Misconceptions of the world we live in today
I was struck when I was away regarding how people here in Ireland misconceive places like India, and how many inaccurate opinions they form about these places from the media, films and other people. They paint a picture of a dirty, dangerous place, that is completely one-dimensional. They only tell one side of the story, and not even a complete one side at that! Yet the people who promote these ideas have never actually experienced this place and life for themselves. Prior to my departure last summer, I had many people planting inaccurate ideas in my head about how dangerous India was. That I was could be attacked and that I should be very 'careful'. However, this advice and these ideas could not have been less accurate. The first day that myself and my I teaching partner arrived in school we were greeted by beaming faces on the happiest looking children that have ever seen in my life. I have never felt safer and more content in my life as I did when in the Sundarbans and have never been greeted by friendlier people than those I met in the community. It’s interesting that people paint India as such a dangerous place. Yes, violence does occur there. Yes, bad things do happen. But is that to say that bad things don’t happen in Ireland? No. Violence, corruption, inequality, they occur in India, they occur in Ireland. They exist everywhere, no matter what country or continent we are on in the world.
Pictures depicted by the media show Kolkata to be full of poverty, and only poverty. Yet there is also a vast amount of wealth there. The division between wealth and poverty is vast. I saw families sleeping outside large shopping malls, rooftop bars, extravagant night-cubs, all along the same street. In Ireland, I guess this division does not seem as noticeable. Yet we do have a huge problem here when it comes to homelessness, one I've only really noticed upon arriving home. The inequality is extensive and the gap between wealth and poverty is increasing. People associate poverty in the Global South to be expected, and just another aspect of life. Yet in Ireland there seems to be an element of blame and judgement associated with poverty, and less sympathy and empathy are directed to those out on the street without a home.
People associate the Global South with problems, and only problems. We call it the ‘developing world’, assuming ourselves here in Ireland to be ‘developed’. But who’s to say that we do it all right? Developed leads to an assumption of perfection, that there is no need for change. But Ireland, America, Australia, these so-called ‘developed’ countries are far from perfection, and certainly not without issues, lots of them which need to be addressed. Take healthcare, for example. Yes, a broad statement could be used to say that some people in these countries do have better access to healthcare facilities than they do in Zambia, for example- but define this, define these ‘people’. Those with private health insurance have access to scans and are attended to quickly if diagnosed with a disease. But those without this private health insurance often have to wait years to be seen by a consultant and in certain circumstances don’t receive the optimal treatment. This demonstrates inequality, a need for improvement. And we call ourselves ‘developed’.
I also became struck when I came back to Ireland after my time away, at how preoccupied people are in their own lives, rushing about with their headphones in. So caught up in their own worlds that they don't notice what's going on around them, the people around them. The pace of life is a lot slower and calmer in the Sundarbans. I noticed that people looked out for each other in the community. In the Sundarbans, the place where I was staying with my team this summer the pace of life is a lot slower and calmer. I noticed that people looked out for each other in the community. Locals would stop to talk to one another on the street. They would smile and wave at each other as they walked by. I felt that they really made time for each other. This was particularly evident in the boys that myself and my team were living with. These boys are part of Natuun Allo- a national child labour project set up by Sabuj Sangha- a partner organisation of SUAS based in Kolkata and the Sundarbans. Although these boys all came from different places and had different backgrounds, they treated each other like brothers. I noticed a few of the older boys in particular really looking out for the younger ones, dancing with them, playing with them, standing up for them which was really inspiring to see. They were like a family, and it was a privilege to be a part of it for the short time that I was there!
Name: Triona Bracken