As much as I would love for the above title to indicate that I had somehow circumvented the purgatorial rigmarole of getting an actual job in academia, alas it is not so.
Nevertheless, I am overwhelmed by the prospect of guest lecturing this Monday on the subject of democracy in the Middle East at my old university.
The irony does not quite escape me: six years ago it was I seated at the back of the theatre, praying that we would be assessed by assignments, and not by 15 minute presentations.
Now, I must present for 60 minutes and the anxiety has diminished by only a fraction over the years.
Yet if I am terrified, it is only because I am so anxious to represent the subject in a well-rounded, objective way.
With the media all pervasive in its depiction of the Middle East as a land of conflict, oil, and fundamentalists, I see this lecture as an opportunity to demonstrate to a roomful of students – students who may never visit the region – that democracy can be compatible with Islam; that Islam is not a smothering gloom on the prospects of equality, emancipation, and fairness.
I want to avoid the worn track of case studies in which Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and Libya are held aloft as antitheses to all that is good and politically wholesome in this world.
I want to demonstrate how different, yet how awesome the Middle East is, and that yes, the political systems are different, but is that always wrong?
We are bombarded with information that is so often negative, that the positives are drowned out, or not covered at all.
Most of all, I want my students-for-the-day to walk out of the room intellectually invigorated, looking at the Middle East in an inspired and new way.
Naturally, I shall not don rose-tinted spectacles for the whole hour, but a few positive snippets to offset the bad would be lovely.