Academic communities and higher learning facilities like universities are the places where great knowledge is born and passed on with the purpose of ‘enlightening’ our societies for the better.It is where the great thinkers of our world has been shaped and formed into the greatness, making the world prosper and develop through science, philosophy and all fields of knowledge and technology. It is the world where great men, since the days of Plato have sought and thought the solutions that would create the best world, the best societies and the best Man.
The academic world is a special world; the world of Academia – the world of reason and objectivity, where freedom of thought transcends the shackles of survival and the bounds of religion and politics. Galileo was one of its martyrs, the great thinking, and in all but different ways, so was Oppenheimer. In the days of Plato, the man who could think the best was the man that could take civilization to a new level. The legacy lives on today with universities being the hatching ground for all great men, be they politicians, scientists or doctors. These are the experts of our world; the one’s we look to for answers about the Universe, about today’s economy, about avoiding cancer and even about the meaning of life. We educate ourselves to BA’s, MA’s and doctoral degrees with the purpose of getting a head (pun intended) and we go through years of writing papers and reports with our eyes fixed on the microscopic detail, with our heads in the books, in classes, attending seminars and lectures until we become something more than we were when we started: The Academic scholar, the intellectual’s – The Elite.
When I was working my way through the years towards the time of deciding upon a future career, I deliberately chose not to go to university. At the time I was rebelling against the shackles of The System and I believed that were I to venture towards a university degree, I would be soiled and spoiled by the academic world and by the knowledge that I feared would make me stuck up and arrogant, because that was what I was seeing in people who had been through the limbo of college and university – they came out as different people, believing they were more than the rest, speaking in a secret code that only they could understand. In the end, I ended up exactly where I was pre-programmed to be: At university – that was what my parents had done, what my sister had done and what they had all wanted me to do; become smart, become something, making something of myself.[ad#article]Thus as a participant rather than a critical observer, what I am seeing is that the world of Academia does exactly what I had feared it would: It indoctrinates and socializes its students through the academic language and culture and through the seductive nature of knowledge being power in this world. We learn that the point of gaining power through knowledge is so that we can make the world a better place. The actuality is that most knowledge simply produces more knowledge, useless for anything than itself, and that the reasons for why we obtain university degrees in the first place, is for self-interest only. When we stop having to worry about physical survival, we can begin worrying about social, mental and spiritual survival.
Recently I attended a seminar where an esteemed German theorist claimed that it was through thinking more and better that we would be able to rip the veil of delusion that is the cause of inequality in this world (Marx would have turned in his grave). He had a romantic notion about universities being the places where peace and respect is born, where knowledge makes the student become self-reflected and thus able to empathize with others. He claimed that it was through the enlightenment of consciousness (he was a sociologist, not a new-age guru), that we could stop social inequality. I asked him if he really thought that thinking was the solution to stopping social inequality and suggested that it might be problematic to simply think and not act. He responded in a way I can only describe as unable to compute, so effectively designed as a great thinker, that he could not even fathom the concept of action being required in stopping social inequality.
I hear professors talk about ‘society’ and never once have I heard any of them state that what is tacitly implied in this word is ‘The Western society’. When I have asked about it, they agree that it is problematic and go on to saying that globalization sure is a hot topic these days. They say that there is no more hard labor, no class division, that we live in a knowledge society of freedom and innovation, but fail to mention that the rest of the world is doing the dirty work, while we wash our hands with Eco-friendly products. I see academic and intellectual people using long and complicated words as synonyms, instead of common words that everyone can understand, for no apparent reason. It is the language of the scientific method I am told, the language of objectivity and empiric proof and therefore it is the language through which all conclusions made about this world becomes valid and true.
As I am studying the classics of sociology and philosophy, I often find myself surprised that someone three hundred or eighty years ago was able to state the obvious and that we now haven’t gotten further than to re-produce the same words in new books and that we seemingly not have learned a single lesson. I often find myself asking: what if all of these great thinkers are all right in their theories and conclusions about the world? Often when I read I can agree with all the theorists, even if they are conflicting, because each of them has a point, but from a specific view or corner of the world. If that is so, is truth or Reality then not multidimensional and thus made up by every single being in this world, all the time changing as we change, and therefore irrelevant as a philosophical project or discussion? Bernard Poolman once said that ‘There is no truth, only denial of what is Here’ – so while we philosophize about concepts like peace or love, war is as real as it has ever been and it is lived whether people like it or not – not only thought.
When something is invented and created for the purpose of practicality, it holds no status or value besides how much someone can make off it on the market, while academic knowledge is valued and honored in itself, as though it was the holy grail of man’s accomplishments in this world. It seems that the head is the master and the hands, feet and body, the slave. Knowledge is seductively and endlessly spinning in on itself, like the magic of a kaleidoscope. But we forget that it is our hands that turn it, that it is our eyes that look through it – that it is merely pieces of glass reflected by light and that the magic we put into it – is a mental projection.
Universities are where What is Best for All is supposed to be thought and developed. It is where we are supposed to come up with Solutions to stop social and economic inequality, to unite people, to create awareness and reflection – But the academic world is the Elite’s world, excluding everyone that does not understand the academic language, including only those fortunate enough to have money. It is where we are seduced by the value and authority we have placed in knowledge.
Higher education holds no validity if it is not producing results that makes the world a better place. This is after all the whole point, isn’t it? Or is the point to reproduce the Elite, to make sure that the Have’s still get, that the intellectuals are stocked, inbred and isolated on an island of good intentions, but without a grip on the Reality, where for many, every day is a living hell?
We could claim that the difference between an educated person in the developed world and an uneducated person in the developing world is that the first is smarter and thus more civilized. But if We were to spend every moment of every day trying to stay alive, we would have little time or reason to consider ‘enlightening’ our consciousness. The severe exploitation of animals and humans is also a result of the educated western world, where the smarter we get, the crueler our methods of turning life into profit become. All brought to you, the live studio audience, the masses whose human rights have been reduced to consumer rights, whose democratic influence is as powerful as getting to choose between organic or regular eggs. And the academics are the one’s developing the justification that we need to keep our moral balance in check, feeding us expert opinions on the lack of sentinel awareness in animals or that an Indian does not require a higher living standard because he is used to less.
The academic world is not a place of education and development – it is a place that reproduces inequality, justified as the place where these problems can be solved – producing theory upon theory by people who have never had their fingers in the dirt. Academic Education is a waste of space, mind, money and time – if it is not applied towards making the world a better place for everyone. From the days of Plato this was the whole point with educating ourselves – to make ourselves the best we can be.
It is not through big thinking and big words that a difference is made in this world – it is through practical, sustainable Solutions that are most often simplistic and straight forward. Small children are great examples, saying that war is stupid and not understanding why mom has to work for money and not play all day. We require solutions that does not exclude some for the benefit of others, solutions that benefit everyone and makes no one special or more or less than another, simply because; we’re not.
And it is not because we are not capable of actually coming up with these solutions, just look at the development in sustainable energy, in water purification and medicine to name a few. We simply do not prioritize the knowledge and actions that places what is best for Everyone, at a physical, practical level, first – because knowledge in itself have become the grand prize and the token of greatness; we think therefore we are – Really?
Imagine if all education was focused upon working together towards making this world a better place for everyone. Imagine if we were able to focus on creating the best solutions in any given field or subject, without the competition between egos over who knows the biggest words or has the best memory. Imagine a world with Equal Money for All – where Everyone had an Equal Right to a Dignified Life, where Everyone had an Equal right to Equal education and that knowledge was merely a tool used to create what is Best for All.
Is that too much to ask for? I think not.