Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Ignorant (et ignorabunt)

One striking fact about the majority (maybe) of Outposters is their blinding ignorance on matters of what we usually call general knowledge coupled with a sense of their country being the undisputed centre of the world (whereas everybody else knows it is Ojai, California). I have said bits and pieces on the matter before, but it is a topic that inevitably keeps resurfacing.

There is a wealth of anecdotes on the matter, most of which come from perplexed and bewildered Outposters themselves (e.g. "the idiot thought the Principality has a Prime Minister, she's lived here all her life, for *^#%*$#@$ sake!"). Recent examples include yet another student (I mean, they are supposed to read books, right?) who asked her teacher of Spanish what part of Spain Latin America is in and a candidate in a competition for a Propaganda Ministry job consistently translating the term for United Nations into English as 'United States'.

I don't want to dwell on more of the colourful examples; their plentiful abundance making itself manifest every now and then has lost all novelty by now: I have been here for four years (sigh). I am only interested in why there is so much ignorance. I think I can identify two reasons:

a. Outposters do not seem to be interested in whatever takes place beyond the horizon of their everyday experience. Recall that, for most of them, 'kids, houses, food, chauvinism' is all that matters. In this respect they are not really exceptional or even different from, well, quite a lot of human beings. However,

b. Outposters are raised in a society where criticism is actively discouraged in education, society, politics and relationships and this culture of anti-criticism is quite pervasive and, at the end of the day, oppressively inculcated. Naturally, there are discernible reasons for that: a recent colonial obscurantist past superimposed on a sturdy quasi-feudal socio-economic organisation (with the Church as a major player) would make any criticism very unwelcome anywhere. Moreover, this being a small, family-oriented, social-network powered place with a violent recent past of abject poverty for most, criticism would be corrosive of highly prized power relations and social dynamics: your butt of jokes is someone's relative, and you somehow rely on this person, your one-night stand is someone's daughter / sister (male perspective assumed throughout, of course), and so on.

Introvercy and a culture of anti-criticism hardly encourage anything but reproducing the ideology, especially in a rote fashion. In our case (and others), we are dealing with an ideology featuring a formulaic and distorted interpretation of the world in black-and-white, a sentimentalist iconography and irrational foundations, as well as disdain for excessive 'detail' and 'useless 'information.

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