Sunday, July 24, 2011

Ignorance: Nothing Like Bliss

Saturday morning, I awoke to the news that a deranged man had killed nearly 100 people in Oslo, Norway's worst massacre since World War II. While the bombing of a youth camp - targeting innocent teenagers - is appalling in its own right, now comes the news that the alleged bomber felt his actions were "necessary" to exterminate "multiculturalist traitors." I find this righteousness sickening.

White supremacy? Really?! It's 2011. Why is the world so damn hung up on race, religion and establishing the superiority of one group over the other? Maybe if we were living in a time of warrior societies and were in competition for diminishing resources, this kind of behavior could be tolerable, but as the modern age is a time of domestication and intellectual thought, I find this sort of ignorance to be inexcusable.

Multiculturalism is a beautiful thing. In this time, where all information is global and our industries and economies are dependent upon each other, embracing and accepting the differences of other cultures is the only path for human progress. To reject multiculturism, worse yet, to advocate against it, speaks to pure ignorance.

Diversity is a necessity for me. When I received my graduate school acceptance letters, one of the first questions I posed to admissions was: How diverse is the program? Since I was old enough to recall, my friends have always resembled a Benetton commercial or a small-scale United Nations meeting. I’m the sort of person who considers herself a life-long learner. No, I’m not planning on staying in academia forever; rather, I enjoy being taught about things that are outside my experience: new cultures, customs, foods, religious beliefs, etc. etc.

If all my associates were just like me, I would feel insulated – it’s why I was so averse to joining a sorority even while attending the university with the largest Greek system in the world. I have had many friends I didn’t always agree with – that existed on the opposite end of the political spectrum, or were different in age or social stratification or racial identification, and so on. And as long as these people weren’t espousing ignorant or hateful rhetoric, my life has been richer for my interactions with them.

Not that there is anything wrong with wanting to associate with people who share the same perspectives or background as you. And not that I didn’t also find things in common with these friends who appeared at the outset, to be different from me. I just find intolerance for its own sake, well, intolerable.

I genuinely cannot comprehend how a person or a group of people could believe themselves to be superior to another group of people. I won’t lie, there are times in my life I have thought, perhaps even voiced, my superiority to another in terms of some characteristic. Ie: I’m smarter than ______; I’m a better student than ______; I'm more qualified than _____. But NEVER ever EVER have I believed myself just all-around better than another person, much less a group of people, especially when these groups are categorized as similar by factors such as skin color, sexuality, religious preference etc.

There is nothing more despicable than willful ignorance. Ignorance due to lack of exposure is forgivable. Hatefulness, on the other hand, should never be condoned. To hate people you don’t know for no other reason than they are different from you … I find that to be idiotic and extremely dangerous.

I’m not na├»ve. I don’t think everybody has to be friends with everyone else. But I think we should all be able to coexist. Peacefully. Like John Lennon said, “I hope someday ... the world will be as one.”

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