Actually, it's only a portion of a longer phrase -- "No more; where ignorance is bliss/'Tis folly to be wise" -- the final two lines that close the aforementioned poem.
And as phrase portions go, it is perhaps one of the most misunderstood in the history of English literature. Despite close to 275 years of endurance, with it, Gray was not endorsing ignorance; rather he was reminiscing nostalgically on a his youth, a period when he was "allowed" to be ignorant.
How do I know this?
Well, I looked it up.
I researched it.
I consulted a handful of sources, cross-referenced facts, and drew a conclusion.
Because ignorance is NOT bliss.
Well, perhaps it is for the ignorant.
But for the rest of us...IGNORANCE IS AGONY
Goddamn awful. That's this week's painful learning.
Ahhhh yes, I am venting. Over the past week or so, I've had to endure meetings with, brainstorming sessions among (is there anything worse-named than a "brainstorm"?) and -- will wonders never cease! -- political proclamations by people so ill-informed that both my lips are scarred from outburst-preventing bites.
For sake of slander and libel lawsuits, I can't go into much personal detail over the meeting and brainstorming attendees, but trust me when I say I was trapped in debates with people so thick that they would render even the most powerful bunker buster bomb impotent.
What's worse is that instead of sitting quietly, taking things in and learning something, these people felt their attendance necessitated an animated and vocal participation far beyond the norm. I have no concrete proof, but observationally I can put forth the theory that there exists a powerful, inverse relationship between knowledge and volume.
There is one person I can name in my rant on the ignorant, namely Tania Longpré, who is running for the PQ in the upcoming provincial by-election in the riding of Viau. Amongst her early proclamations was demanding the word "Jewish" be removed from Montreal's Jewish General Hospital, as well as calling for a total ban on circumcision.
Yikes! Although she has since "taken back" her remarks (I love how people no longer need to apologize for ignorance, but can just "take back" what they said), I can just about guarantee her actions have caused two words to be permanently removed from the Jewish General Hospital:
1) Tania and 2) Longpré.
Here's what's scary. Guess what Tania does when she's not undertaking what will inevitably be a futile bid for public office?
She's an educator, teaching French to new immigrants in Quebec. Yikes again! One can only shudder to think what else is being "taught" in those classes.
That's the problem with ignorance: bad information is worse than no information. It empowers the fool with faulty ammunition that is used recklessly. Worse still, there are a lot more sources of bad information than there are for silence.
So is all lost?
Frankly, yes...if we give in to the ignorant. Loud and belligerent do not necessarily establish "correct"; they are actions designed to pre-empt an attack of reason and contrary opinion.
Sadly, ignorance isn't going away any time soon. Despite all the tools we have at our disposal, people aren't simply one day decide to "smarten up," to gather information from multiple sources, to critically analyze and come up with a well thought-out conclusion...then share it calmly.
Which means that the rest of us have to fight for our right to be bright.
Ignorance is indeed agony, but we need not be preordained to suffer. We need to point out inconsistencies and inaccuracies. Arm ourselves with facts and figures and informed commentary. Counterbalance the heavyweights. Use our heads instead of banging them against a wall in frustration.
In other words...
Don't take "Duh" for an answer!