An academic in an uneasy world

When I first drafted this post, it was to shamelessly self-promote my latest article and announce that I am almost through my first comprehensive exam. But that got me thinking about how in the last days of my exam I had to force myself to ignore the invasion of Ukraine. After working on my PhD during the pandemic, the rise of right-wing extremism, and now an unprovoked invasion, I’m not sure how to rationalize my continued effort anymore. I’m tired!

Self-help advice would say to only face the stress you can control, but it falls flat when your work centres on holding the powerful accountable. As I draw closer to my dissertation proposal, and while I work on another paper about more broken treaty promises here in Ontario, how much longer can I fight? How much longer can I manage the fire in my part of the world, when the rest of the world is already aflame?

Alas, much like Plato’s analogy of the cave, there is a burden that comes with knowledge. In one moment you can see the best in people, in the efforts that can make the world into a much better place, as the systems and knowledge that I was writing about in my exam are indicative of. Then in the next moment, it can all come crashing down in a way that you anticipated but never wanted to give voice to.

But as I’m behind the keyboard shaking my head at the flagrant abuses and the level of suffering we commit against each other, we always have a way of correcting things. The pandemic is waning, the latest episode of extremism in Canada has been pushed against, and the world is unifying around Ukraine.

We all fight in our way, using our skills and talents in a way to support each other. We heed the calls to come together against fear, injustice, abuse, war, and terror. In this move, no fight is too big or too small. Yet, we must be wary of fighting so much that we lose sight of what we are doing and why we are doing it.

I guess then, in the end, there is always the question about who benefits from your efforts? Can you justify your action(s) in a way that is more about the good of others, instead of about the good for yourself?

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