Commentary  The long fight against ignorance

There is nothing more diabolical than a system that makes you believe you know what there is to know. Years of being in Canada, in this “advanced” country, has shown me just that. In Indonesia, my comrades and I, and many others who passed before us, have been fighting against ignorance, superstition, and rampant backward prejudice among the Indonesian workers, peasants, and the urban poor, which are perpetuated by chronic poverty. This struggle against ignorance is as important as the struggle to put food on our table. The people have to free themselves from oppression since there is no messiah they can rely on; for that, they must first free their minds from the chains that keep them down.

The ignorance in Indonesia is very vulgar. It is a sore thumb. However, what I have seen here, in this land of milk and honey, is an ignorance so subtle that it must be the worst kind I have seen. This advanced capitalist country boasts that it is an example of human progress, the pinnacle of culture and knowledge. However, lurking behind this façade is backwardness among the people: racism cloaked under multiculturalism, oppression of women’s rights justified by freedom of expression. For example: Choose Life, and Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Mendelson’s outright defense of the club.

Here at McGill, this institution of higher learning, there is no lack of brilliant individuals. Many have read stacks of books and are well versed in their respective majors and minors. However, it is baffling that many students cannot put their knowledge into one coherent system that has a material basis in reality. I am not just talking about the freshmen but also my fellow graduate students. One of my colleagues was surprised to know that in this day and age, immigrants still make less than the average white person. Another one equated socialism to equal salaries for doctors and janitors. These graduate students are researchers who are supposed to do thorough work before coming to any conclusions. They are future McGill graduates who will most likely become the leaders of tomorrow.

We live in a society which is not interested in teaching us how to connect dots because the connected dots might point to a conclusion which is dangerous for those in power. We are taught to be formalistic in our way of thinking, educated enough just to turn the wheels but not smart enough to question what is wrong in our society. Some on the Left complain about how the apathetic and ignorant students of McGill will never change. I’d say: be patient. The task of smashing ignorance out of the skull of the people is long and arduous, as it is a product of conditioning. But there is no other way. The first struggle which has to be fought is against ignorance.

Ted Sprague is the pseudonym of a McGill Master’s student. You can reach him at