What I Seek to Understand

I was watching this video about International Relations and had some thoughts.

One part piqued my interest in particular, which was this statement by one of the professors interviewed in the video. He contrasts two types of IR students: Ones who have an interest in pure academics, and others who have an interest in studying it because they want to use the knowledge for some kind of real-world application.

There’s [a second] group of students, equally as large – who want to go into diplomacy, international relations, international economic relations – and they want to understand how the world functions, how international relations functions, how interstate relations functions, so they can get  involved and do it better. So you have a pure intellectual pursuit of understanding, and also the desire to become a states-person, to become a decision-maker and do the job better than their peers.

Toby Dodge, London School of Economics and Political Science

I would be a part of that second group of students, which seeks to do something with IR aside from pure academic study. The study of IR is a means to an end; the means are understanding and the ends are a career implementing it in the real world.

What exactly do I want to understand?

What I seek to understand is how the individual relates to the international. I want to know how microcosms and macrocosms reflect one another, and how (or if) it is possible to turn human attention from the particular trappings of their individual lives to a broader perspective spanning the future of the entire globe. Basically, I want to know how one can turn from the detailed drama of interpersonal conflict to understanding the scope of our shared planet, and then live in a way which benefits the whole.

How can a global society be created? 

This is the underlying question that drives me to study International Relations. That is why I want to learn all that I can about history, politics, geography, conflict, peace, sociology, anthropology, and the sublime minutiae of cultures.

Is it possible?

And if it is not currently possible, can it ever be possible? I am an idealist through and through, and I seek the mechanism whereby we can transform the usual patterns of human history into a new pattern, which can create a more peaceful and prudent worldwide interconnection.

What could I do with such an understanding?

Perhaps I could work on one small part of it – one small part of the pattern-breaking change. I could do one job that helps, and believe fully in it. I could add to the global conversation about what changes we need to make. I could write, read, share, and live in a way that participates in a better future for us all, and I could find others who have the same passion, and work in cooperation with them. I could do something.

Or, I could just satiate a deep curiosity of mine, without any grandiose applications. That could turn out well all on its own, I guess. Who knows?

This is a deeply personal interest of mine, only barely academic.

I hope to one day make it an academic pursuit. I want to study International Relations and I want to do something with it. I want to read a million books and write a book or two, maybe, and add some noise to the cacophony.

I am also interested in investigative journalism, public relations, anthropology, information sciences (library/archival work) and a few other things – these can most likely be a supplement to IR/IS as a major, or otherwise fit well as an interesting career path. But no matter what, my interest always comes back to International Relations, and to the desire to figure out a way to make a better world – globally and locally.


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