Any disappointment starts with a confession. I grew up infused with the idea that acquiring higher education is the most important professional aim in life. As a consequence, it is highly recommended that one share the company of people who have acquired university studies because through a dialogue with such persons, you grow up as an intellectual individual. Intellectuals always meet to discuss ideas and thoughts on how to change the world for good, don’t they?
However, I was saved from too much naivety by reality. As part of my various professional and academic assignments, I had the occasion to read and listen to grotesque elaborations uttered by people with high qualifications. From many points of view, it is better to see the reality as it is than to live in delusion. But this acknowledgment of fact does not have anything to do with accepting this reality.
And I go further into the facts. Many of the news articles from the academic realm I have read in the last two months were related to the facts that, according to my cloudy brain, do not have anything to do with the honesty and respectability of academic activity and way of thinking in general. For example, at the beginning of March, the famous Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government hosted# a conference where the conclusion of many of the speakers was the irrelevance of the state of Israel. The beginning of this year marked almost one year since the methodical slaughtering started in Syria. However, one of the most aired joint public activities developed in the last years by academics and professors from the Ivy League universities was the preparation for the so-called ‘Israel Apartheid Week’. At this point, I have not heard of any delimitation from such actions by the European academic counterparts.
Knowledge is beautiful and the academic dialogue bringing together people sharing opposite views is wonderful, but you should accept the right of the other party to express and to exist. We do not carry absolute truths and we should consider this a gift, not a weapon of hate.
Indifference kills. It did in WWII Germany where intellectuals did not protest the expelling of their fellow Jews from academia, and later on, when their neighbors were transported to the gas chambers. Times changed, but some ideas and patterns of behavior did not change dramatically. It might be a matter of bad education.
The ending of this short story can be either pessimistic or optimistic. When you do not have too many expectations, you avoid being disappointed. There are always good and bad lessons learned, as is the case of any historical episode. We must always wish that people do have the chance to change for good, especially if they assume they belong to the category of intellectuals. I still cannot believe that the intellectual believing in the values of knowledge and tolerance can accept the idea of a boycott.
Ana Dinescu is a regular contributor to University of Venus and a journalist for ten years for Romanian daily newspapers and is currently a communications consultant, living in Berlin.