It’s a tricky world out there

Dario Colajanni 2 June 2018

Study is important. This might be listed among the worst sentences which to start a newspaper article with. Above all if 99% of your audience are students, who probably don’t want to read about study when they have a break from study. But I am not going to apologize if I remind my reader to go back working. There is no need in fact, since the kind of study I am about to discuss does not regard what students have to learn in their degrees. It goes beyond deadlines, exams and CVs.

The contemporary world is incredibly complex, probably more than ever. As complexity grows, the number of dangers, and their dimension, increases too. Some may find complexity a stimulating challenge to deal with, some instead just want to avoid problems (fair enough). The best way to do both things – explore complexity and build shields against problems and dangers – is to develop devices good enough. Devices can derive from experience: however, experience implies mistakes and uncomfortable surprises and it is often unavailable to people of our age. What remains is study.

There is no doubt that theoretic knowledge can be unhelpful in practice, but I believe that it can be enough to foresee the development of difficult situations and plan a good strategy. Study puts you in the mind-set according to which adaptability, flexibility and creativity are key skills in many fields of life. In the same way, keeping oneself informed can help us in performing at the best our roles in society. At this point I could make countless examples. I try to pick the most emblematic.

In the last few years, since I got my right to vote, my interest in politics has grown and I realised that it is really difficult to follow the course of global politics without some basic notions of Economics. My education has never covered Economics and other Social Studies, because of my choices of course. However, some notions I had the opportunity to acquire, revealed useful in understanding recent political moves in Europe and in the US.

Moreover, in a historical period where populism and demagogy are so influential on the political scenario of Western Countries, language and values are going through a speedy degeneration. Some movements across Europe claim that ideologies and political positions (left, right, centre) no longer exist. I wonder at this point which are the current ideologies. Can they claim the existence of new ideologies without years of theorization, academic study and practical experience? They probably can’t. Populism and demagogy put everything on the basic, instinctive polarization between good and bad, which, in their rhetoric means: you can be with us (good) or you can be against us.

I think that this shows a dangerous tendency to over-simplify the complex aspects of our world. It is indeed a natural reaction to the difficulties created by complexity and surely, in politics, it helps many people to sell their product. And above all, it works among people who have weak tools due to lack of interest (in the less worrying case) or due to lack of means, since many people cannot afford study because they don’t have money or time. The issue here is not to make the right choice – in that case it would mean that I claim that only cultured people can do it. The issue is that contemporary societies should not be afraid of complexity and study plays a key role in dealing with it.