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Monday, September 15, 2014

How to Debug Your Ignorance

After a lengthy hiatus I am forced to browse US news again in order to improve my rapidly declining English skill. I had stopped reading articles from US media outlets in the internet ever since my husband and I went to live in Indonesia last April, and at last I found peace in me. Don't get me wrong, sometimes there are interesting and informative things that you can read in the news. On our evening stroll my husband and I would take turn to tell highlights of our day, he usually talks about his work and I would tell him about interesting news in the internet. They are sources of great discussion and sometimes even great fun. Yet the majority of the news can be biased and ignorant, and even the ones that is pretty cool and unbiased can be easily tainted with the hateful and ignorant comments on the article.

Comments on this NBC News article, for example:
- Don't use such tragedy to make a case against gun control when it is not even your country.
- White people are not stupid to go to the land of people with colors. And as far as I'm concerned, white is also a color.
- Thailand is NOT predominantly Moslem, and even if it is there is no reason why it should be an issue. My husband and I stayed in Indonesia, a predominantly Muslim country, and we are doing just fine.
- There is no such thing as hatred against westerners. Why bother killing if the tourists can be kept alive as cash cows?

Of all the things that these people could say, such as the need to be alert and respectful in somebody's land, all they can mouth about is their own ignorance. It's no wonder I stopped reading news altogether. Yet I needed the news channel to help me keep my English skill on track. As a non-native English speaker, I have to practice my English mainly through reading and listening to capture and copy the little details of English language. I know, grammatically, when to use 'she' instead of 'he' or when to use past participle instead of the present participle. I could easily score high points on written English test, but all of these knowledge is useless in day-to-day conversation. The only way to be proficient in English, or in any language in that matter, is to keep on practicing and using it. Therefore, I need all the up to date reading materials that I could find. Honestly, those news article wasn't so bad as long as I can skilfully choose which one that would benefit me instead of upsetting me, and as long as I can steer clear from the comments. Yes, it is the shameful voice of defeat.

Nevertheless, as I observe the beautiful vista of Los Angeles from our fourth story apartment I can't help feeling sorry for those ignorant people, and at the same time wonder why they could even be ignorant with such perk and access that America has to offer. Trolls of the Internet are everywhere, and I have seen them in Indonesian news channel as well. They radiate the same hatred and ignorance, the same cowardice mentality and mean predisposition. The difference is, I would expect more from people of America. Although internet literacy or even access might be limited to a lot of Americans as well, it is not as severe as in Indonesia where there isn't even enough road to connect one area to the other, let alone having internet access. The anti-discrimination policy is upheld strongly in America, and the fact that America consists mainly of immigrants made assimilation (should be) easier. The sheer size of America combined with the ease of access between and within the states also promises great diversity that one can easily observes and learn from. In Indonesia, there is no strong anti-discriminatory law, each tribe is indigenous from their own area and therefore more reluctant to accept new things, and there are little access to other areas of Indonesia except for the big cities which makes traveling expensive and reduce the chance of understanding other people from other part of Indonesia. With this kind of obstacles, ignorance is inevitable. America can do so much better.

Having said that, ignorance can also be a choice. It can be caused by the lack of understanding due to difficulties as I stated above, but it can also be a conscious decision made by a person because they wish to belief what they belief and choose not to belief on what other has to say. During the last presidential election in Indonesia I found a number of my Facebook friend re-posting and commenting on articles that were either unfounded or even blatant lie, yet they believe those false articles and took it to their heart. These people are educated people with Master Degree and high ranking employers of Indonesia's top firms and companies, mind you. Having access [to information] does not guarantee you to be less ignorant than those who have less or no access. Just like growing old versus maturity, it all comes down to what we choose to be. Shedding your ignorance is not really that hard to do, all you need is just a willingness to open your eyes and ears to see and listen to what other people's lives are like. Not knowing about other countries, for instance, does not always mean that one is ignorant; yet failure or refusal to understanding and accepting differences about other country [or people] is an example of ignorance. 

Why does it matter? It matters because ignorance narrowed down your mind, whereas acceptance broaden it. We always wanted to have a good life, and to a vast majority of people it means to keep ourselves either bodily healthy (medicine, organic food, healthy lifestyle) or bodily satiated (entertainment, expensive gadgets, luxurious lifestyle). Yet good life can also means living your life without fear or drama, and that can be easily achieve once we got a better understanding about other people, instead of busy hating or fearing them, or even dwell a little too comfortable in our own imagination about other people. You can live your life unobtrusively even if you are an ignorant, but you can also not be one and have a far better quality of life. Now, which one would you choose? 

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