Resulting from my last posting on “I am back, so what?”, I received two emails asking me the same question : “what is the difference between knowledge and information”? Well, to me there is a world of a difference between the two. I shall try to share the knowledge that I received on this from a genius I met more than 15 years ago – “Professor” Abdullah Darus (will be writing on him sometime soon).
Information is “maklumat” in Malay. Information consists of facts, empirical matters collected. Example you have information that Neil Armstrong flew to the moon and others don’t (does that make you more “intelligent”?). Or you know that this is called a glass, that is called a table and that the stupidity level of Blurland is 85%. You have so many statistics and facts at your fingertips. You are a very informative person. Does that make you a knowledgeable person?
How much knowledge do you gain from knowing that Neil Armstrong has gone to the moon. You may be repeating that to everyone whom you meet without even understanding what it means. Similarly with other facts and statistics. You memorized them like how you memorized how to tie your shoe lace and then keep repeating them. I personally know a certain politician who is completely fond of quoting philosophers and religious scholars without understanding what he is saying (and he is doing very well in the popularity sector). You can go on repeating facts that you gather and have in your hand. This way you may impress small minds (many out there). Few will see the trick and recognize you for the parrot that you are.
Abdullah Darus has a word for such people who collect information and then simply regurgitate them back. He calls them “collectuals”.
Collectuals are people who do not think, evaluate, understand or weigh the information that they have. They may be very informative but not necessarily knowledgeable. To be knowledgeable, you must be able to understand and make sense of the information that you have. Consider a computer. It is very informative, but can you say it is knowledgeable? Collectuals are like computers, garbage in, garbage out. Most collectuals have no time to think because they are busy with dispensing the information that they have collected to impress small minds.
With apologies, I must say that there are many collectuals even in the academic department, those with Phds and so on. Politicians are too obvious to mention (most do not read and those who do, do not think. Imagine they are busy advising us!) It is sad that the academic world which is meant to be the “center of thinking” is crowded with collectuals. These academic collectuals will insist that you become a collectual too, hence their insistence on you quoting another academic in support of your idea. Originality is frowned upon by collectuals because they do not know or understand what original thinking means.
I have been protesting for years that the term “intellectual” has been grossly abused in our beautiful country called Malaysia or the Land of the Blur. I squirm when every graduate is labeled an intellectual. Somehow, the Malay language seems most abusive in this matter when they refer to graduates and “professors” as “intellectuals” or “kumpulan intelek” merely because they are graduates or he has a professor POST (this is even more peculiar but later on this).
In our country, with the right connections, OR with sufficient publicity OR with some misguided policies any feeble minded person with some academic qualifications can easily be called an intellectual even though he/she has never used his/her intellect at all through life! Even though he is nothing more than a parrot.
A knowledgeable person weighs, evaluates and thinks about the information that he has gathered. He is not too quick to dispense with the information that he has. A knowledgeable person is forever aware that he is forever learning because information may change or the UNDERSTANDING of the information may change. Because he is forever learning, he remains forever humble in his quest for knowledge in life. A knowledgeable person, though he may advance his views passionately, he never puts himself on the same level as the All Knowledgeable Creator (compare this with priests who will swear you to hell if you disagree with him). He is prepared to consider different perspectives of the same information. This takes time. A collectual has no time.
A knowledgeable person is always using his intellect. He is thinking all the time. Of course he may be wrong. He is aware of it. A collectual on the other hand does not know this.
In our country, where we have been systematically trained for years not think by the politicians and the priests, it is so easy for us to be confused between a collectual and an intellectual. Raperas, do not be confused on this.