This earlier post got me to thinking about being ignorant about other cultures (and just being ignorant in general). I don’t claim not to be part of an educated elite, where I do look down upon anyone who I deem is a “simpleton”. But in contrast to other people, I openly admit it, and consciously work toward not letting this get in my way during important decision making.
During much travel around this country, I couldn’t help but notice just how inward looking and uninformed people generally were. I naÃ¯vely assumed this was the cause of my big beef with the “farmlands of heartland America”. But after quite a bit of pondering, it dawned on me that it doesn’t really matter if you’re uninformed; I realised that it is everyone’s natural born right to be ignorant and apathetic (especially about things that don’t immediately concern them).
Earthquake in Kashmir, flooding in New Orleans, tsunami in Indonesia… honestly, I don’t care either. I mean I do… but I don’t, know what I mean? It’s not like I’m not compassionate or that I’m desensitised; it’s just, since none of these incidents affected me personally, I don’t see why they shouldn’t fall out of my mind’s list of things “I ought to care about”. Just like the rest of you, I will send a few relief cheques, feel better about doing my bit, and move along without another thought.
Now, I have a couple of friends who make it a point to inform me (on EVERY SINGLE INSTANCE) that they’re “Persian” and not “Arab”. But you know what? I don’t really care about the specifics. You’re from one of those generally-middle-eastern regions, and I will think of you as “Arab”. I don’t mean anything derogatory by that; I just don’t know any better, and don’t plan to educate myself either. Hell, I put up with such things too—like when people ask me if I speak “Indian”—don’t I? It’s the same thing. If you don’t get to experience, don’t NEED to know, you don’t care. And you won’t know.
Neither do I.
And that’s perfectly OK. It’s OK to be ignorant about the world, and unfazed by all the badness that’s out there. What is NOT OK however is to then proceed to think you have some sort of “moral right” to go and mess around with cultures that you barely understand. Now that, my dearies, is an entirely different ball game; and is the crux of my beef “heartland America”. They know nothing, AND they vote on/in favour of things they have no idea about the implications of.
I, on the other hand, will continue confusing Persians with Arabs; and not feeling guilty in the least.
 Or when they ask me, “Do you have tutors flown in from England to teach you English?”