Agnotology is the study ignorance and its cultural reproduction. It is a fertile area of intellectual pursuit because ignorance is not just a void – a lack of knowing – but it is often consciously produced for certain purposes and might be thought of as false knowledge.
Last week’s letters pages contained a nice example of such false knowledge when Lester Brien offered his ‘asylum worldview’. While Lester is welcome to his chauvinistic nationalism that draws stark distinctions between ‘us’ and ‘them’, and although his claims about the relationship between population and living standards demonstrate a patent unfamiliarity with the last couple of hundred years of economic literature, I am most interested in his use of the phrase ‘illegal immigrants’.
So in the spirit of agnotology please allow me to disabuse Lester of his ignorance. Australia is a party to the Refugee Convention. Accordingly, people are perfectly entitled under law to cross Australia’s ‘sovereign borders’ for the purposes of seeking asylum – irrespective of what travel documents they hold.
I would suggest that the genesis of Lester’s ignorance might be found at the confluence of his nationalistic sentiment and the willful dissemination of untruths by our political elite. Refugees might be a lot of things Lester but they are not ‘illegal’.
Dave Lisle, Mullumbimby