The Art of Unlearning
Today I want to broach a topic which has also been part of this season of my life. Learning to unlearn. We live in an age where learning is the only path to success. Books, and exams are shoved down our little throats from the moment we know how to write our names. Knowledge is handed to us as gift which we are told is power. This is all well and good except there is a catch. The catch is that we don’t choose what we want to learn. From an early age we are taught only what the teacher chooses to teach us. We are most impressionable as children and soon we develop a worldview based on the broad or narrow teachings we have been given. Whether they are from school, home, family, culture, or/and the society in which we live. Unlearning is scary because we want to grasp on to the beliefs we have, these beliefs have become a part of our identity. Thus Unlearning may feel like falling and having nothing to hold on to as truth, as fact.
So why must we do it? There are several reasons but I will only state a few…
If what you have learned to be truth is lie, you will miss out on truth. Today, for example, we know the world is round but we didn’t always know that. People used to believe the earth was as flat as a pancake. It was all they knew and regardless of whether or not you would find a ‘believer’ in a ‘flat earth’ clinically insane today, back then it was extremely logical. So of course when some psycho wannabe philosopher claimed a ’round earth’ there was a lot of resistance to this claim. The earth’s curvature is not visible to the naked eye, so all the people could imagine was a ship falling into an abyss of nothingness after reaching the farthest corners of the earth. It took an extremely long time for the world to accept the concept of a round earth, because they had to ‘unlearn’ their previous beliefs.
Stereotypes and fact are intertwined. I had a conversation with a friend recently and he was telling my how immediately he graduates he wants to visit his relatives in different parts all around Kenya. He explained to me how he has only lived in Nakuru his whole life so everything he knows about everything is based on the perceptions he has inherited from the people he grew up with in this little town. I didn’t understand why this was such a bad thing but it clicked when I heard a friend tell me how she can never date a man from Western. I was surprised and I asked her why. She shook her head a little, shrugged her shoulders, and said, ‘I don’t know, there’s just something about them.’ I learned that she had received this ideology from her mother and the people who influenced her mind as a child. So I don’t blame her, it was something she was taught before she could decide what she wanted to be taught.
However, this leads to a theory I have come up with, which is that hate is taught. When a white person sees a black man with dreads walking near them, and they automatically assume he is dangerous and clutches their bags a little tighter or even needlessly call the police on him. This is a taught response. When a little dark-skinned girl looks into the mirror and hates the reflection staring back at her, that is a taught response. When a Kikuyu says, ‘I can never marry a Luo because they are lazy’ this is a taught response. When a person says, ‘I can never talk or interact with a homosexual because they are a disgusting sinner’ this is a taught response. When a man can’t respect a woman in an office setting because she is being, ’emotional’ and ‘irrational’ or it is probably ‘that time of the month’ this is a taught perception. Thus oppression is taught, not inborn.
How then must we deal with it? We have to teach ourselves to unlearn. It is harder than learning because it requires open-mindedness and a willingness to be wrong. You have to be willing to hear other people out and realize that no, you don’t know it all, and even what you do know? Well, guess what, it’s not fact honey. Just because you believe it, doesn’t make it true. Unlearning requires getting down to the nitty-gritty of your belief system and picking out what is lie and what is truth, what does more harm than good. It humbles you, and gets you off your egocentric high horse. Very few people are willing to unlearn because unlearning requires you to go backward when everyone else is obstinately going forward.
Bruce Lee *yes I am quoting the Asian karate cool kid* once said, “Empty your cup so that it may be filled; become devoid to gain totality.”
Also one of my favorite philosophers ever, Socrates said, “I am the wisest man on earth because I know one thing, and this is that I know nothing.”
Misimu… A Swahili word that means seasons. It is a beautiful word at that, and the word I will choose to use as my excuse for not loving my blog the last couple of months. I was going through a season where I forgot why I wrote. I lost Kamiliko’s purpose and I was scared to do a complete 180 with it so I just stopped. Plus there was a lot going on in my life so I was a bit overwhelmed. However, thank you to all my faithful readers who are still with me. If you have been with me for a while you may have noticed I have changed the name of one of my categories to “Reflections and Rants” because I do a lot of my rants on Facebook but I realized what is the point of a blog if you don’t get to rant or reflect a little on it so expect a number of reflections and rants over the next couple of months. Also let me know what posts you like and which you don’t like and if you would like a follow-up of this post. COmment, share, subscribe. I love your feedback.
*All the pictures used are free stock photos from Pexels.
- Posted in: Reflections