When I take part in the Earthlings Experience, a form of animal rights activism, our group often holds up a sign saying ‘Educate Yourself’. We believe that if people learned the truth about the exploitation of animals, they would change their eating and purchasing habits.
Though I’m personally very well-versed when it comes to animal rights issues, there are other areas where I know very little. It’s becoming obvious to me that we can’t ever afford to stop this process of educating ourselves if we want to progress as a society.
I recently borrowed a library book by Noam Chomsky, the well-known political author. Reading it has made me realise how little understanding I have of the way our world works. I’d never given much thought to which countries were allies, which were enemies, which were at war for dubious reasons.
I have some knowledge, but not enough. I know banks have too much power, but I don’t understand how it happened or what can be done about it. I’m generally clueless when it comes to economics and its link with politics. I’m a pacifist, but I don’t truly understand what motivates political leaders to be at war. I know my own country has committed atrocities, but I’m somewhat unclear about what they are.
My ignorance frustrates me. I feel that I need to understand these things in order to know what I stand for. I’m coming to realise that very few of us truly understand how the world works, and the less we understand, the easier it is for us to get screwed over.
Governments and big businesses commit terrible acts, of which most of us are blissfully unaware. We’re so used to the way things are that we sometimes don’t even notice we’re being exploited.
As Chomsky says, we’re surrounded by propaganda in the form of advertising and public relations. He makes the point that in a so-called democracy, we can’t be forced to do anything – but we can be convinced to do things which aren’t in our best interests.
I’m coming to believe that if we realised the truth about these systems, we would stop participating in them. Without our cooperation, they would collapse. So head to the library, check out some books, and start learning. It will probably make you angry – it ought to. We’re perfectly entitled to be furious.
But don’t stop at reading. Be active, and don’t cooperate with systems that don’t serve the greater good. It’s so important. The world is counting on you.