I grew up in a very rural location on large farms in outback Australia. My parents are under-educated, poor, and completely ignorant of current events. Both of them lack the critical thinking it takes to examine the media that is presented to them, often taking things at face value and being misled. This was passed onto me as a child and I grew up isolated and ignorant, in more ways than just my ignorance of current events. I believed in Santa Claus much longer than other children and didn’t know what puberty or periods were until I was almost upon it, and this perceived immaturity led to much embarrassment at school when exposed to my worldlier peers.
My schooling itself wasn’t brilliant, and classrooms and teachers were shared between at least 2 or 3 different grades at once. Teachers were stretched thin trying to teach grades 4, 5, and 6 all at once in the same room, and I confess I feel I didn’t learn much of anything. I didn’t even have sex education until I was in high school. We moved a lot, I changed schools a lot, and there were huge gaps in my education.
My ignorance spanned until I was in my early 20’s, long after I could blame it on a pisspoor rural education. I had no idea about current events, politics, social justice. I was ignorant, and made ignorant choices when faced with government elections. I didn’t know what I was doing and educating myself seemed like a huge insurmountable task.
I can’t remember when or why I started to be more socially conscious, but somewhere along the line I started to pick up current events, and slowly but surely I began to get educated. The more educated I got, the more interested I was in learning more. I was ashamed of being ignorant in the past, and I didn’t want to remain that way. I started to fight back against social injustices I faced, and started to speak out against the social injustices others faced. It wasn’t good enough anymore for me to be ignorant, and I wanted to do my bit to spread education to the people around me by hitting that share button and by speaking up in a gathering.
I used to smoke, so I’d spend a portion of my day outside on the verandah smoking, and listening to the banter of my family inside. One day I overheard my husband and housemate talking about a game they had been playing, and one of them began to say the word “prostitute” and without a pause they stopped and corrected themselves with “sex worker”. Not long before that my husband came home from work in a bad mood because one of his workmates had tried to show him a meme image of a fat person wearing leggings. My husband had asked what was so funny about it, to the confusion of his workmate, and they had a brief discussion where my husband let his colleague know that he wouldn’t entertain fat hating rhetoric or jokes in his presence.
It was these two incidences that made me realise that by talking, and sharing, and having these conversations, it was wriggling its way into the minds of the people around me. I felt sometimes like talking about these things alienated me, but I realised that just because people weren’t “liking” or commenting on my posts didn’t mean they weren’t reading and learning and changing.
My father and I are now mostly estranged, but my mother lives with us. She is still ignorant, and declares she doesn’t want to know anything about current affairs or social injustice. She says she doesn’t need that negativity in her life. My mum has had a hard life, and my father abused her mightily, and I can understand why she puts up these walls to protect herself, but also I can’t help but feel disappointed in her unwillingness to remove her blinkers.
I am only one person, but I refuse to turn my back. I refuse to avert my eyes. I refuse to put my head in the sand. It can be uncomfortable, it can be confronting, but I have to turn and look at social injustice in the eye, because for many people in this world they do not have the luxury to turn away. So I look, and I learn, and I encourage the people around me to turn their faces towards the injustice, and I encourage them to use their privilege to boost the voices of others.
Man, we just have to do this. What good is our privilege and loud voices if we don’t use them to make change and do some fucking good in this world? We cannot choose silence.