Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Am I progressing at all?

Now it is 6 months that I'm working on this Ph.D. Sometimes I ask myself if I progressed in any way. It seems that until now I've only done "diffuse" background work...Reading, writing the literature review, sitting under a tree and looking at the fields, dreaming of papers, and...mainly, and most of the time: writing down and summing up my questions. I've not yet progressed in finding answers to my questions. I just found some questions pointless and got much more other questions without knowing yet which of them have been solved already by someone else.

Subsistence farming doesn't exist at the level of the national economy. But the fields are planted and corn, beans, potatoes are ripening without ever reaching the market. The new Policy Plan for Rural Development gives special support to the maintenance of farmers in less favoured mountain areas: farms with more than 1 ha of Utilized Agricultural Area receive an area payment. But...which farms in the mountain area of central and northern Portugal have 1 ha of UAA? And would the maximum payment of ca. 300€/ha/year make the difference to keep the farm? With other words: this state support for marginal areas seems to miss the target.

A big part of the economy in Portugal is like the Violet - like the plants that flower in hidden places ("wie das Veilchen, dass im verborgenen blüht"). Thanks to the grandmas all over, that produce potatoes and cabbages to feed their relatives in the towns! This sort of self-reliance doesn't exist anymore, or only to a very reduced extent, in central and northern Europe.

Sometimes I think it is the difficulty of "catching up" and "modernizing", improvisation instead of organizational capacity, that are at the heart of the very best assets of the country. Do "we" really want to overcome them? Do "we" want people to become entrepreneurs and rational profit maximizers? It is said that Julius Caesar was talking about the Lusitanos when he stated: "On the Iberic Peninsula, there lives a folk that doesn't rule itself and that doesn't allow anyone to rule it" / "Na Península Ibérica existe um povo que não se governa e não se deixa governar".
Now, this might be true for the older generation, but is my generation not already entangled in the "Nike/Coke/Coolness" trap of consumption?

I just have to think at the ultra fashion hairstyle of teenage boys now, to give up hopes for a better future! :) I mean, there is apparently little joy and such a deep need to belong to the stylish crowd. It seems that when the connection to nature is lost, also the connection to our own nature is weakened. Maybe practical work could help (see below) to retune thought and actions, to provide a path for finding out about the non-monetary worth of things.

I mixed all different topics together, this are alcaline pH reflections.
Still the question remains: have I progressed at all since I started PhD? Am I muddling through, or is this "Flexible Design, typical of Real World Research"?

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