Virus diary: Retreating nowhere

This lockdown couldn't have come at a worse time for me. I was just about to start travelling and was looking forward to fusing my ideas and lessons learned in a new form of global education, and then everything stops.

I am tired of doing bits and pieces. For some time now - 9 months to be exact - I have been doing things I don't really believe in. It's such a contrast with what I was doing this time last year: Then, I had the opportunity to apply the insights I gained from my work at Knod into corporate learning. What came off it was inspiring: A completely new way of doing things at work. 

But, since then, I have faltered. I signed up to set up the European campus for a private education company, but that project was not destined to go anywhere. My over-optimism, not for the first time in life, came to bite me. Not for the first time, I failed to distinguish projects with strategic commitments behind it from mere good ideas and exciting talk. And, when the project finally went nowhere, I had no one else, other than my own indiscretion, to blame. But that put me in the spot I am in now.

It took me six months, not least because I was going away to India for a good three weeks over Christmas, to get back to yet another start point, but then the virus struck. And, this slow down is not just about a few weeks of freeze; this is yet another blow on the whole globalisation project. International education, as it is done now, is an intricate part of global work, people movement and commerce, and the roll-back of globalising sentiments is bound to have a dampening effect on all engagements. So, this is yet another moment of existential crisis for me, just as I thought I have resolved it.

But it's not the virus, the ups-and-downs outside: The crisis is in the ambivalence about globalisation that I have. I have been a beneficiary and my career and life directly corresponded with the 90s style globalisation, and yet, I have always questioned its social benefits. I could never fully escape the fact that it was only a mixed blessing, as I have seen the downside first-hand. And, indeed, while I escaped the boring prospect of a stable but dead-end life, I could never catch up on the what-you-can-get-away-with ethic of speculation. While I took on eagerly to the boon of global knowledge, I only used it to understand my own world better. I have been one of those, but when Theresa May said that the global citizens were citizens of nowhere, it made sense to me.

So, homebound, here is my thinking: I shouldn't give up my commitment to education, of creating a new, connected, multicultural liberal arts education which would prepare people for this very uncertain world we live in. I believe I have earned the spurs by leading this very experimental life, as I never settled and always sought out learning. Indeed, I have wavered, gave in to convenience, wasted time and failed to control myself all the time, but those excursions, those mistakes, only make me more worthy for this mission. Indeed, I am not ready: I don't have the resources and neither have I found the collaborators who I should be working with. But I am ready to start.

Of course, I have spent too much time in petty and mindless For-profit businesses which are antithetical to everything that I am supposed to do. But, then, that was - still is - the process of earning my spurs; one of the things I know exceedingly well is what doesn't work.


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