It was the late Anthony De Mello who said: “Ignorance and fear, ignorance caused by fear, that’s where all the evil comes from, that’s where your violence comes from.” That ignorance caused by fear and fear caused by ignorance lie behind every act of violence are truths that we can intuit from our everyday existence. Economic and political philosophers have long associated violence with the lower classes and the underclass; the very people in an industrialised society who are kept in the deepest ignorance and controlled by fear. It is for this reason that it is typically in the working class estates and in the inner city where we witness racism acted out with violence. Yet this is not to say that the well-to-do are not racist. Often they are, but their racism – institutional racism – is often protected by a culture of decorum. Ending violence therefore must first be in providing the correct remedy for ignorance and fear – education. Such, however, is no simple task, and this is so because education is not a thing in itself, but a term which describes a number of quite different things. One can educate by instruction, but instruction requires little more than mere obedience. What we require is a formation of the will and an assent to wisdom.

One must always remember that it was the mere instruction within the British school system which led to the greatest will to violence of the twentieth century. Teachers have always been the greatest recruiting officers. Rather, what we desire from education, is a teasing out of the finer angels of human nature that already inhabit the person. Ignorance and fear, through generations of social conditioning, have caused this better nature to hide away. It is the task of the pedagogue to help pull them forth. Entering into a classroom this morning the first discussion I overheard in the morning was of how it would be wrong of the state to welcome refugees when it cannot look after its own vulnerable people. No thought was given to the possibility that the Irish state simple did not want to look after its own people. The truth remains that our ability to welcome people in need is not an either/or equation, but a both/and sum; Ireland can take care of Irish people and extend a welcome to strangers. Only ignorance and fear hinders people from seeing it. At the end of the day I watched as a number of young adult students cobbled together a sign of welcome. My heart leapt for joy, but my mind wondered just how much of this was mere instruction. From small things big things grow.

Jason Michael
Blog Author

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