I decided to write this post last week. I was frustrated and angry. A series of unrelated events that has been unfolding for a long time had finally made me come to the conclusion that in academia, there were many people who just were not who they said they were. I called them “pretenders”.
They were those who constantly talked about their ideals and principles and who seemed to take pride in them yet I observed them to act like realists: They had the vision and the rhetoric of better universities, a better life, a better world, yet they held on to the existing power structures which favored themselves and the status quo, the hierarchies and the balances of power in their work place as well as in their personal spheres.
I thought those who had a gap between their deeds and words lacked integrity. I also thought those who had a gap between the principles in their professional lives and the practices of their personal spheres were not to be trusted. My long-lost newly-refound idealist side judged them. I got mad at them because they made my life difficult. I felt betrayed. I wanted to write about this to the readers here and ask the readers to punch me if one day I too would become one of them.
Before anyone else, I punched myself. I punched really really hard.
I had a writer’s block. I could not write what I wanted to write. Something was wrong, I felt uncomfortable with my own arguments. I doubted the conclusion I had reached. It seemed like there was more to it than what seemed to be and I needed to explore it. All of a sudden I found myself to be too judgmental, too absolutist, too puritan. I wanted to know if I was biased. I was not sure if it was just them who had such gaps. I wanted to find out if I too had those gaps. I wanted to see if I too pretended at times. I wanted to judge myself before I could judge them. I knew very well that otherwise my arguments would lose all legitimacy and credibility before my own eyes, before anyone else’s. In the end, I had to acknowledge that I was also less than perfect.
I punched myself by revisiting what it meant to be an idealist. I remembered that it was first and foremost the belief in the goodness of the human nature and in its perfectibility. So I thought: if the goodness of the human nature is a major assumption of idealism, how can I be an idealist by refusing to give my fellow academics and myself the benefit of the doubt? If I believe in the perfectibility of the human nature, how can I deny our right to be less than perfect? How can I not embrace those who struggle to find themselves and how can I judge them in the end result of the present when we are actually all work in progress?
I remembered that being a humanist was a prerequisite for being an idealist. I used to think that I needed to be strong for being an idealist. I now understand that I also need to be a humanist, fully, if I want to be an idealist. That includes acknowledging our right to be not so flawless.
And I came to a brand new understanding: that we are all humans, that we all have ideals and that we all struggle between those ideals and the realities of life. In that sense, unintentionally we are all pretenders. Because we are humans.
So if I had written this post 48 hours ago, before I punched myself, it would be completely different. It would be bitter. To be honest, I am glad I had a writer’s block because I like this version better. More accepting, embracing and tender. And this is how I believe we should all be towards each other. Not only in academia but also in life in general.
It is sunny in Istanbul today. But as you can see…
I have been under the rain
without an umbrella again.