While doing in my B.A I worked as a trainer\educator in a certain educational center. Its mission was to prepare high-schoolers for their army service and give them tools to deal with the life that awaits them after they get discharged. I did it for three years and enjoyed every single moment. I could influence and shape young teenagers lives and help them to become better people. In Israel, politics always plays a big role and it is very apparent in our daily lives. And we often engaged in political discussions.
When I was in school the teachers usually refrained from evoking political debates, and never shared with us their political views. I thought that as their trainer\educator and someone who studies history-culture-politics in university, I ought to take an active part in these debates, not in order to show them that I am right and they are wrong, but in order to give them other perspectives on those issues. By doing that I hoped to give them tools to think critically and develop their independent thought on these matters, allow them to escape the social trap that turn these discussions into a clash of vulgar and superficial arguments.
We used to talk of course, about the Palestinian problem, which is impossible to escape from in Israel. When Israelis hear politics, they immediately think about out conflict with the Arab world, and less about immigrants, social justice and economic issues. The Israeli right claims that “there is no such thing as a Palestinian people” and that they “invented this in order to push us back to the sea”.
In the heat of the debate, I had to face this argument and I found it very difficult to explain why it is wrong to say that. I said to them, and others, “You know, our social world is constructed out of our inter-subjective agreements, thus we live in an Inter-subjective political reality. Money worth something only because we all agree on its worth, the moment we stop believe in it, it will become only a piece of paper. The same goes for nations. Nations are “imagined communities” (as Benedict Anderson said) thus if they (The Palestinians) decide and feel that they are the same “people” and “nation” we cannot disagree with them or tell them that they are wrong.
There is no way someone is going to listen to this “philosophical” argument while all heated up from the emotional debate, and this person will likely dismiss the whole argument and say “but a Palestinian nation didn’t exist in history, thus they can’t come and claim it now, all of a sudden”. It doesn’t matter how much I tried to explain that a state, as an imagined community, is based on myths, that serves only as glue to hold the community together. These myths don’t have to be real, or even right, it’s enough that a group of people believe in them in order to be real and have real effect on people.
This made me think about the gab between the “ivory tower” of academia to the society academia exists in. How come so many talented and bright people work in academia every day, publish papers, write books and think on these crucial political issues, but their voice is not heard. Not only that their voice barely reaches to the people, the people dismiss most of these voices as “nonsense”. It made doubts academia’s role in present society and society’s willingness to hear out what academics has to say. In the next posts I will share my answers. Is there a gap? Is it good or bad? And why it exists.