olé! Blissful Ignorance and lots of other bull

I read about the so-called “Blissful Ignorance Effect.” Dhananjay Nayakankuppam, marketing professor at the University of Iowa heads a group of researchers who found that people who have only a little information about a product are happier with that product than people who have more information, the less they know, the happy they are (hence they are ‘Blissfully Ignorant’.)

Prof. Nayakankuppam explains that we prefer to be ignorant about our purchase, because it gives us an opportunity to “engage in wishful thinking. But the more information you have, the harder it is to kid yourself.”Thee concept of blissfully ignorant shoppers may come as a bit of surprise to those who extol the benefits of online comparative shopping, that is – websites that allow users to compare, for example, the same product for different prices, or different products for similar benefits. Surely, one would feel better knowing more about the product s/he plans to buy? Comparative shopping engines are good business; consider Jellyfish, a company who launched a comparative shopping website in June 2006 only to sell it to Microsoft in October 2016.

Blissfully ignorant shoppers irritate me, even as a concept. There is something of a defeatist (wimpish, even?) in a person who goes shopping on a prayer and a wing (or credit card.) This got me thinking about modern fables that address the very issue of wimpishness. A classic Gary Larson cartoon shows a sick male chicken in bed, being helped by his wife, who holds a spoonful of chicken soup to his lips. He is obviously sickened further by the prospect of having to drink chicken soup. “Number one,” she says to him “chicken soup is good for the flu — and number two, it’s nobody we know.”

This pseudo-existential argument is found often in satirical literature. In his masterwork “The Good Soldier Svejk” Czech humorist and satirist Jaroslav Hasek puts a similar argument in Svejk’s mouth – (I’m paraphrasing) – when a chicken dies, says Svejk, it cares very little if it is cooked, grilled or baked, stuffed or thrown into a soup. From the chicken’s point of view – once it is dead, it does not matter how it died.

There’s more of that in the story about a pig and a chicken who were walking by a school where a gala charity event was taking place. Getting caught up in the spirit, the pig suggested to the chicken that they each make a contribution. “Great idea!” the chicken cried. “Let’s offer them ham and eggs?” “Not so fast,” said the pig. “For you, that’s a contribution. For me, it’s a total commitment.”

It therefore seems that we imbued animals with Blissful Ignorance Effect, since we see animals as if they are primed for some sort of final destruction for our benefit. Belgian poet and singing troubadour Jacques Brel got it spot-on says in his poem ‘The Bull‘ —

On Sundays the bulls get so bored
When they are asked to show off for us
There is the sun, the sand, and the arena
There are the bulls ready to bleed for us
It’s the time when grocery clerks become Don Juan
It’s the time when all ugly girls
Turn into swans, aaahh.

Who can say of what he’s found
That bull who turns and paws the ground
And suddenly he sees himself all nude, aaahh.
Who can say of what he dreams
That bull who hears the silent screams
From the open mouths of multitudes

On Sundays the bulls get so bored
When they are asked to suffer for us
There are the picadors and the mobs revenge
There are the toreros, and the mob kneels for us
It’s the time when grocery clerks become García Lorca
And the girls put roses in their teeth like Carmen
On Sundays the bulls get so bored
When they are asked to drop dead for us
The sword will plunge down and the mob will drool
The blood will pour down and turn the sand to mud.
Olé, olé!

The moment of triumph when grocery clerks become Nero
The moment of triumph when the girls scream and shout
The name of their hero, aaahh.
And when finally they fell
Did not the bulls dream of some hell
Where men and worn-out matadors still burn, aaahh.
Or perhaps with their last breaths
Would not they pardon us their deaths
Knowing w hat we did at
Stalingrad–olé!–Iwo Jima–olé!–Hiroshima–olé!–Saigon!

From “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris

Blissful Ignorance Effect, bah, humbug – oink oink oink!

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