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Uninformed versus Ignorant....

Last week I was called ignorant when I voiced an opinion the other person didn't agree with. From the other persons perspective, I lacked information and therefore the correct insight to make a judgement. What that other person actually meant to say was that my opinion was uninformed. So, I informed myself.

An ignorant opinion is one based on having clear information that contradicts one's opinion and persisting to hold the opinion anyway by ignoring the information you have...

For the past couple of nights I've been watching "Go Back to Where You Came From" on SBS.  It is a documentary about six Australians with strong views on immigration issues in Australia (particularly entry of illegal immigrant via boats - also known as "boat people"), and their journey backtracking the process by which immigrants and refugees arrive in Australia. Five of the participants firmly believe immigrants should not be trying to settle in Australia - some only feel this way about boat people, others feel this way about all immigrants. One participant believes Australia could probably take more refugees and immigrants that it does.

Various opinions have been voiced during the first two episode (the third episode airs tonight), including, "I don't like Africans", "When I saw the boat crash on the rocks, I thought, serves you right", and "It's irresponsible to put your children and yourself in danger by hopping in a leaking boat".

During the first two episodes of the three parter, we've seen the participants live with legal and illegal immigrants, and hear their story. The participants have visited asylum seekers in detention and heard about people who are on their third and final appeal and who can only see suicide as an option if they are turned down this time. They stayed with families in Malaysia (a stop over for many asylum seekers on their way to Australia) and particpated in a raid to capture illegal immigrants and jail them (including women and children - Malaysia isn't a signitary to the UN refugee convention, so they can pretty do what they like to detainees).

With experience, a few tunes have changed. One particpant who started out viewing boat people as criminals now says in the same situation as the asylum seekers he's seen, he would put his family in a boat. It took getting to know a few asylum seekers in person, putting names and faces to the faceless people on the boats on the news every week, for a few of the people to begin to understand the plight of asylum seekers. These people went from being uninformed to informed and that changed their opinion.

Image: source
One partcipant, despite have experienced all the same stuff, and seen all the same stuff as the other participants, still holds strong to her opinion. She detaches herself from asylum seekers and says she wasn't brought up like them so living in their situation is not easy for her - as if it is for them, as if somehow they don't deserve the same consideration and respect she demands. In the face of women and children being chased in the night and herded into cage like trucks, she defiantly says, "This is great, we should be doing this in Australia".

She determinedly ignores the evidence of desperation before her eyes. This is ignorance.

I think there is a third category, one I've never heard mention of. I call it Ignorantly-uninformed. If anything, this is the most populated category on just about any topic you care to think about... or rather, DON'T care to think about. This is when people actively choose not to become informed because they know once they are informed, they probably won't be able to hold their opinion without becoming Ignorant of the facts. This is the, "Look, I don't mind either way because it doesn't really affect me, I'm not against [asylum seekers], I just don't want hear about [their children suffering] and so on, it's too depressing/frustrating/upsetting".

These people are easy to spot. When you talk about rights or plights, they kind of glaze over, change the topic, or slowly walk away...

Comments

Deborah said…
So well said! I can't add to anything, except to say I've been watching the programs too and have been thinking what you articulated so well.

I've also just discovered how good your blog is. Enjoying it!
MummyK said…
I heard about this show and I'm bloody curious. I missed it but it's available online I think. Will check it out. I'm a migrant and although I've been lucky not to have experienced racism, I know of others who have. It's painful since I love Australia so much and I consider myself part Aussie now (not in blood anyway). I hope the show opens other people's eyes.
Sif said…
Thanks for you comments guys :).

Although I was actually born in Australia, I've lived oveseas for periods of my life and hold dual nationality, I often identify as both Australian and Icelandic. I've never experienced discrimination overseas, but regularly experience it in my suburb - not because I'm not Australian but because I'm not of the dominant race of this suburb. I am not welcome in many local restaurants, there is no signage in a language I can access, the menus are all in the dominant language. My children have been ordered to vacate seats on buses (when the buses was 90% empty) because the dominant race of people wanted their seats. Both my husband and I have been told to wait for service - when the shop was empty and then watch people of the dominant race walk in and be served straight away, we have been charged more than people around us for the same product or service.

Discrimination is horrible, it leaves the perso. Being discriminated against powerless, frustrated and resentful. It has really opened my eyes to how it feels to be judged on appearance alone. Ironically, I don't feel comfortable revealing tge identity of the other race because I'm caucasion, and Australian born and at risk of being labelled racist because I am not a minority - though in my suburb it certainly feels as if I am an unwelcome minority.

Australia can and should take in more asylum seekers. All the nationalities that make up the Australian population should be inclusive and fair to one another. This should be the Australian way - not tolerance, but inclusion, fairness, compassion and co-operation. We should be able to celebrate our different cultures while seeking to include one another in this celebration with open hearts and open minds!
The Mummy Hat said…
When my grandfather and father (in-law) were growing up, they faced a chunk of racism because they are Italian, yet as I was growing up, it was 'cool' to be a 'wog'.

My father was picked on for eating ham,salami and the works sandwiches at lunch yet my husband was envied for having a 'gourmet' roll rather than vegemite and cheese sandwich.

With education I hope my children will be accepting of other cultures and races in our beautiful country just as my husband and his 'wog' family are now openly accepted.
Sif said…
Discrimination is almost always about fearing the unknown, or feeling threatened. I think this documentary really showed that so well. Once the participants got to know some of the asylum seekers, they found they liked them and they had sympathy for them as well.
Tenille said…
This is a really good post. I watched the first episode of this show with my stepdaughters; their attitudes really make me sad. Their ignorance makes me sad. They made comments like 'yeah but we can't let them all in'. Hopefully they'll sit and watch the remaining episodes with me, and maybe start to value compassion over bigotry.
Jess Newman said…
Thanks for this. This is the second post I've read about this show today. You have challenged me. I'm nit against asylum seekers, but I am against ignorance,
Very thought provoking, and lk written.
Was an amazing show to watch. I don't think they put enough emphasis on the fact that it's not illegal to seek asylum, so actually calling them "illegal immigrants" is not entirely accurate, but it's the words used over and over again by the media and politicians.
Sif said…
Thank you everyone for you comments. I wanted to just come back and say the documentary ended on a hopeful note in as much as all the participants seemed to have gained a better understanding of the plight of asylum seekers and perhaps, with time and reflection that understanding might grow more - or at least the willingness to hear the desperation might grow more...

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