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You can lead a camel to water, but you can’t make it drink.

Why providing people with free knowledge and wisdom doesn’t make people smart nor wise.


In the same manner that just giving people money won’t eliminate poverty, putting free knowledge and wisdom in front of people doesn’t remove stupidity nor does it make them smart and wise. I know this may not sound immediately kind or hopeful and some may view this as another episode of the condescending intellect, but allow me to explain. To put it simply, you have to have an interest, ability and capacity to learn. If those three factors are not present, then you’ll always be pushing the proverbial up hill.  


Cue “End” roll credits


Not quite. I haven’t made the essay word count yet haha!


This isn’t a case against free education – side note: have you noticed how I’ve already defended myself against three potential points where my argument could be misconstrued or attacked? “Joys” of modernity.


I don’t think I’m breaking new territory by stipulating that without an interest, ability or capacity people generally aren’t good at something. The problem – as is the case with a lot things – is complex and multi-faceted. However, a few of the main considerations I find are:


  • Why we are met with more resistance trying to make people better (than worse)

  • A lot of people choose ignorance or denial when overwhelmed

  • Being critical of yourself is usually fear/stress/anxiety inducing


The first point has an obvious reason for it; it’s difficult. Also, people tend to prefer being left alone especially from those who seek to “improve” them. Of course, this is all before we get into the nitty gritty of actually improving people which brings out all kinds of questions like “what does a better society look like?” and “what is the right way of making better people?”, for example. Needless to say, there are a lot of (unresolved) social and cultural issues that are hindering this process. It would work a lot better and faster if we worked together as a team and did it my way. Dictatorially, I jest, but you get the picture, especially if you’ve been following my writing over these past few years.  


In a world filled with information overload and an incessant self-improvement industry, small wonder people get sick of this shit and/or overwhelmed by it. Of course, there’s the other problem of sifting through the mountains of information out there – because there is so much of it, it’s time consuming and not easy to sort fact from fiction with even the most astute and diligent getting it wrong from time to time. While the common reaction to when things get too much is to turn away, we must summon like it’s Elden Ring or Final Fantasy and lean into the fight. Ignorance and denial speak to a lack of resilience and mental weakness which is sadly becoming a hallmark of modern society.


Why bother to make yourself into a better person? That first requires being self-critical which will involve examining your flaws and deficiencies thus increasing the likelihood of not feeling terribly good about yourself. Some ice-cream and a movie sounds much more enticing. It’s not like I don’t understand the reluctance, sometimes it’s easier living the lie. Maybe you’re second guessing if the hard work and effort will pay off in the end. Maybe you think there’s enough people making you feel shit about yourself so why add to it? Maybe you can’t be fucked. Maybe it’s easier to blame someone else.


I know there are elements of “what is of most value to you is where you least want to look”, and to not “cast pearls before swine” in all this, but there’s also the lesson of “you can’t save everybody”, or “not everybody wants to be helped”, that also must be heeded. Tolerance is a word I’d love to see come back into fashion, but I’m not holding my breath. Much like this week’s topic, tolerance requires interest, ability and capacity. Trying to make people more tolerant of one another is met with increased resistance. Ignorance also leads to greater intolerance.


Perhaps it is the oasis of tolerance that the camel should be seeking. It’s where life is, it’s where life grows, in the barrenness of humanity’s desert.

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