Our information-saturated world is suffering through a harsh drought of common sense and wisdom at the moment. This is rather ironic because never in the history of the planet has so much data been available to so many people. The West has never had so many schools, databases, and libraries. Literacy rates are virtually one hundred percent in every Western country. Never have so many people held so many university degrees. The vast bulk of the Western Canon, the very foundation of our civilization is accessible online without charge. On top of that, the internet drips with more information than a city of ten million could collectively sift through in a century. So much data and information. So many enlightened, sophisticated individuals. Nonetheless, the readily available facts, crisp university degrees, and gleaming techno gadgets have created a paradoxical world of abundant information and scarce wisdom and common sense, which in turn has made our contemporary world a veritable breeding ground for stupidity.
What is the source of our current wisdom/common sense famine? Put bluntly, the substitution of Reality with unreality. Factual information can be absorbed from books, schools, and the internet, but wisdom and common sense can only be gained through learning from lived experience. Unfortunately, the lived experiences of many today are nothing more than virtual experiences lacking a solid grounding in Reality. This lack of contact with the Real signifies a lack of true experience, which in turn creates callowness. A world without wisdom becomes a world ruled by theories, ideologies, systems, and political correctness credos.
This is exactly why I love the expression józan paraszti ésszel (with a simple peasant mind) so much. As it is everywhere else, peasant is a pejorative here in Hungary, so I can understand why it is often left out of the saying. The disparaging connotations of peasant include simplemindedness, boorishness, and uncouthness. Peasants were also uneducated, unrefined, and unsophisticated. All of this is technically true. Nevertheless, I maintain the word peasant must be included in the phrase for it to have full effect. Pre-industrial agricultural workers were simple people and certainly did not need a degree in agricultural engineering to raise crops and tend livestock. Yet I would posit the world of the peasant is the inverse of the world we inhabit now – that is, the peasant’s world was one of scarce information but abundant wisdom.
What made peasants wise? I imagine peasants had an abundance of life experience; they lived their lives immersed in Reality. They understood nature, the Earth, the weather, and the elements. The seasons and the movements of the sun and the constellations in the sky measured their days. They possessed a keen awareness of their place in the world and lived in close contact with their families, friends, and foes alike. Peasants also had an intimate relationship with the life cycle – they witnessed the births and deaths within their communities firsthand. They probably possessed a simple but surprisingly thorough degree of self-knowledge. Most importantly, peasants knew God. Peasants were certainly ignorant of many things, but I surmise most were not stupid.
It is not my intention to romanticize or idealize peasant life, nor advocate for a return to some primitive form of agricultural living, for I am certain a great deal of this life was rather harsh, monotonous, and mundane. Nevertheless, whatever peasants lacked in material wealth or scholarly information they more than made up for in wisdom and common sense, which was essential to their very survival. Peasants knew imposing unreality on Reality was not only foolish, but also foolhardy. We in the contemporary world, on the other hand, do not recognize this simple truth. Residing firmly in the Real, peasants wasted little time on theories or abstractions. I imagine their wisdom and common sense also made them quite obstinate. In other words, if a peasant knew something to be true, there would be no way of convincing him otherwise, especially if all you offered him as proof were theories and abstractions. He would equate a denial of Reality with stupidity, regardless of how persuasively it was presented or through what authority it was commandeered.
This brings me back to my fondness for the expression, with a sober peasant mind. The need to evolve our consciousness and aim at higher things is a vital one, but our efforts to reconnect with Reality should not ignore or discard the sober peasant mind. The source of many society's ills emanate from our willingness to entertain and make compromises with obviously false abstractions that not only challenge Reality, but force us to accept the lie that Reality does not exist at all.
For example, when a grown man with a full beard dons a tutu and declares himself to be a woman, the faculties of thousands of universities across the West rise up to defend the man's claim and demand we recognize something we know to be false. To back up their defense of tutu man, these university faculties will present studies, research reports, and clinical tests all designed to persuade us of the unreality of Reality.
Sadly, in our world of information without wisdom, the forces of unreality have been quite successful. Yet, if the faculties of the West exerted this kind of pressure on our peasant friend, he would merely smirk and then turn back to tending his crops. He might not have enough data to understand the arguments supporting tutu man’s claim, but he is wise enough to understand that they are all false, regardless of the authority supporting them.
We should all work toward developing consciousness as we strive to reconnect with Reality, but perhaps part of this development involves approaching challenges and problems with nothing more than a sober peasant mind.