What Are You Pretending Not to Know? 714.4

On a bitter-cold night, a Russian countess was taken to a play in a horse-drawn carriage. Upon arrival, she ordered the driver and footman to wait outside with the carriage in case she wanted to leave early. The play included several emotional scenes, and she was sobbing when she exited the theater and found a small crowd gathered around her carriage. She demanded to know what was going on, and the driver fearfully told her that the old footman froze to death.

So, how could a woman sensitive enough to cry at the plight of fictional characters be so callous about the comfort and health of her own servants?

It’s called “willful blindness,” a defense mechanism allowing folks to see only what they want to see.

I saw a cartoon once that captured the essence of this point: A half-dozen executives are sitting around a conference table, and the chairman announces, “Miss Harris will now hand out the moral blinders.”

The key question is: What are we pretending not to know?

Are there things about nuclear power plants and their ability to survive natural calamities we are pretending not to know?

Are some school administrators willfully pretending not to know about irresponsible teachers or abusive coaches?

We all have moral blind spots. The challenge is to have the humility to find them and the character to fix them.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

Comments 6

  1. Thanks for sharing this story about the footman, because really 99% of us reading this are the footman, not the countess. I’m pretending not to know that every single day this past week fellow footman airplane pilots have been spraying an irrefutably unnatural haze into the sky over Los Angeles and much of the “free world”. Footman President Obama, footman Congress, and 99% of the footmen people I’ve met pretend not to know that the world ruling elites have a militaristic agenda that has been running our collective conversation? Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul know and they can only do so much even if weren’t sticking our heads in the sand. I can’t stand idly by and watch a nameless and faceless world leadership engage in Mutually Assured Destruction any longer. Whether the “Countess” is installing a US made nuclear plant build to withstand a 6.5 earthquake on Japan’s most potent fault line, allowing the Navy to conduct unsupervised “experiments” on the US civilian population, or sanctioning British Petroleum to fill the Gulf with all sorts of toxic chemicals and then capping their accountability it seems that I have been turning a blind eye to way too much. I’ve been turning a blind eye to His Holiness The Dalia Lama receiving a CIA salary for running black ops into China through his Tibetan religious organization… Well, freezing footman here and I can’t turn a blind eye to my need for a warm blanket and a good night’s sleep so thanks for the inspiring questions Michael and for the opportunity to share my perspective. God bless and good night. 😀

  2. I agree with your commentary, however, I believe you need to take the concept higher up the chain. You speak about the administrators, but it goes beyond them. No one ever speaks about the school boards or Supervisors or the legislature. I wonder why that it? More moral blind spots need to be addressed. More humility needs to be discovered.

  3. This is similar to people who display overwhelming compassion for mis-treated cats and dogs, yet think nothing of eating pork products that came from pigs that were slaughtered for that pork. As even the most “PITA” minded people have to admit, they kill multiple animals every day, such as by driving their cars (insects on the windshield), stepping on ants, etc.
    Personally, I draw the line by an animal’s intelligence. Since I am against mis-treating dogs and cats, then I am also against mis-treating any animal with intelligence above a dog & cat, and pigs have intelligence above dogs and cats. I eat fish and Turkey, so I can agree to kill any anmimal with intelligence below that.

  4. Michael – what a post!
    Although this entire story leaves some serious food for thought, I believe your last sentence sums it all up – to have the humility to find them (blind spots) and the character to fix them.
    Thank you!

  5. Moral blindness is a common human failing, I have observed,among people who are materially and socially comfortable, and take their station in life as an expected “perk”, whether it is handed down to them, or recently gained. Humility can be only taught through pain and prayer, with the goal being a surrender to a God of one’s understanding, and a desire to serve Him for the common good.

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