technically, – at least i believe so – this is good news for all students no matter their field, but since i am indeed not well equipped to judge other areas of study, i will only declare the good news for the field i know personally: political science.
dear bachelor and master students (and to all of those i recently had this discussion with),
as you enter the field of science and the hallowed halls of your university, i dare to guess that some of you may feel like i did once upon a not too distant time: overwhelmed. and a certain characteristic level of arrogance by your professors -who, in every sentence they utter make you aware of how little you know and, even worse, make you feel as though you, little student, could not possibly have anything valuable to contribute- does not help to make this first impression get any less.
particularly the thought -and dare i say pressure- to ‘come up with something new’ -the core discipline and goal of all sciences- seems to be a frightening wall of ‘impossible’ in the first semesters. with all the knowledge that is presented in class and everything there is to read in libraries one gets the impression that there is absolutely no topic in the world that has been untouched. no adventure spirit. no great columbian and marco polo sort of discovery. the world has been mapped, history sorted, and theory developed. we can all die now. job done. good night.
well, my dear students, this is were my good news come in. i feel excited, almost like a little prophet, to be in the wonderful position to call this message out into the unlimited universe of the digital world and to the few readers of my blog: we -and i mean the human race in the most general terms- we don’t know shit!
what a blessing to those who seek to contribute!
we do not know anything! for starters, the entire believe into the following cause-effect-formula: “the more we know, the more we can predict the future” is nothing but a product of the time in history we call ‘enlightenment’ -it is just as much a theory or believe or ideology (call it as you will) as all the other theories, believes, ideologies and dare i say religions. and, at least if we follow popper -“hold on to a theory until proven wrong”- we should have already tossed the entire enlightenment thought alltogether. but, just like with newton’s mechanics, we hold on to it, not because it is actually ‘true’ or ‘correct’ but because it works for what we need it for – just as we would not start calculating breaking distances with quantum mechanics or string theory, we will not let go of the idea that eventually we will be able to ‘predict’ something, simply because the thought of “we simply did not yet have enough ‘variables’ to predict reliably” reliefs the brain that wants to know and relaxes the sense of responsibility after a horrifying failure of the own ‘prediction’.
sure, you may argue that this whole prediction thing works in math or natural sciences – fine, but that is why i am not talking about those fields of science – i am talking about political science; and the thing is that people, masses, groups, and states are not predictable. even if we had every information about every person in a group, groups develop their own dynamics, people change their mind, and ‘rationality’ is a very flexible concept that actually depends on each individuals point of view and perpective on the world. what may be rational for one person, may be horrifying to the other. think of terrorists, national socialists, racists… oh and self-rationalization is just another fantastic trick of human kind.
so, in fact, dear student, celebrate, because there is so much more knowledge to be discovered. starting from individual’s perspectives, to different systems of believes and perspectives on the world and international realtions and life and the economy and whateverelse you can think of. dare to leave your hallowed halls and open your eyes and hearts. dare to go beyond ‘undeniable truths’ and linear explanations. things are never either or. things are never ‘just like this’. try another theory to the same case – original thought. try the same theory on another case – original thought. find what is wrong with the theory – original thought. it truly is easy to contribute something ‘new’ to sciences. and the value, should you ever dare to question yourself (don’t!) derives from the new angle and the perspective you manage to open up in the process.
question. test. requestion. retest. and don’t you dare be intimidated by a big name or an arrogant professor. if you do your work scientifically – according to the rules and procedures – and you manage to add a new perspective, or manage to support the prior theory or assessment, your work is valuable! there is too many who only think in straight lines, too many who only recycle what has already been said, and too many who take the words ‘of the great masters’ for granted without reflection.
in my personal case, just as one example, i find myself irritated by publications of great and powerful institutions on kurdistan and all i can give as a reaction is the shrugg of my shoulders; “every child knows that in kurdistan”. there is no original thought. no reflection. no substance. or it is recycling of news stories and pictures. and to tell you the truth, it calms me down immensly; a) it is very easy to get to ‘original thought’ in a field where understanding perspectives matters (and what a blessing there are so many perspectives in this world!) and b) if not even the ‘big ones’ in the field are capable of doing that – whatever i have to contribute will be just fine.
and this is a thought i wanted to share with you, dear students, and all of those who feel insecure or overwhelmed by the sacred halls and secret clubs of social sciences.