Of ignorance, of omerta

By: Paulo A. Azevedo

Founder and Publisher

It should not be necessary for someone like Joseph Stiglitz – Nobel prizewinner in Economic Sciences – to state that education and health are the two most important elements for human development. It should already be inherent in common knowledge, as if it were a chromosome. But this truth remains a paradigm in certain government departments, where ignorance reigns, which may be public, sonorous, inconsequential. 

In the smallest civilised part of this planet the two attacks on civility perpetrated by the Deputy Director of the Education Bureau (DSEJ) would have been enough for her to be relocated to where she would not have the power to hurt anyone – or assail commonsense, for that matter. 

Saying that students who exhibit homosexual tendencies should be referred to a psychiatrist for “clinical diagnosis” was not bad enough, it seems. A week later, in trying to justify the unjustifiable, the Bureau’s number two responsible for Education in the city alerted students that they might go to jail if they have sex as minors. 

The law to her is very simple. And the fact that the criminalisation factor was included in the law by legislation to deter and penalise an adult from taking sexual advantage of a minor is apparently a detail of little or no consequence. Thus, in front of tape recorders and the glare of the TV cameras she has no problem in saying that minors who have sex can go to jail. 

Such ignorance should not be tolerated in someone who holds a position such as hers. We all know that Macau is a very tolerant city – but surely there must be a limit. 

Amazingly, only a few people took enough umbrage with these flagrant throwaway remarks to raise their voice against the clear stigmatisation of her stand and her wrong interpretation of the law. Which says a lot about society itself.  

And from the government? Silence, as usual. Of course. 

The importance of being ignorant 

Ignorance or the inability to rebel against what is wrong in this city is already sowing the seeds for consequences that will be harmful in the not too distant future. In the immediate term, it is this apathy, as if nothing were happening. We are just deep in our lives; we do not want confrontations or problems, which are a bit of a pain. And so we let it pass, numbed by the economic advantages of the moment, entertained by looking for the best places to vacation and exchanging banal messages on so-called social media. 

Around us drivers can drive ever more dangerously, demonstrating alarming ignorance of the most basic tenets of the road and commonsense. You can mistreat animals, abjectly waste our limited natural resources, and pollute the environment. With no effort made to better educate the population. We do not invest in professional sensitization campaigns, an effort that should be continuous and extended to most sectors. 

Meanwhile, some businesses can continue to be done under the table, while investments via the public treasury can continue without respect to any transparency, to the advantage of those who gain from a systematic lack of supervision and general irresponsibility.  

We forget, to our cost and shame, that by accepting the complacency of ignorance and indulging ourselves in the vow of silence we are only feeding social imbalance, bad governance and the fattening of hordes of evildoers. 

And the use of ignorance 

Disastrous though ignorance is, it is understandable that powers tend to favour an uneducated citizenry. They are easier to control. Nor is it necessary to convince them, because they themselves do not bother to question, to seek to perceive. 

Rulers also take advantage of ignorance, of complacency undermined by disinterest. And so new, more vigorous power strategies emerge that feed on ghosts to impose more stringent rules. Neither are they original. 

There are many signs: the removal of Portuguese judges (called foreigners) from the appraisal of cases that one may declare to be related to national security – an interpretation that will tend to be the most extensive according to the conveniences.  

The non-renewal of contracts of two senior legal advisors to the Legislative Assembly is considered in some quarters as the removal of less ‘malleable’ voices to certain legislative wills. While the new strategies of a recent ‘think tank’ heralds the closing of ranks that can more easily launch sedition charges and remove the few uncomfortable voices existing in the city. The temptation of power at its best. 

And it does not matter that certain decisions are counter to the spirit and the letter of the Basic Law. We think that by doing these tricks we are being a better son and we will be rewarded when we once again accept to be guinea pigs of political experiences that aim at first to undermine the space of manoeuvre of our sister SAR Hong Kong. 

It’s the ultimate power, fed by the ignorance and disinterest of the governed; by the greed of the covenants in exchange for business outside the law; and always, always waving the flag of an invisible enemy. History repeating itself every single day.  

Isn’t that a joy?