I can describe myself quite ordinarily of course. I am 21 going on 22. When I left high school I wanted to go to university to study as much as I can for as long as I can. I enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts (Media and Communications) and a Bachelor of Laws – so I could be there for six years, seven if I took an honours year for my Bachelor of Arts. I decided that I will study government in my Media and Communications course because I wanted to be a press gallery or court reporter. Like many other students I had a change of heart after my first year. I couldn't bear the intellectual punishment of committing myself to studying only government and only media to the exclusion of other subjects. So I exorcised the Media and Communications part of my degree and started taking the wide range of humanities that a Bachelor of Arts allows me. So I took philosophy and genders studies and majored in history. I am now in my final year of studies and I have the freedom to choose my law electives. So I chose again to broaden my horizons with a law honours thesis in administrative law, advanced federal constitutional law and tax. After this year, who knows where I will be. I hope to secure an appointment as a judge’s associate or work at a law firm.
But like my name, which at first seemed quite ordinary, these very trivial things can appear extraordinary.
Let me begin elsewhere however. In the book of Genesis, there was a story. It was a story about a man and a woman who gained the knowledge of good and evil. For their knowledge, and their insolence in obtaining that knowledge, they were expelled from the gated Garden of Eden. Because they would not submit, because they wanted the same knowledge possessed of their maker, they were exiled. But from their exile, civilization grew.
Regardless what you believe, there is a grain of truth to this story. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Alexander Pope thought knowledge was dangerous because a little of it will cause us to speak like fools. Perhaps he was unnecessarily patronizing. A fool will betray his ignorance whether armed with knowledge or not. For the rest of us, arming ourselves with knowledge is a dangerous thing for those who trade on power and oppression. A little knowledge, like a little flame in a dark room, will illuminate our surroundings and show us the walls that hold us back.
The story in Genesis is apt to describe the study of the humanities. I studied law and government, philosophy, gender studies, and history because these pieces of knowledge equip me with the skills to question the way things are. And often knowledge means having knowledge of the questions that are never asked, let alone the answers to these difficult, difficult questions. So exercise your wits and ask questions. Let us ask, what does globalization means for individuals who do not share the profits of multinational corporations? Or is national security worth preserving if the means by which our government polices terrorism is by taking away the rights of its citizens?
Don’t be complacent with the familiar and the ordinary. Test your limits and embrace the extraordinary.
By Ying Hao (Nathan) Li