I read an article the other day, about how sex work qualifies as real work, and no one in the world has the right to shame prostitutes and gigolos for what they choose to do for a living. While I feel extremely strongly about the LGBTQ community and the rights of the sex workers, and have always been vocal about the same, this piece shook my very foundation. I realized how easy it is to have unacknowledged prejudices in your head about topics you may, in reality, think you are in consonance with.
As I sat there, staring into space, trying to sort through the plethora of emotions in my mind, I suddenly felt repulsed at how little I knew about their side of the story, and how I’d been confirming to an assumed set of beliefs. How did I even get there?
When we read about issues of a politically, socially, or culturally sensitive nature, we tend to be blindsided by our preconceived notions about how things are supposed to be. To put it simply, we only see what we want to see there. Upon being forced to pay attention to detail, to reflect on the things we are used to brushing aisde and overlooking, our beliefs can tumble down like a house of cards.
The key, I think, is to accept that try as we might to deny it, we are all a bunch of curious, beautiful souls who are sadly out of tune with the ability to admit that we’re never going to be a hundred percent informed about anything. Ever. In a world where ignorance is frowned upon by society, we try to cover our tracks as fast as we can and turn to feigning knowledge about things that are out of our reach. And that is such a shame.
“I don’t understand” is a beautiful phrase. There is nothing demeaning in conceding to the fact that we aren’t, we can’t be omniscient. And those three words won’t ever be said too much. Pretending to have an opinion on things because that’s the only way to avoid getting flak from the intellectual elitists has become the new norm. It is the easiest escape route to fit into the nerd culture. We spend most of our time forming half baked opinions on things that are the talk of the town, and then spend the rest of our lives defending those opinions, working ourselves to the bone, getting increasingly agitated and confused…until we forget why we decided to take a certain stand to begin with.
There will always be wildly sensational things you’ll never quite know what to make of. Beautiful, scary things; deeply moving, thought provoking things…ideas that will keep you up at night questioning your very existence, shattering the image you have of yourself and mirroring the caricature you hoped you’d never become. These are the things that will touch your very core, prick at your conscience one way or another. Maybe they’ll strike home and you’ll hate how true they are – maybe you’ll have the guts to openly admit they make sense or maybe you’ll slam the concept hating yourself the whole time. Maybe you won’t relate on any plane – maybe you’ll criticize it for the same reason or maybe you’ll see how three hundred and thirty six people have a polar opposite opinion on it already, and you’ll agree too, just because. (Then wonder if you truly know yourself anymore, wonder if you never really did.)
The beauty of being honest to yourself is that, all it takes is three little words – “I don’t understand,” to unlock the door to a spectacular galaxy of viewpoints and insights. Those three little words will help you grow beyond everything you imagined you’d ever achieve – if only you keep your mind wide open.
Tanvi Deshmukh is a nineteen year old girl from Pune, India, with an affinity for words and books, cats and coffee,Nepalese food and hippie music, and the colour green (along with Oxford commas). Currently pursuing her undergraduate degree in English, she loves poetry, volunteers at an NGO and plays the keyboard in her free time. Along with devouring books of all kinds, unless of course, she’s in the middle of heated discussions on feminism, patriarchy, gay rights, or what to name the neighbour’s new dog.