Mainstream, alternative, and social media. These are all vital sources of public knowledge in modern life. As platforms multiply, we bask in the freedom of discourse. But are we more free? We now live in a highly-polarized world, where civility is for the “weak”. Such spitefulness may be suited for revolutions, but ours is a time for evolution. What we need is an elevation in the quality of public discourse.
The solution: Academia.
Academia has long been an exclusive enterprise which situates itself outside commercial pressures. While the commercial world trains us to reject differences, the academic sphere encourages us to slow down and acknowledge that knowledge is additive, that there are no absolute rights or wrongs. To set aside our ingrained frames of thinking, we need help from scholars. The nerds may be unfashionable, but these days, we need more of the “smart guys/girls” to speak out.
Open courses are available these days, but who makes use of them? I’m guessing that many who do, go for specialized credentials over the education. If web articles can trigger the tl;dr brigade, what then of journal articles and theoretical essays? It’s not all our fault, though. We are socialized into an age of uncritical consumption by commercial forces. The obscure language of scholarly material also makes for bad survival manuals.I will try, therefore, to be a translator of this largely-untapped resource.
For 5 semesters now, I have been grinding down copious amounts of academic readings. Most of them are from Sociology, the scientific study of society. I will concede upfront that Sociology has its own biases – namely the tendency to “blame” everything on external factors – but as a basis for public knowledge, in all its diversity, you will be hard-pressed to find a more encompassing discipline. I hope to convince you with time.
To some extent, I’m already sharing what I’ve learned. But I’ve mostly packaged them in my own peculiarities. From now, I shall start sharing knowledge more directly. I will share specific articles, extract key points, and open more avenues for interpretation. Scholars may be more qualified, but they are too busy adding to academic discourse. The burden of public discourse hence falls onto the incremental efforts of the rest of us.
I’m building bridges to the shoulders of giants. I’m giving abridged versions of instruction manuals for a conscious and empowered life. Pick them up, before the tidal waves of self-righteousness swallow you up in faux notions of agency.
If we can learn to be less reactive, we will all become more free.