Where, for the third day in a row, I talk about something I’ve learnt this year.
Let’s be real. I’m a Law student. Questioning things is second nature to me. Especially when things are conveyed to me by people who assume authority and/or control over me without any logical nexus. I also find it tough to believe people who rest on laurels to affirm or deny an opinion (I say this as I type out a moot memorial with 200 footnotes). I’ve constantly wondered what lies beneath the statements people made. My curiosity was always rewarded when I was younger – my parents attempted to explain things to me in a manner I would understand, but they would always explain it based on their understanding. Only upon reflection did I realize that this was my first brush with bias.
Nonetheless, questioning things at home was never problematic: even to the extent of religion. However, in a social setting, questioning things was often looked down upon. Not knowing about fads was criticized, not being up-to-date was seen as a sign of weakness. And in my high school years, I found it easy to faff my way out of situations where I knew nothing at all. My vocabulary helped me, that’s for sure.
I hated that. That hate intensified at University, however, because of the fact that people called you out on your faff. I think that’s the greatest thing about being at Law school. You’re forced to be honest to yourself. That hate also intensified because my professors fed me a load of information I was forced to memorize and articulate on an answer exam just to score marks. This was not a system of learning I was used to, and is not a system of learning I will ever appreciate. Hence, the realization that I had to question things a little more. But not externally. Perhaps through introspection and self-learning. Or even talking to people who know more about things than I do.
Suppressing my ego has always been easy to do, but I don’t enjoy it when people use information they possess as an ego-booster. This made approaching people quite tricky.
I wanted to debate more this year, especially after the disappointment I faced in January, and I found a debate teammate who was okay with me questioning all of his ideas – even ones that seemed logical and easy to comprehend. He made sure, by analogy, that I understood every single word of what he was saying, which made my life really easy – not just in debates, but also outside of them.
I found that it became easy to talk to him about society and questions I had about society. This is all very abstract, but then again, questioning things is a very meta thing to do.
I also really wanted to avoid becoming a cynic at University, and found that questioning my own motivations and desires held the key to an endless source of optimism.
I did debate more this year. Than ever before. It led to some amazing memories, and some great weekends I can rattle off every single detail from, if asked.
But, more importantly, I started asking people questions when I didn’t understand what they were saying. I began questioning logic I saw fallacies in.
I’ve never been happier. Questioning things has enabled me to pick out views that I agree with, things I absolutely disagree with, and figure out where I lie on some issues. This is likely to change with the passage of time, but I’ll question my beliefs then as I do now.
With fake news, questioning things has become really important. It’s strange that the demographic that is least likely to question things (ageing population) is the demographic that is going to be least affected by the consequences of decisions taken today. If we don’t question things collectively, I don’t think we’ll ever get to a point where we understand the truth.
It’s also helped me to be a little more open-minded. I think at some point you need to accept you won’t be able to change someone’s views on a particular issue, especially when those views are ingrained in them as a result of circumstance. There’s no point discussing things with them beyond that. With views that are socially problematic, and blatantly discriminatory or unjust, I think you can try point out logical flaws in their beliefs and try to explain why the view is problematic. But that’s all you can do. There’s no point getting enraged about your inability to convince.
Try figuring out a better method of argumentation for the next time, I guess?
Regarding my success in preventing myself from becoming a cynic at Uni? I think I’ve been moderately successful. The questions I find myself asking the most are:
1. Why do we have such terrible faculty? Is there a problem with the “academic” industry in India?
2. Why is the mess food so terrible today? Should we be offering Mohani an incentive structure for better food quality (apart from GST Mess Fees?)
3. Will I get hot water to bathe in tomorrow morning?
To sum things up, 2017 has been a year where I’ve discovered what my identity is in terms of the values that are part of who I am. The only reason that’s happened is because I’ve confronted difficult situations and questioned the logic behind two sets of possible outcomes.
Granted, I’ve weakened a couple of friendships as a result. I don’t think that’s completely my fault.
But I’ve become happier as a result.