An inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of knowledge

The other day my roommate and I went off on another one of our ridiculous “what if” tangents, in which we come up with the most preposterous, unrealistic scenarios in order to escape our mundane existence of food, sleep and school. Usually they’re innocently silly and involve our immovable dresser drawers turning into a monster that won’t let us have our clothes, or my roommate morphing into a falcon and flying away because he hasn’t cut his nails lately. However, our latest foray into our strange worlds of fantasy had a poignant relationship to our daily lives and modern society.

While trudging through our mountainous piles of work in our room late one night, I started to fantasize about what it would be like to be able to purchase knowledge that could be downloaded into your brain instead of tirelessly siphoned from a book. Before we were able to get too carried away with our desire to gain endless knowledge, we started to realize the innumerable problems associated with this solution. Most importantly, it would enable the rich to buy all the knowledge they desired and keep the poor from being able to have any. And if the cliché that “knowledge is power” is true, which I believe, the rich would be able to dominate the poor in an unprecedented manner.

Logically, our next realization was that such a fantasy-laden scenario isn’t as far from reality as it might seem at first. As we all struggle to push into the gauntlet that is finals, it’s easy to forget how privileged we really are. Not only do we live healthy and safe lives, but we have access to that which will enable us to live our lives in the manner we please.

As we rush in and out of lectures and the library jotting down notes and printing off scholarly articles, we often forget that the access we have to such professors, resources and facilities is a privilege unavailable to most; it is largely dependent on the place in which we were born into the world. Coming from mostly middle-class backgrounds, we don’t usually realize how difficult it can be for many others to gain the opportunities we have.

Fortunately, wealth does not have a monopoly on knowledge and there are a number of ways in which knowledge is available in somewhat equitable processes such as the Internet and public libraries. However, it’s important to realize that in the aggregate, access to knowledge is divided among class lines and this phenomenon is taking a turn for the worse in our contemporary age of neoliberal economic and political policies.

Not only is it important to appreciate our privileged opportunities but to work to protect the ability of knowledge to transcend lines of class and other social barriers. For if we fail to do so, we might end up closer toward a society in which the depth of our knowledge is equal to the depth of our pockets.

Miles Kenney-Lazar is a junior majoring in geography and international studies. He may be contacted at Pete Finocchio’s warped imagination also contributed to this article.