I just finished reading a book that I studied in College many years ago. Back then I loved the book and named it as one of my favourites, understandably then, I was eager to re-read this book after all this time, excited to once again re-experience the love I had once developed for this work. I read the book, and then I found myself wondering why I had loved it so much in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a beautifully written book, I can still connect to its messages, messages of destructive colonial power, of bonds of family and love being shaken, of choices and betrayal. These messages are still profound, but the awe I remember experiencing so long ago has somehow been lost.
Perhaps it’s the continuous discussions of the very same topics that has allowed the initial passion to wane, perhaps it’s the fact that I have been exposed to so many more things over these years. More importantly though, I think it’s because I have changed so much, without even realizing the extent of my inner changes and what I have become.
I look back at myself as an eager student, ready and willing to soak up the knowledge that a University has to offer you, excitedly perusing course booklets for options of what to study. Learning seemed like an adventure, an eye opener to so much that there is out there. And now, I can’t help but feel cynical and the very institution I once saw as a gateway to knowledge has in a way come to represent a sort of stifling for me.
How do I explain this in an understandable manner? It just somehow feels like there’s so much out there, way too much for us to be directed to think in a certain way. The books we have been assigned to read, the knowledge we have been taught, and information we have been given, is only a small fraction of what is out there, and who has chosen what we should read, learn and study? How has it been determined what’s important and what’s not? On what basis do some theories, thoughts or books become the foundation of learning? I have come to question the things I once thought was the cornerstone of knowledge. I have been forced to open my eyes and search my own mind to make choices that are important, not because someone else says they are. My conclusion is that Thought shouldn’t be limited to what is popular, sometimes the “worst-seller” makes the best read. Sometimes the theories they don’t teach you are the ones that are the most useful and applicable. Sometimes the way of thinking that is regarded as “backward”, “irrelevant” or even “obsolete” are the ones that hold the answers you seek.
I also find myself facing a dilemma, which has become more real each day. For me, reading or learning about the wrongs in the world is not enough. It seems like inactivity or even cowardice, to read or even write about all the wrongs, and yet there is no action. Speaking isn’t good enough, discussions, conferences, debates, what does all this really achieve? People are still suffering, we don’t have to go far to see the suffering. So much is said and done in the name of freedom, and yet freedom remains elusive to so many.
Wars are continuing to rage on, in so many parts of the world. Children are still growing up parentless, women are still being left to fend for themselves. The injustice in the world still persists. Reading about it may make us wiser, but I’m wondering what is the point of wisdom without any action?
After reading the book I mentioned, I couldn’t help but feel like people have been speaking and writing about the injustice in the world for years and years, and still so many eyes remain closed, still so many people insist in mimicking their very oppressors, still so many people give up themselves and their cultures to become something that they are not.
Perhaps the change needs to begin with each of us individually. Perhaps injustice and oppression will only be fought when we change the way we think, and then turn that into real action. Perhaps we need to go out there and help the poor in a more productive manner, or teach children and adults who do not have the luxury of knowledge, it doesn’t matter what we do; even a small action will make a difference. I’m not sure what my course of action will be, but I am quite certain that I am tired of reading about the same things over and over, and not doing much about it.
Image from here