these things
weren’t from heaven. 

They were fountain pens, made by men.

So the natives said, “Okay,
show us how you do that. Make one now.”

The white men said, “Well
we can’t do it here.”

The natives said, “Oh,
you have to go to a special place for the magic ceremony?”

The white men said, “It’s
not magic, it’s just simple mass production.”

The natives said, “Okay
show us.”

The white men said, “We
can’t.”

The natives nodded, and smiled knowingly to each other, and
said, “Ah ha.”

And they knew these men were really gods.

But eventually, after the war, the gods got back in their
great silver birds, and went away.

So to entice them back, the natives built landing strips.

And they built decoy silver birds.

But it didn’t work.

So they built mock telephones and performed rituals.

They talked into them the way they’d seen the gods do it.

But that didn’t bring them back either.

They knew they needed to pray to the most powerful god.

And they remembered the white men/gods had talked about
being ruled by a very powerful woman.

But of course, all women were ruled by men.

So whoever ruled her must be the most powerful god of all.

And they found that this woman’s husband was Prince Phillip.

So they built an altar with his photograph as the
centrepiece.

And they worshipped it.

Prince Phillip.

See what they did was interpret everything through the
filter of what they knew.

That’s all we can do.

Like the three blind men who come across an elephant.

They all feel it.

And they go on their way.

Later on, they’re telling another blind man about the
elephant.

 “It’s like a snake.” says one.

“Nonsense, it’s like
a tree trunk.”
says another.

“Not at all, it’s
like a hanging vine.”
says the third.

And that’s how the human mind is.

We honestly believe that what we know is all there is to
know.

We only have five senses through which to experience an
infinite universe.

And yet we assume infinity is limited to our five senses.

We interpret everything through that filter.

The filter of what we know.

And that’s how we approach every problem.

We don’t do research.

We can’t.

We do interpretation and call it research.

We find reassurance in confirming our prejudices.

We aren’t any different to the cargo cult.

Just slicker and more modern.

 

Just like everyone else, we can’t leave Plato’s Cave.

  • John W.

    My father used to regularly ask me, “What don’t you know?”.

  • Charles Yamine

    The eye sees what the mind knows…

  • Dave Trott

    Hi Charles,
    You just encapsulated Kant’s ‘Synthetic A Priori’.
    What he called his ‘Copernican Revolution’.
    Previously everyone thought we merely interpreted reality.
    Kant proved we create our experience of reality before we ‘interpret’ it.
    There is no independent objective reality.
    Or as Buddha put it 2,000 years earlier ‘All there is is mind”.

  • John W.

    Dave
    Is it advertising’s role to hold up a mirror to society?

  • Andy Knell

    Advertising reflects and reinforces, occasionally reframes and very occasionally revolutionises.

  • Soap Box

    and sometimes it sucks (but not all the time :)

  • Kevin Gordon

    Hi Dave,

    All there is is mind….
    Hmmm.
    What would Buddah have said about working with the mindless?

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