I thought I had settled my problems when I dropped one of the courses that I wanted to take which was assessed by a 100% essay and substituted it for another; I thought I knew what I wanted to do for my dissertation, if not the topic, then at least the course in which to do it.
Alas, that is not the case. The course itself has been pretty boring and not at all what I thought it would be. Worse still, I suddenly thought of a pretty good essay topic for another course, taught by a super charismatic and inspiring professor, but I can only do a pathetic 8,000-word essay for it because the course only runs in the first term.
There are so many factors weighing in favour of doing the essay: after 9 weeks of being taught by this professor, I can actually see the appeal in the proportionality test in rights adjudication while I started the course thinking it was weird; I love the mixture of theory and law in his class, especially the theoretical stuff; my recent Facebook rant was partly provoked by what I've been learning in his class; I actually know what I've been learning for the past 9 weeks, which isn't something that I can say for some of my other classes; I have a topic in mind for this essay and I talked it over with him and he didn't think it was completely retarded; I really respect this professor (best professor so far by a mile and one of the best that's ever taught me, and there were a lot of awesome professors in law school) and I would definitely listen to someone that I respect as opposed to someone that I don't care for one way or the other; I just love the material so much that doing a crappy exam for it wouldn't do it any justice; and I genuinely think that the subject area could be something that I would focus on if I were to go on to do a Ph.D.
All that said, if all those factors were to be weighed on a balancing scale against the big fat DISSERTATION, the scale would register no movement at best and would tilt in favour of the dissertation at worst. This is despit the fact that the only thing that I can think of to write about for that course is the usual Asian attitude towards human rights thing which has been done to death. I could write about the new ASEAN Human Rights Charter or whatever, but I'm not sure I care enough, and Thio Li-Ann has already written about how ASEAN can have its own human rights mechanism even though it was a while ago. I don't even know what else I could conceivably write about because I don't really know what's going on in the lectures; it's my most hated class by far. I wish I had taken the full Comparative Constitutional Rights module because I'm taking the second half next term, which is taught by my favourite professor, and the subject matter is pretty much what I want to write for the essay; so if I had chosen the full course, I could write my dissertation on the subject matter that I want to write about.
This is so fucked up. I'm so irritated that my choices are limited so arbitrarily. I feel like I'm paying so much money in school fees and yet I can't do anything. I was hoping I could combine the Theory course with the Comparative course next term since THEY ARE ABOUT THE SAME THING and THEY ARE TAUGHT BY THE SAME PERSON, but NO; they are separate modules so I can't do that. I really don't see the logic in this but this is the situation that I'm stuck in, so I have to make a decision. I have to submit my dissertation outline by the second week of Lent term, which is pretty much the third week of January, and I haven't even spoken to any of the professors about a possible dissertation topic. I have to get that sorted by next week before I fly home, just to get a sense of whether my ASEAN shit is even worth contemplating (though my intuition is that it's not because it's so overdone. I did a HeinOnline search for "regional mechanisms human rights" and got a bunch of articles on Asia).
I'm genuinely considering writing the dissertation, doing the exam for the Theory course instead of the essay, then doing an extra paper for fun. This would work only if I stick around London after the course ends though, which would give me 3 months before graduation to finish it. I'd probably get distracted by other things like tennis tournaments and concerts and travelling and whatever, though my social life would probably dwindle down a lot since a lot of people would probably go home...so it's still somewhat possible. Obviously the easier route would be to do the essay, then expand on it and submit it to a journal or whatever; but fucking hell, I simply can't let go of the dissertation thing. How can I graduate from a Masters programme without having written a dissertation? It's quite laughable that it's not even compulsory (the only compulsory thing is the 8,000 word essay - seriously, 8,000 words is barely anything).
I'm rather put off by all these restrictions, which I'm sure have their rationale, but I simply don't see it. I've accepted that I have to do exams and I'll make sure that I do well in them somehow even though I don't do exams well, especially not closed book exams (seriously...don't even get me started on this); but I really wish there were more flexibility in this dissertation thing. I don't think my request was that crazy given the similarity in subject matter and the fact that both courses are taught by the same person. I feel like I'm saddled with the choices that I made in week 2 of this term and am given no room to change my mind, which really SUCKS.
I don't regret coming to London at all. Coming to London is probably the top 3 best things I've ever done for myself. I just wonder if I should have given more consideration to factors about the school that I knew beforehand, like the writing restriction, and weighed them more evenly (or at all) against 1) its ranking; and 2) its international reputation.
I will not look back in regret. The LSE was my first non-Cambridge choice for a reason and I will figure something out, and everything will work out for the best. Yes, they will, because I said so.
The reason I say that I love that Theory class the way I do is because it's opened my mind to a completely different way of thinking about rights that I wasn't aware of before I came here, and it's made me even more sensitive to the rights violations and lack of protection that constantly take place in Singapore. To me, it doesn't make much sense to think of rights as positive duties on the state when we're struggling to even make the state acknowledge them as negative freedoms. Similarly, why even speak of rights inflation when we're denied basic rights that are legally and even philosophically settled in other developed countries? Who would conceive of going to court to litigate an interference with his right to sleep well at night in Singapore when barely anyone dares to challenge the constitutionality of the anti-strikes laws (forgot the provisions) and when something that is, in my professor's words, "philosophically settled", i.e. anti-sodomy laws, is only now undergoing a constitutional challenge?
Some of these things genuinely hurt me: that accused persons can plead guilty in court without legal representation and it's somehow okay because that's the status quo; that disgruntled bus drivers are imprisoned for going on strike; that the government doesn't have to justify any of their interferences into some fundamental rights because the law is on their side... I had a client who pleaded guilty to a criminal charge and was surprised when he was convicted. When he came to us, he pretty much said that he had no clue what he was doing. Is this true due process? It's a load of shit.
I'm too tired to continue with this, so I'll just stop here.