As end of the year approaches, I look back to what a hell of a year it has been. Though I spent hours getting angry, passionate, sad, excited, disappointed, and hopeful about almost each conversation I’ve had involving major politics, all I can remember are those few separate but resembling moments where I grasped the vastness of the territory that I affectionately called political knowledge land (or Poland, jk), which I hadn’t yet conquered.
Each subject, each heated argument, each new perspective discovered would only create a plethora of new questions and interests. My gradual understanding of the expanse of what we call “knowledge” inevitably lead to me questioning the sense and aim of fathoming it. And while I dedicate immense amounts of time digging into the depths of Poland, I only feel comfortable in the timid realization of my mental library’s modesties.
Though I know that I am not the cleverest student of my age to ever tackle politics, I very deeply wish that the latter would, at least at our age, be approached with a slightly different frame of mind. It is remarkable that our little selves feel confident enough to take on big political and societal stakes. It is a blessing that we have the tools to do so, as well as the environment to convince us to start and encourage us to continue.
But at the end of the day, no matter how much we believe that we are an exception, a truth rules us all: we merely know enough to see the first snowflake at the tip of the iceberg. How many of us truly know all the ins and outs of any problem at all? How capable do we feel to understand, let alone contribute to, the solutions to the issues of our neighbour, city, or country? If the future of my country depended on me (knowing I am Greek), Mother Merkel, Father Schäuble and Auntie Lagarde would soon be sending humanitarian aid daily.
And perhaps not everyone would be as bad a leader, but I bear the conviction that everyone could learn from a different kind of conversation. One where not knowing would be a starting point rather than a disqualifying mistake, one where people would be true to themselves and would humbly acknowledge that there is not one person that can’t help them improve their opinion, one in which not a single argument could be lost, one in which we would acknowledge that, between the infinite integrities gathering from endless horizons, in what is perhaps our civilization’s culminating achievement, not one isn’t able to open one more door for you.
Such diversity does not only mean different opinions, but a whole set of different rationalities being applied to the same reality. Even in the discussion surrounding an issue in which one is significantly more competent than his fellow, the latter’s sense of the problem’s definition, its priority, or even his knowledge of its existence is a source of intellectual enrichment for the former. At the same time, a calm and benevolent explanation from him is exactly what he would have wished if he had found himself in the same situation.
My wish, however naïve it may seem, is nonetheless based on a rock solid principle discovered long before my time: when one shares an immaterial good, one multiplies it. I, on the other hand, know that this is not exactly how arguments happen. Overconfidence and cockiness are part of the game, just as fear and doubt are. The same goes for frustration, passion, disappointment, satisfaction, and many, many other feelings that we ought to experience in the confrontation of our opinions and the engineering of our intellectual integrities. Because savoir is not the only thing we build while crossing swords with others. Very simply, in the confronting of our opinions, we also come to confront another self and our own. While I will always esteem people who do so, I will always admire those who, instead of exercising their knowledge, offer it to others.
So, if I had one wish this year, dear Santa, it would be for us young people to understand that we have far more to gain in an elevating spirited trade than in any other form of interaction.