Following on from my previous blog (among others) about people choosing to be insular, ignorant and indifferent, in today’s Age was an article seemingly confirming my perspective, not just about the limitation of media power etc but how people CAN indeed choose, albeit unconsciously, to remain ignorant. This refers to not just issues about asylum seekers or laws encroaching on our freedoms, but can relate more specifically to not just racism, BUT sexism, too, as I’ve written about in the silent spin of sexism blog. It pertains not just to all of us, but especially to the shrinks, gender irrelevant that I’ve been forced and chose to consult; but thankfully realising how ‘unbalanced’ or IGNORANT they all were in understanding not just about me, but our social environs.)
The article quoted Dr Jones, a moral philosopher at Melbourne University, whose interest lies in the philosophy of emotions and rationality (we share this in common). She pointed to an emerging field called IGNORANCE studies, described in a New York Times article as part ‘exploring the psychology of ambiguity’ and the ‘strategic manufacturing of uncertainty.’ Jones explains that people tend to think of ignorance as a ‘passive’ thing, a mere lack or gap in knowledge and something which excuses us. Yet, she posits, some forms of ignorance can be active, purposive and not excusing (which was what I was implying in my previous blog; people choosing to be and/or remain ignorant; cut off from or uninterested in others’ opinions and/or knowledge.) This, she says, is the ignorance that comes from ignoring. But she continues with thoughts I have hinted at previously, but articulates so lucidly: that purposive ignorance is ‘self-reinforcing’ – ‘we don’t feel we have to listen to the very people who might be able to correct it for us because what have we to learn from them anyway?’ She says it is common to dismiss people who challenge ignorance as being overly sensitive (I’ve thus been attacked).. ‘Why are you still talking about this? It’s ancient history’… Angry responses to past discriminations are dismissed as a ‘culture of complaint’ or ‘playing the victim’.
Moreover, I have written that people like me who did and still DO confront others’ ignorance et al, are seen as threatening; moreover, purposive ignorance is self-reinforcing as she says, because people choose to stay in their comfort zones without countenancing or ascribing value or credibility to others’ points of view. Moreover, she supports my argument by saying that to take seriously Australia’s racist past and present would ‘force” people ‘to feel very, very uncomfortable’, setting up self-defence mechanisms as basically good and decent human beings. “In these ways, we collectively regulate what it is legitimate to feel…dismissing certain forms of anger, evading shame and validating certain forms of comfit even if they must be predicated on forgetting.” Indeed! A sociologist at Melb Uni went on to say that this ‘active ignorance is not neutral…It is linked to power, inequality and race.’ An aspect of the Ignorance studies academia is that “There are things we’re motivated not to know…These motives may be based on emotional responses…where admitting something as fact entails emotionally unacceptable implications about oneself.’ Exactly what I’ve complained about the shrinks, my family and too many of my ‘sick’ friends, too. Few of us want to see ourselves as racist or sexist, and so most of us are motivated to ‘tune out’ or discredit any message that would pin those labels on us…this response isn’t always voluntary, or even accessible to conscious introspection. Indeed, if this is true (as I’ve posited so many times about sexism, appearance and so many things about me in my life, ) …that racism (as they’re talking about) IS WORKING UNCONSCIOUSLY IN MANY Australians- how do you bring it to light?’
Jones also goes on to talk about people learn about the workings of ‘implicit bias’ – ‘which provides a theory for how basically good people can nonetheless contribute- and through no ill-will or overtly racist or sexist beliefs – to the reproduction of racism and sexism’. There is also ‘confirmation bias’ according to a Prof Michael Smithson at the ANU’s Research School of Psychology who says there is a well-documented tendency to pay more attention and give greater weight to information that confirms what we already believe.
Maybe I’m doing exactly that right now by quoting esteemed scholars and academics who have ‘confirmed’ my beliefs and arguments as I’ve written in my blogs. Enough already. At least there seems to be some credibility to my beliefs and thoughts as I read what others with the status and prestige say about the same things.