Ignorance: The Opposite of Bliss// Marissa MacDonald

Ignorance is defined as a lack of knowledge or information. Ignorance is everywhere, it is especially found within ourselves. Think about the last time you ate a meal. Imagine you had a hamburger and french fries. You probably ordered the meal because it looked appetizing, then the waiter brought the food to the table, and you ate it like you would any other meal, without any thought. Did you have any idea where that hamburger came from and how it got to your plate? Most people do not- ignorance. It seems harmless to be unaware of where your food comes from, but after researching the food industry for two quarters at Santa Clara University, I have determined otherwise.

“Head in Sand”

The phrase “ignorance is bliss” is brought into reality by the majority of people in today’s society. They would rather not know the truth and be happy, than know the truth and worry. We are so engrossed in our daily lives and our own problems that we would rather not know about the larger problems that exist in our world, even if they have a direct effect on us. The food industry is a manifestation of this reality. This industry has an impact on our daily lives, but we are ignorant to the inner workings for many reasons. We would rather eat our food in peace than investigate exactly where it comes from. We either do not have the time or we just do not want to know. Who would want to be burdened with the knowledge that the ridiculous amount of antibiotics fed to animals is creating a “superbug” that could potentially create a pandemic? Or that antibiotics used in animals are making humans resistant and causing approximately 23,000 deaths per year (Tavernise). If people find out this information, what are they supposed to do with it? This is where “ignorance is bliss” comes into play. The average person would rather worry about what is going on in their own life than worry about large scale issues that they feel they have no control over.


Ignorance is a threat to all of us; the lack of knowledge we have about our surroundings is astonishing and dangerous. The food industry that we have created is a part of our lives everyday, after all, we do eat everyday. But in reality, we have no idea how it works and how the food gets to our plates. We are so distracted by our own lives, that this is the least of our concerns. But we should be concerned, we should be aware of what we are consuming. The food industry’s  practices are dangerous to our health and we do not even know or care to know. The ignorance must stop. It is dangerous to our health and gives overwhelming power to the food corporations that think they can get away with anything. David Foster Wallace, an American author, gave a commencement speech at Kenyon College entitled “This is Water,” that discussed the importance of awareness. He stated that real eduction promotes awareness not knowledge. He states, “The most obvious, ubiquitous, important realities are often the ones that are the hardest to see and talk about” (Wallace). Awareness is key to discover the dangers of the food industry and the impact they have on our individual lives. Without awareness there will be no change.


In my research of the food industry, I discovered that there are legal practices that are dangerous to our health. One issue that has not been solved is the use of antibiotics in factory farmed animals. When you make a trip to the supermarket to buy meat for dinner, you assume that the meat is safe for consumption. Think again. The animals we eat are given antibiotics with every meal, not to control disease, but to make them grow to unnatural sizes (Foer).  This seems harmless at first, but because the animals ingest these antibiotics, we do too. When we consume the antibiotics that are found in our meat, we build up a resistance to these medicines. This becomes a serious issue when a person is infected with salmonella, since about eighty percent of the meat in the grocery store has traces of this bacteria, this is very possible (Foer). Because the individual has become resistant to the antibiotics, existing medicine may not be able to treat them. This problem may not seem like a serious issue at first, but the conditions that lead 76 million people to become sick from their food annually contributes to the risk of widespread disease (Foer). This is not common knowledge, yet it is an issue that has the potential to create another outbreak similar to swine flu. Because we are unaware of the activities of the food industry, we are ignorant to conditions that are dangerous to our health and potentially the health of the world. We cannot change these issues if we do not know they exist.


Most people are unaware of where their food comes from and the process the animals go through at factory farms to become a meal on our plates. According to “Food Inc.” a documentary about factory farming, there is no such thing as a farm anymore. There is only mass producing factories that provide us with our meat (“Food, Inc.”). We are ignorant to the reality that the food we think is safe for consumption is actually a danger to our health. This is largely due to factory farming and the conditions the animals are slaughtered in that allows for disease to reach our plates. In 2001 a husband and wife traveling with their two year old son Kevin, stopped at a fast food restaurant for some hamburgers. Kevin was infected with E.coli because of the meat he ate and developed hemolytic-uremic syndrome, two weeks after eating the hamburger he passed away (“Food, Inc.”). Kevin’s parents were ignorant to the reality that the meat they were consuming could be potentially harmful and cause there son’s premature death. Now that they have the knowledge they have been actively trying to get “Kevin’s Law” passed, a law that would give the USDA the power to close down plants that produce contaminated meat. In 2011, a bill was passed they were successful and a bill was passed with many important elements from Kevin’s Law. Although this families awareness was brought on by unfortunate circumstances, it has led to a change that is beneficial to all that consume meat.

Awareness is essential for change in all aspects of life, but especially in the food industry. Consumers need to be aware in order to change the unethical practices of food corporations that are destroying our health. The FDA and the USDA are not able to protect us because they do not take action against large corporations. In relation to the use of antibiotics in our food, one of the main reasons that this problem has not been solved is the factory farm and pharmaceutical industries have more power than public-health professionals (Foer). The FDA and Center for Disease Control propose ways to solve this problem but never enforce the regulations they propose because they have no power over the large multi million dollar companies (“Congress Won’t Stop It”). Since these agencies cannot protect us, we have to protect ourselves. We can do this by being aware of what is happening in the world and around us and actively make choices to change these circumstances.


David Foster Wallace states that awareness is an essential part of our existence. He explains, “It means being conscious and aware enough to chose what you pay attention to and to chose how you construct meaning from experience.  Because if you cannot or will not exercise this kind of choice in your adult life, you will be totally hosed (“This is Water”). The dangers of ignorance must be countered by awareness in order to live a life of informed choices and experiences. Without this we are just another person that goes through the motions day after day, being led astray by the minor problems in our own lives. Awareness is the first step towards changing real world problems that have an effect on other people beside ourselves. Stop ignorance, support awareness, promote change.

Works Cited

Antibiotic Resistance. Digital image. Treehugger.com. N.p., 18 Sept. 2013. Web. 20 Mar. 2014.

“Congress Won’t Stop It.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 22 Oct. 2013. Web. 06 Dec. 2013.

Food Inc. Digital image. Amateurgourmet.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2014.

Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. New York: Little, Brown and, 2009. Print.

Foster Wallace, David. “This Is Water.” Vimeo. N.p., 20 Aug. 2013. Web. 20 Mar. 2014.


Goodyear, Dana. “Superbugs.” The New Yorker. The New Yorker, 7 June 2012. Web. 06 Dec. 2013.

Head in Sand. Digital image. 4Dmarketinggroup.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2014.

Tavernise, Sabrina. “Antibiotic- Resistent Infections Lead to 23,000 Deaths a Year, C.D.C Finds.” New York Times.com. The New York Times, 16 September 2013. Web. 20 November 2013.

This Is Water. Digital image. Uberscribbler.com. N.p., 16 Sept. 2013. Web. 20 Mar. 2014.

This Is Water. Digital image. Tubefilter.com. N.p., 9 May 2013. Web. 20 Mar. 2014.

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