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Let’s Talk about Politics like Math

This Monday was highlighted by the first presidential debate. But sadly there is no television in the lounge of my residence hall, so I watched it on Facebook using my cellphone. I walked into an elevator, listening how Donald Trump say about his tax return, while another student bumped into the elevator with his cellphone displaying the same live video as mine. We caught each other’s eyes, and we smiled. And it was that moment I felt a strong connection with my peers, that we are the same species, that we care about the same issue.

Columbia has had a reputation for being politically active, and I know it especially true when I saw the crowd in Lerner’s piano lounge watching the presidential debate. We have different political groups. We have student government. We have campaigns and initiatives calling for political actions. All these things remind me that I am in a political atmosphere, and political discussion is a thing embedded in the practice of our community.

Aristotle says, remarkably, that “men are born political.” This statement is especially true in this time, where social media and internet expose us to a life with ever-growing political focus. The question for us, however, is not whether a political life matters, but rather in what way should political discussion integrated in our daily life. Should it be in a serious manner, as if we are talking politics in an academic setting and must pay attention to the details of the subject we are discussing, or should it be in an easygoing way where we treat political discussion as a daily routine that every person would take part in? Should we be scientific in our political life? Or should it just be about personal reaction?

I am not trying to answer these questions, as I believe different people could have different philosophy towards their lives, and what role does politics play in it. The more important thing is the fact that we are looking at the way we talk about politics in an introspective lens. Because of that, we know what position we are, and why we are at this position. It is this self-examining process that makes us better understand politics, and ultimately ourselves.

Coming from an applied math major, I always find that the most important thing in my study of math is not the solution to a problem, but rather the way that leads to the solution, and I think there is a similar thing in our political discussion. It is always easy to have an opinion, but it is hard, yet more importantly, to understand the reason behind the opinion. That is what this column is trying to achieve: it attempts to examine behind the kaleidoscope of opinions and ideas in politics, international relation, and economy, and provide insight into our understanding of our world and society.

Perspectives of a Math Major runs alternating Wednesdays. To submit a response, email submissions@columbialion.com

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