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Ignorance is bliss.

MixBotMixBot Posts: 8,656 Automated Account
I guess that should read 'ignorance is bliss?'

Though I am starting to believe the former is more accurate.

I know this would be seen by many as a privileged, bourgeois problem to have... but I have it nontheless. Like most of those free of thought and broad of mind I've always reviled ignorance, hated the trend for dumbing down, and most of all wondered how people manage to lead a life where they're honest with themselves in which they don't wonder how other people live... or how they don't. There's not really a choice to be made, for me anyway, I suppose I could try to maintain ignorance of things that upset me so, but I don't think I could. I think it's just wicked to know that the world is so much bigger, uglier, scarier than you could ever imagine... but to just block that out to aid a happier life. Maybe it isn't, maybe that's where I've been going wrong. But I don't think so.

I've always struggled a lot with things I've read and heard about other people's lives. My mum has been an English lecturer and advocate for asylum seekers' rights for many years now, I suppose I'm indocrinated to wonder and to care. I would wonder and care anyway, I think, but who knows? Recently I've been teaching a Friday morning class - from which I've recently returned home - which comprises about 20 young men who are all between 15 and 19. I considered pleading out of teaching the class because of how much it effects me, but then I feel a really strong sense of duty to these men. Their lives are unimaginable to me, and when I attempt to imagine it I recoil in terror. Every day after we have a lesson I spent another hour at least with them. Some of them, all of them, one or two of them... their problems are numerous and often insurmountable. They need help with money, college, travel, housing, solicitors, appeals, letters, forms, health problems, ignorant health care providers and the list goes on. I don't begrudge them this time at all, I'd give them more time if I could. But I do resent the lack of help they get, and I resent their status in this country. On a small scale the college begrudges them £2 a day travel money, they have nothing. Really, nothing. The government begrudges them even temporary leave to remain, with many of them being vulnerable to dawn raids on their houses where they and anyone else there (though usually they have left family in their home country, seen them murdered, lost them in a crowd never to be seen again - isn't that unfathomable? Here you'd just send a 'where r u?' text) is dragged out as-seen to some dank place that - to be honest - probably isn't that much worse than their "home". Stories of 'asylum seekers living in our beautiful British homes' are unspeakable, just lies really. They have to trudge on a weekly basis to various godforsaken areas of the north-east to attend meetings (that they don't understand and that are rarely covered by translation services, usually compensated with a leaflet which they can't read because they didn't attend school!) about this and that and the other and providing a new hurdle for them to jump. Maybe fall.

They have injuries, disabilities, scars that give me nightmares. Often have lost limbs, or at best lost motor skills. But they are happy to be at my daft little class, they dote on each other and on me. They are a joy to be around in class time, keen and even overeager. But then it's workshop, or it's hometime and the shadows definitely fall.

Today I sat for an hour with a 16 year old Afghani boy who was just sobbing. It transpired that his nightmares about his journey over here were so mind-altering that he had eventually seen the GP. GP prescribes sleeping pills, I would like to give that GP a piece of my mind. But then I know it's not the GP's fault... we all help within our means. Maybe that's as far as he could stretch. It seems wrong to me, though. In very limited English it's hard to realise the truth of their stories but a 16 year old boy (it's a disservice to say that, he is very much a man... through no choice of his own) murmuring repeatedly about the "bad time... bad time" in the back of various trucks on what sounds like a undeniably hellish journey here from Afghanistan is too much for me. I don't know what else I can do, but I want to do more...? It's such a helpless feeling and I despise it.

It's even causing me to vilify 16 year old British males, which I hate but can't help. Not all, but some that I see I just feel disgusted by. I wish they could see what their peers had been through, how good they really do have it despite myriad cries that the opposite is true. They wouldn't care even if they did know, did understand. I see them in the college, feckless and hollering and harrassing 15 year old Slovakian girls and squaring up to my students when they're waiting patiently outside my classroom for my arrival. They change, albeit a little and pointlessly, when they see that I - as a white native - am fraternising with my students. They then see some seal of approval... sometimes. Other times they wonder aloud why anyone would want to fraternise so. Though the worst culprits for this kind of talk are taxi drivers, I make no mistake about that... It's just so unfair, and I know life isn't fair, but they just have nothing. Some of the lads - those from Slovakia and Czech - have more of a chance (though even they tell some stories of poverty and unrest that would curl anyone's toes). They're more "accepted", they're European, they may find work through bettering their English. The others are in a kind of limbo, so it seems to me. They can live here but they can't do anything. They could be booted at any point, re-located to some new place where they can't go to college, many of them live for coming to college. They socialise, they are respected and treated well. By the ESOL staff and their fellow students, anyway. I want to make sure they're not all alone every night, I want to ensure their welfare though I know it's not really my place to do so outside of an educational context. But I have my own family, and it's so hard to be happy mummy at home when I see such black and white, such stark contrasts, such disparity between lives of men who essentially have the same abilities, the same potential and the same things to offer. They just don't stand a chance.

I don't know the point of this post, I just had to blast it all out because I don't want to bring it into my home life. Well, that's not strictly true. At the moment my husband and I are working in the same job. It effects him profoundly, too, though he's a lot better at dealing with his frustrations and sadness about it than I am. I don't even know what I want to do about it but we agree we have to do something... have to. I feel so indignant and yet devastated by the entire thing. What can be done? I'm of the belief that one person can change things, but I haven't a clue where to start or whether I'm able.

Basically I just wondered if anyone else feels the same, or has the same feelings from time to time? Maybe not even about this topic, about anything. I wish I didn't know what - and who - I know, though on the same token I'm so glad I do. Does that make sense? Does any of this make sense?
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Comments

  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Its crap - life is mostly crap for many people - like for example the averge life span for women in zimbabwe is 34 years - i just couldnt imagine my life being statistically so short that i only had a few more years to live.

    I'm not really sure I can offer anything constructive to say at the moment - but i did meet a lady the other week who was very heavily involved in lobbying for better conditions for asylum seekers.

    However and its not of any comfort at all - usually only people from a privelidged background back home ever make it as far as the UK as travel costs and backhanders to people trafficers are so expensive - most other refugees flee to other near by countries and have to live in camps.

    It sucks though that they have ended up in the north east if they were down here i could have probably have found them some work and support...........
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    You're right, I know it. I know life is shit for a lot of people, and I feel frustrated that I feel like this because it's a naive way to feel. If that expresses it correctly. I feel like it's one thing knowing it - any person in their right mind knows asylum seekers are desperate cases - and it's another being whacked full force by the fallout of it on a daily basis. I just can't fathom the injustice of it. I'm already involved in a lot of campaigns through my mum and through work, I want to do more so I'm going to have to find out some ways of doing so.

    I teach a group in the community called ACHIMO which is African Children & Mothers. They have hardship but have definitely come from rich families somewhere down the line. They've done written work for me comparing and contrasting their homes now and then, they had everything in Africa except safety really. Here they're safe but have nothing, really. It's not these people I feel most concerned about, though women who have come from Ivory Coast and DR Congo tell dreadful tales. I feel so bad for the men and women who come from places so feared and misunderstood by British people at large. They are such good people, they overcome such adversity and this is their "promised land", where they are treated like rubbish and subjected to racism that is sickening.

    Argh, frustration. Ok I'm going to stop raving about it and have a look to see what I can actually do.
  • **helen****helen** Mod malarkist Posts: 9,235 Listening Ear
    briggi wrote: »
    Argh, frustration. Ok I'm going to stop raving about it and have a look to see what I can actually do.

    And on that note I'm gonna move this to the volunteering and activism forum. I hope you don't mind briggi. Keep us updated about what any of us can to get involved with this really, really important issue. :thumb:
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    i think the major problem with this sort of situation is that the vast majority of the british public view imigrants, illegal or otherwise as freeloaders, coming here to take advantage of everything we have. Of course they are wrong and thats all down to education of the masses which is not a easy feat to do.

    the majority of the time these people want the best for themselves, they want to work, they want opportunity, and as British citizens its terrible that more often than not we will not offer them that chance.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    You just have to switch off. I don't know how but it's possible. You can be sad, you can be touched, but when you get home you have to try and leave it at the door.

    Otherwise I think ultimately it would drive anyone insane, not being able to enjoy the simple pleasures of spending time with your family because you feel guilty that others have no family.

    One teacher I had once also got upset by it all, and one time told us we had it lucky, if we were living 70 years ago we'd be sent to the frontlines in world war 1. And I could just see her, pacing up and down the street handing out white feathers and spitting on conciencious objectors for being cowards.

    I guess what it comes down to is that you just need to live and let live. People will always be dying, suffering, being abused, being hungry and cold and scared will never stop. It's part of humanity as much as all the good bits. You could even say, it's the difference between them that makes the good bits so good. Obsessing will only lead you to unhappiness as you can't ever feel content that others don't have anything.

    I mentioned a story I was told at school not long ago. It was about a girl saving starfish that had been beached, even though it was impossible to save them all. But she made a difference to the ones she did save, and went home happy that she had made a difference.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    i think the major problem with this sort of situation is that the vast majority of the british public view imigrants, illegal or otherwise as freeloaders, coming here to take advantage of everything we have. Of course they are wrong and thats all down to education of the masses which is not a easy feat to do.

    the majority of the time these people want the best for themselves, they want to work, they want opportunity, and as British citizens its terrible that more often than not we will not offer them that chance.

    Yep, you're right. On all counts.

    Just a coincidence, but I got my haircut today and got chatting with the hairdresser. Told her what I do/where I work and she said "oh, I don't agree with that." Don't agree with what? My job? The people? The fact that they are desperate for education, approval and the chance to improve themselves and their outlooks? People are so ignorant and dismissive I can't get my head around it. Reminds me of my schooldays, I thought fastforward six years and a change of location (from Sunderland, surely one of the most racist cities in the country) would bring about at least a wee bit of enlightenment. Very depressing.

    Have contacted a few different people involved in campaigns and issues though, so will be interesting to see what's being done. We get a lot of emails at work about things happening in London but here... it's a bit of a damp squib. Things get organised and turn-outs are very poor, I guess that's where the change has to begin!
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Oh briggi, you have no idea how well I understand you. I've totally been there - still am, I hope, as I have vowed to never EVER forget or dismiss what I've seen and heard.

    In my country I come from a very priviledged background, and the way life works there, I could have perfectly lived all my life completely ignorant of what the other end of the social scale held for many people. But, fortunately, restless as I am, I began to slowly discover this other side of my country - which was very concretely the other side of the city I lived in (which you don't have any need to go to if you are rich, so, many of my closest people don't).

    The stories I heard, saw and shared are mostly unimaginable by others, and the thing that got to me was that so many of this was born from the sheer difference of socioeconomic status - I couldn't get my head round the fact that I had everything, and they had, well, nothing. I remember the story of a man who poisoned himself to death because he was picking up food from a garbage can, and accidentally ate rat poison. Well, and so many others... A while later I got involved in volunteer work with immigrants, who are a novelty for my country. There aren't any laws or policies yet to protect poor immigrants coming from neighbouring countries, which means they are left utterly abandoned to their misery. And again, another set of horrible stories (they left their home countries because they were obviously suffering) but added to being discriminated in this new land. I'll never forget the story of a woman who was shopping in the market, and when people spotted her nationality they literally throwed tomatoes, etc amidst very insulting shouts at her and had to flee, probably never as humiliated in her entire life.

    Evidently, this isn't exactly the same kind of troubles you are facing, but I do think they are similar in what they provoke in you: sheer anger and incomprehension at the injustice of this world, helplessness in comparison to their insurmountable problems, but a determination to do something nonetheless.

    You seem pretty clear as to what to do about how all this makes you feel, and that's great, because I think one of the worst but, sadly, most common reaction is to be paralised. So good for you for wanting to get more involved. I am also a firm believer that a few people CAN generate changes. I've seen it happen. And anyway, I'd be fucked if I didn't, because I've pretty much decided that my life will be devoted to trying to make a change. (Call me the eternal optimist if you like, but I do believe that without optimism, or hope, we are nothing). It's what you've nailed down so well as the difference between being ignorant and not being ignorant. Once you aren't ignorant of what happens around you, you have two choices: either develop some kind of schizofrenic life and continue as if that is something separate from you, that it doesn't really affect you, kept in another compartment separated from the rest of your life, or you opt for being coherent and integrate this knew knowledge into your life, and therefore DO something about it. Once you know, you either turn your head, or step up.

    It sounds as if you have a lot of close people around you who understand and feel the same way as you do about these issues - your mum for starters, and your husband. I think that's really amazing, and another blessing for you - when I started walking down this road, my family didn't really understand. It was something I did pretty much alone, until I found an amazing group of friends who felt and thought as I did, and it was that group of people really, who helped me loads. We helped out each other, really, in simple things such as listening to our frustrations, our pain, our existential ramblings about justice and injustice, life, the universe and everything :lol: , as well as sharing the joy when something was achieved. We were involved in different projects, but with the same objectives in mind. We got together especially to talk about how things were going in our volunteering projects, because it is only natural that when faced with so much human pain it will affect you. It was this group who provided much of the support to persevere, we got together for about six years.

    What I'm trying to pass on here is the importance of doing this with other people. As I said I think it's amazing that your closest are with you on this, so 'use' them, so to speak. One cannot do this alone. And I totally agree that you would want to protect your home from this, as to not 'contaminate' your home with some of the negative feelings - that's another reason to have other people to talk to about this. With your husband you can strike a balance - accompany each other which can be truly enriching for you as a couple but also try to look for alternate spaces to get stuff off your chest if you feel the need to.

    But as hard as it is, it's also as rewarding. I'm sure your mother can testify to this much better than I can. It's just great for me that I can say that walking along this road has really marked my life: I've made many important decisions based on what I've experienced next to the less fortunate, and I wouldn't change it for the world. Good luck. :)
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    I'm so happy you replied, that was what I needed to hear (well... read). You're right that I'm lucky there are people on the same wavelength, people in my life who I can share my worries and my plans with. It's just frustrating that they can't be shared with everyone isn't it...

    The stories you've heard are horrendous, I can't imagine how it must be to have such disparity in your home country... home town. Of course there is great poverty in the UK, too, but in terms of people being desolate and hopeless and helpless there are bigger problems elsewhere. I think you should be so proud of yourself that you didn't just turn the other way - as you said would be so easily done - it takes a hell of a person to recognise the faults of their home country and the glaring problems in their own community. It must be even harder if your family aren't completely likeminded about it, too, I have great respect for you :)

    Helplessness is definitely the overriding emotion, as you said, but I'd take helplessness over ignorance of the problem anyway. Which answers my original question, really. I suppose ignorance is probably bliss... though a kind of ignorant bliss at that. Aiming for a candid, all-knowing kinda bliss is more my kind of goal - and yours too I'm sure :thumb:
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    On friday i was talking in the office about how i couldnt' imagine bangladesh - because there are so many poor people there - they don't even measure how poor you are in terms of income - instead its how many calories you eat a day...

    And my friend was saying she had been and that it was just like nothing she had ever seen - bearing in mind she is from India - but then she said that someone had done some reasearch about wher the happyest people in the world lived and Bangladesh came 6th.........
  • **helen****helen** Mod malarkist Posts: 9,235 Listening Ear
    Here's a website that any students who are interested in this issue will find useful: http://www.star-network.org.uk/
    Actually, it's not just students - other young people can get involved too - http://www.star-network.org.uk/index.php/young_people/index/star_youth_network

    :thumb:
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    I know that a lot of British people are selfish and ignorant when it comes to immigrants but, at the risk of sounding completely naive, I don't think many people are vindictive. I think most people do care, but they care about something else. A lot of people are so focused on one cause that they resent anything that diverts resources or attention away from it, even if they need it as much or more. You're hairdresser might have meant that she believes another cause is more important, which doesn't mean that she thinks the people you work with don't deserve help, just that her experiences are different. You're not helpless, you're making a huge difference to people's lives.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Just to say Briggi you've made my day to help me realise that there are still some genuine people in this world. Can't really give you any advise on what your feeling though. I just tend to shut things out its easier :)
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