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By Shaheen Sultan Dhanji - A Transient in a Specious Coterie

A Transient in a Specious Coterie
by Shaheen Sultan Dhanji

"Ah, gentlemen, what kind of independent will can there be when it comes down to graphs and arithmetics, when nothing counts but "two plus two makes four"? Two times two will be four even without my will. Is that what you call a man's free will?" -- (Passage from 'Notes from Underground' - Fyodor Dostoevsky.


Past noon I attended a forum on the Media and Educational Systems and in the Direct Agents in Linguistic Genocide we are dangerously succumbing as a globe. Thus, after the seminar and panel discussion, the usual "meet and greet" of the scholars ensued in the banquet hall - a perplexing question dawned on me by a Ph.d student, "So, Ma'am, what do you specialize in, what is your field?"  

For a moment I thought, what 'field' shall suffice my thirty-six years of living in one simple title - I write, dabble with paint, play musical instruments, social-political activist, passionately read books, work in the social development sector as a free-lance consultant, what am I to answer this poor bloke, who is adamant to learn of my speciality?

Are we obliged to label ourselves in one specific arena of thought or practice? Would it not be rewarding to be a 'transient'  in a specious coterie of well-defined but narrow specialists' in any one field?  Society thrives on specialisation and in the character building of an individual. It is not surprising, that, education systems play a pivotal role in pegging distinct classical systems of education.

The colonial rulers constructed clerks and cadres to meet the beaurocratic composition of the British Raj, hardly concerned with social-political, economic and cultural requirements of an independent nation. Another valid point to consider was the establishment  of religious institutions - the courses offered to students are inadequate as the main emphasis bestowed on pupils is of the ideological genesis of rendering service and goodwill.


How are we suppose to define our existence in more than one field of interest, where the criterion to label ourselves have become so necessary in the milieu we are forced to apply the rules of classification? The renowned philosophers of antiquity were 'transients' - the works of Aristotle is a great example of being a 'transient' as there was nothing on earth on which Aristotle did not write. His aptness beautifully layered in biology, literary theory, politics, epistemology, psychology, ethics and logic.


Similarily Karl Marx cites to illustrious thinkers in his essays and books revealing that he read on all systems of thought. He discovered a great pleasure in works of Cervantes, Goethe and Heine. Marx was an avid lover of art, music, literature, hisory and science. it would be injustice to label him as "the man who just wrote the 'Communist Manifesto'", as he did not just specialise in 'one' thought, but, found solace in vast knowledge.


Amongst contemporary 'transients' is Noam Chomsky - though he is known as a linguist but linguistics is not the only subject he writes about. We can also add modern philosopher, Bernard Russell, who has written commodius works in mathematics and philosophy, whilst maintaining lesser specialised essays on other branch of knowledge. Similarily to Johan Galtung, both Chomsky and Bernard do not believe in specialisation of the kind that produces narrow ignoramuses.


One can produce several arguments, or, evidence that 'transient' knowledge can harm the "two times two" theory I quoted of Dostoevsky, in which society becomes threatened with the opportunity to evolve in a human mind and brain. After all, who shall, then, produce "mechanical minds", if society were to not specialise in one particular field but advance in many levels of understanding and knowledge? What would happen to academias that produce and train scholars to become a universal uniform, if such individuals were given option to free will, not an enterprise that supercilliously concocts humans to narrow specialised area. Besides, one can never be a genius in one area of learning - I believe that the design of all studies should be fostered in schools and externally within domestic and work arenas, inter-connected and not merely narrow specialisations.


Most schools do not easily avail pupils with the  freedom to inquire about subjects apart from the standard curriculumn; the pupil is automatically divided as a rebel who questions and curiosity is only encouraged to parochial boundaries, especially if the foundation is of religious academia. Unfavourably, specialisation commences in school and heightens at the dinner table where parents focus on encouraging their children to be mass producers of doctors, lawyers, engineers - (nothing wrong with such professions!), but, why not the grandiose support in the childs' real talent in music, art or literature? The philistines they produce conceal their ignorance and lack of intellectual curiosity behind the label of specialisation. We are humans, not robotic configurations, why must we carry the remote control and channel our brain cells to fit in one specific interest? Some of us may excel at fixing up computers but how many of us know how computers react with human societies?  Surely, one should not be ashamed of being a technician, it is only unpardonable when the same technician displays him/herself of a "learned" person. Anyone who does not know about the history of ideas, nor, about the procurements of many 'transient' masters who were great artists, writers, poets, astronomers, scientists, philosophers, historians, musicians, et al - does not deserve to be called a university graduate let alone a specalised-learned person.


After shedding thirty-six years in obliging myself to being a victim of classification, I must, now,  introduce myself as a transient in a specious coterie.  

Tags: Aristotle, Bernard, British, Chomksy, Dhanji, Dostoevsky, Fydor, Galtung, Karl, Marx, More…Noam, Raj, Rusell, Sultan, cervantes, education, ethics, history, literature, logic, music, philosophy, poetry, politics, science, shaheen, writer

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Indeed, but Guattari and Deleuze championed the pluralism of the individual and their interconnectedness. All is not lost!


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