On Academia

I credit the institute of higher learning that I was lucky enough to attend from the mid to the late 1990's with much. Not only did it introduce me to the joys of independence both in thought and life, but the academic disciplines I practised have not and will never leave my mental armoury.

But in the realm of philosophical reasoning and indeed of political writing and ideology, I consider it fortunate that I did not elect to remain inside the academic life for any longer than the attainment of an MA necessitated.

Were I to have taken that option, I would have missed much. Of course, hindsight in life is a very exact science and it is impossible for me to judge with any degree of accuracy how a life inside the University machine would have panned out. What I can say with certainty is that my route in life has never been short of characters and experiences, many of which I remember with sober clarity - some of which I do not.

But for the purposes of producing writing that is both relevant and intellectually sound, especially in the fields of politics and philosophy, were I to have shunned the corporate world or the people who inhabit it in favour of a life within the confines of mind alone, then I believe myself justified in the belief that I would have been far less able to write with any degree of confidence on matters that, frankly, relate too closely to those of the 'real world' to be in any way detached from it.

In the words of Anton Chekhov, "It is easy to be a philosopher in academia, but it is very difficult to be a philosopher in life."

I am sure that Chekhov's words would be strongly contested by academics, especially philosophers, but I remain steadfast in my conviction that the world outside of academia has its own unique lessons to teach and were I not to have experienced it, I would be all the worse for it.

Consider the COVID-19 scenario. It is an event that has impacted the private sector far more ruthlessly and damagingly than perhaps any other section of working society. Having first hand experience of both the reactions and the fears of workers throughout this period and observing the psychological phases which have unfolded, is something that must surely impact my eventual outlook beyond the surface situation of which I am a part. Would life inside the protective bubble of academia have unveiled any such truths beyond those that could be read in sociology papers or analysed in public surveys?

The politics of government during the pandemic has produced startling similarities in my experience to the internal politics of the private company. For is a workforce not akin almost precisely to the voting public? Some of the UK's government level scandals, from the period of March to December, have mirrored so closely the top level management issues I have had first hand experience of, that they have seemed almost entirely interchangeable, often even without narrative changes required.

So while we continue to be enriched by the writings and ideas of the academics, let us as writers be thankful for our individual life stories and quite comfortable in the impact that life outside of university has had and continues to have on our work.

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