Are Western Scholars’ Ideas Still Relevant?

Reading hundreds of articles and essays written by western scholars yearly has turned me either into a well-informed citizen or into an addict of inapplicable, unrealistic ideas. My meticulous examination and scrutiny of western scholars’ thoughts has certainly sharpened my political thinking, but it has not necessarily been of any added value to my country, Egypt. The gap between what politicians can actually apply on the ground and the ideas produced by scholars is continually widening, leaving citizens around the world lost in the translation.

Scholarship in the western world, and especially in the United States, is a large industry dominated by extremely qualified professionals, thousands of highly qualified scholars that work to shape their fellow citizens’ thinking patterns and to influence decision-makers. The scholarship field is habitually dominated by the ‘crème de la crème’ of western societies and attending debates among western scholars is often a very insightful and pleasant experience. Western leaders keep up with the work of their scholars and are enlightened by it, and are usually careful to obtain the advice of a few scholars in times of crisis.

Although scholars stimulate the minds of western citizens, they seem to have become disassociated from influencing their decision-makers. The world is currently split between knowledgeable people capable of producing functional ideas and ignorant persons in authority who insist on applying their volatile ideas – with no focal meeting point between the two. Today, politics is completely under the control of powerful politicians whose credo is realism and who know how to change things physically on the ground. Meanwhile, sophisticated scholars are trying to produce relevant ideas that are quickly abolished by decision-makers’ actions.

Internet and advanced technology have substantially boosted the work of scholars worldwide. People are no longer obliged to read only the work of local scholars! Regardless of their places of residence, they can easily read and follow the works of their favorite scholars and completely discard the ideas that their countries impose on their societies. Apparently, what used to be called the “war of ideas” (most pleasant events where scholars clashed mentally to produce excellent, functional ideas thus reviving people’s minds and better serving their nations) no longer exists, especially among international scholars.

Western scholarly institutions and publishers tend to only support their fellow westerners’ work, ignoring ideas developed by non-westerners. Not only do they publish western works exclusively; more dangerously, their minds are shaped by the western thinking pattern. The western world does not see any logical arguments in most non-western scholarly writing; it only publishes works that are in line with its way of thinking, declining to consider – and, obviously, to publish – scholarly perspectives that contradict this line of thought.

If the works of western scholars are currently irrelevant, in Egypt, only scholars whose works praise the Egyptian state and its president are recognized. A single word that is at odds with either the state or the president is construed as an effort to demolish our country; scholars that differ with the state are, quite simply, classified as state enemies and may even be arrested. The state and its cronies therefore only finance institutions that support the ruling regime and prohibit institutions that oppose the regime’s policies from receiving either domestic or international financing.

Nowadays, most powerful western countries are thrusting aside the works of their scholars, replacing them with physical action that achieves these countries’ goals easier and faster. The ability of these countries to realize their objectives by imposing their decisions on others has shrunk efforts exerted by scholars to change the world with their ideas. This situation is backed up by the sad fact that these nations are not held accountable for their actions; their trial and error policy has become a phenomenon that we must live by.

Until the time comes when their respective citizens can no longer tolerate the accumulated mistakes of their leaders, powerful nations will continue to dominate the world and to hold sway over scholars. Scholarly thoughts, on the other hand, will not expire, wagering on the emergence of new political leaders who will revisit these ideas and restore their relevancy. As this dilemma plays out, we are left with a single option: to hope that some sensible people will be persuaded by scholars’ works and advocate for their ideas – and that the world will eventually become a better place.

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