If ever there is a group of frustrated people at any given time, they
are activists who genuinely believe in their cause but never taken
seriously by the society they wish to change.
They believe that some vices are a result of ignorance, lack of
education and knowledge on certain topics.
For instance, my friends in the disability rights movement often
wonder at how even educated people hold onto their prejudices
- They are puzzled by how they take people with disabilities as
perpetual minors, who cannot make decisions on their own.
- They wonder how they wonder at obvious accomplishments by
someone with a disability in the 21st century.
- For example, using a smartphone is considered “magic” when done by
a visually impaired person, as they are not supposed to know how
to use it.
Isn’t it the age when we are all supposed to have been enlightened,
civilised and not to continue to play to our cultural prejudices when
it comes to people different from us?
But when you take a closer look at what really is going on, you cease
to be amazed.
People choose what they want to see
So when it comes to any accomplishments by people with disabilities,
especially how they take part in the mainstream educational
programmes, and how people do not see it. This is because they do not
care about it: they stick to their script that people with
disabilities are perpetually shackled by their physical limitations.
But this is not the tale of disability activism. I often say this site
is all about education and research: and why is this subject coming
Because it speaks to our vice of never opening up to new
things. Rather, the post is about how prejudices persist throughout
Checking current news on discrimination reveals the same old patterns
of the past century. Each continent has got its own ills, for instance:
The reason why we still have these issues at the beginning of the
third decade in the 21st century, the very age defined by Information,
has to do with what we wish to believe.
The notion of fellowship, group formations and affiliation is
underscored by the need to associate with those who hold the same
views as ourselves. We get a sense of belonging and of being accepted:
at least here we feel at home and not condemned by the rest of the
society. In fact, as William Davies notes in this article which
appears in this Week’s Long
of the Guardian, technology has helped
solidify group formations and provides a fertile ground for conspiracy
This explains how education, or being techie, may sometimes help in
perpetuating some prejudices. Anyone speaking against those may be
considered as an alien, someone who is out of touch with how the world
really works. They can even be branded as an agent of darkness for
trying to change certain practices that were held dear by our
Thus it makes it difficult to change any society overnight. What may
appear as a simple exercise of convincing a few people may turn to be the work of a whole
The Role of Research in changing the society
Can education and research help?
Research is perhaps one of the greatest vehicle to changing a
collective mindset, especially as it is based on empirical
evidence. Still, the way that research suffers is how it is received
by consumers, whether they be in the academia or not.
The debates about the quality of research generated by quantitative
versus that generated by qualitative research sometimes creates two
opposing camps where authenticity of one approach may be thrown into
Although the two approaches are complementary and help in
advancing knowledge and human progress, yet some debates cause harm to
the society. This is true when researchers are tagged as holding on to
certain political ideologies and using their privileges as researchers
to push them.
Anyway, this reminds us of the controversy around global warming: this
is an example of a subject which reflects the positions that we want
to hold to rather than choices guided by research.
The bottom line is that we want to believe in research that confirms
our belief systems rather than one opposed to it.
Our choices of sounds and sights is strong and may represent our
principles. We are not empty of beliefs as we read through academic
papers, neither are we empty vessels as we receive new knowledge.
Bearing this in mind may help us understand why some causes may seem
to be helpless when stacked against social prejudices. Thus, while
other people may indeed be ignorant, but the level of ignorance in the
whole society may reflect what that society wants to believe rather
than what is presented before them.