Innocence and Ignorance

The mountains fade into the distance.  The green of the mountains is slowly turning into the dusty sand of the plains.  I hate the dryness, everything is dry, my skin is already feeling dry.  It’s a journey I have to make though.  I have to go though, they say it is my calling.  The train slowly rumbles on, passing towns that only the people who live there know exist.

I wonder what these people know about the world outside their village.  What do they know about the world outside of this country?  I grew up in a small village but my teacher told us tales of the cities.  Tales of distant countries.  Places we would probably never see outside of our imaginations.

Now is it even possible to be innocent?  Is it possible to not be aware of the world that seems so distant from us?  I would spend my whole childhood hoping to escape the village.  Hoping to go somewhere that was new, somewhere that wasn’t backwards.  Now, every time I leave I long for my village.  I long for the life so simple.  Why do we strive for complications?

As a kid, it was all so simple.  I would wake up, go to school, come home from school, play with my friends.  There were no worries and there were no fears.  The outside world was in our imagination.  A place unknown yet longed for.  The news on the radio that my mother listened to was so irrelevant.  Wars, revolutions, none of these things mattered to me.

Then I left.  I left to discover that big world outside of our mountain village.  Make my daydreams a reality.  That was the day that all innocence was lost.  Arriving in the city station with people holding up banners.  Banners calling for things I didn’t understand.  Revolutions, calling for the destruction of the rich.

Rich to me was the family in my village that had 3 cows and a black and white TV.  They weren’t bad people though.  They used to let us sit and watch their television.  Why do they need to be destroyed?  These people with banners were angry.  There was hatred in their eyes.

Each day in the city my innocence slowly left me.  The world that I thought I knew became insignificant.  The simple life that I had led no longer had any meaning for me.  I’d had a lost childhood.  I hadn’t learnt anything.  I was oppressed.  Everyone told me we in our village were the most oppressed.  The ones they wanted to keep down.  ‘They’.  It was always ‘they’.  I never really understood who ‘they’ were.

An anger built inside me.  For all these years I had known nothing.  Now I knew everything.  I understood it all.  ‘They’ wanted us to be simple.  I read books, I read about how the oppressed needed to overthrow ‘them’.  I asked questions.  A man took me to his house to study.  A big house.  Servants brought us food and drink as he talked to me about the upcoming revolution.

We made the decision that I had to go back to my village.  I had to go back and teach the ignorant and misguided.  They didn’t know they were oppressed.  Only we could educate them and liberate them.  I would take copies of the book that we all read back to them.  If they couldn’t read, I would read to them.

As I boarded the train back, I was excited.  They would all see now what a worldly man I was.  They would see that now I had been educated.  I will teach them, teach them that their ways are wrong, that need to stand up, throw away the ways of old.  They were just ways to hold them down.

My excitement grew as the dust turned into greenery.  The trees a dark green, flowers and along the roadsides.  Memories of my childhood.  A happy childhood.  Or was it?  I thought it was happy.  Now I know that it wasn’t.  ‘They’ were keeping me ignorant.  Now it is my job to make sure that they will know.

As I walked past the house with three cows and the black and white television, the old lady sitting outside waved.  A smile of warmth on her face.  Her daughter ran towards me holding a bag of vegetables.  She handed them to me.  “We have too much, I always remember you helped us pick the vegetables when you were a child, please take them.  I hope you are happy in the city”.

I am supposed to hate this woman.  Yet there is no contempt in her eyes.  Only warmth and concern.  I take the vegetables and smile.  I nervously cover the book I am holding in my hand.  I thank her and carry on towards home.  The sky blue walls bringing back memories of coming home from school as a child.

As I walk in the door.  My mother is watching television.  She smiles and says “surprise, we saved for it”.  She is watching the news.  The man who took me to his house is there in front of me on the TV.  He is angry, shouting, telling the people listening to him that they must rise up.  That they’re ignorant.

My mother tuts as she watches.  She tells me the book that the man has in his hand, she has read it.  She read it many years ago.  Everyone in the village did.  She told me she threw it away though.  It was nonsense.  What do these people know of our lives?  They know nothing.  They think we are ignorant, innocent.  This is our choice though.  This is how we choose to live our lives.  We don’t need someone who has no understanding of us to tell us how to live.

I walk back outside.  There is a small fire where my mother was burning the rubbish.  I take the books and throw them on to the fire.  I decide I am not going back to the city.  I am not going back to be educated by people that have no understanding of my life.  In two minutes my mother educated more than the man did in one year.  I choose innocence not ignorance.

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