Friday, July 29, 2011

Funky Friday

In the last month or more I have listened to this cut below a few times too many on my way to work and wrote this post several times over in my head as I inched closer to this point of freedom.

I understand that George Michael intended the lyrics to reflect his break from his record label.  Some read further about his coming out but that is his business and the former speaks louder to me.

Toward the end of Edward Said's life he had become increasingly disillusioned with academia and the academy.  At Columbia University he was celebrated for his sharp postcolonial mind and also hounded by faculty and administrators who wanted his tenure revoked because of his politics, in particular his views on Israel's occupation of his Palestinian homeland.

I don't think Said's struggle is very different for many of us who just don't fit into manufactured spaces.  From the guy packing shelves to the woman checking your bags at the station.  We do what we have to and what life demands of us.  And it is rarely easy.

But we also dream.  At least we should.  About being free and making decisions that are embracing and meaningful.

I made a mistake leaving the academy.  I saw Said's critique of the academy and the stooges who are busy capitalizing its intellectual purpose.  To contest their creep I used Said's adaptation of the Gramscian ideal that says one can be an organic scholar and and activist despite the business of academia.

It is not an easy place to be but it is meaningful because the classroom is where ideas are contested, raised, and laid down.

I miss that.  Young minds.  Undergraduates in particular who are still fresh and not yet programmed to function in lines that run parallel with the material and spiritual dysfunctions of capitalism. 

At Salary Hell I was rudely awakened to a world where thinking is about packaging sound bytes and producing state-driven drivel that makes those in power seem as if they are in the business of intellectual production.

They are not.  They are in the business of elite replication and its standing oppressions.

I should have known that I would not fit into that world.  I should have been smarter and braver than my fears about disappearing at a rural University where nothing worked.

I should have soldiered on for students who are much the same like those at more prestigious schools.

But you never too old to learn.  To take your mistakes and misgivings and thank the Great Spirit for one more time to try a second chance - and then do so again. 

The academy is not perfect anywhere.  In recent years capitalized managers have taken it over and reduced it to a grocery shop where flimsy ideas are produced for consumption by increasingly alienated consumers.

But all is not lost, not entirely.

Inside the academy there are still thinkers who like Edward Said carry the ideal of tying ideas to notions of justice, equality, inclusion and mostly, freedom.

And by that I mean the freedom to live meaningfully and not to just exist and go through the motions of life as you count its milestones and furniture and then end up taking the long way home just to find a space to breath.

It is a storyline as old as Socrates' critique of the decay of Athenian democracy.  We have not moved far from Socrates.  His willingness not to be a credit inside the system but rather to contest its very essence is a very relevant ethical and moral base for struggling toward better intellectual ideas - the kind aimed at better lives and universal freedom.

I expect that in time I will be back in academia.  It is inevitable.  Not sure when.  But I am gonna take some time off and do the thinking and writing that is needed to renew the vigor of serious activist scholarship.

And the blog will persist though it will slow in the coming weeks.  I need some time just to be inside real conversations - the kind with kind faces. 

Still, I am grateful for this healing space despite the excesses I produce when my mind is like a child in a playground.

I remain the son of Fatima and Ahmed and this post marks the start of yet another chapter.

 "Now I'm gonna get myself happy" ...


I think there's something you should know
I think it's time I stopped the show
There's something deep inside of me
There's someone I forgot to be
Take back your picture in a frame
Don't think that I'll be back again
I just hope you understand
Sometimes the clothes do not make the man

All we have to do now
Is take these lies and make them true somehow
All we have to see
Is that I don't belong to you
And you don't belong to me, yea yea


The Brotha's Corner said...

All I can say Big Brutha is WOW, I respect your candor! I don't know why Dubois comes to mind when I read your post. I know he struggled w/ trying to fit into a system back in his day before he realized he couldn't escape his true self and his connection to the Continent. Not liking you to the early years of Dubois but the journey of coming back to the middle as sista India.Arie suggested is apparent.


Bro. Dubie

Kweli said...

Looks like you got your work/life cut out for you here. It is synchronous that this transition period for you had heightened right as Ramadan is here.

A friend of mine once saw this quote written on the wall at a kindergarten: mistakes are for learning.

I'm sure you know that already. I support you.

Ridwan said...

Dubie my brother thank you kindly.

I will holla your way soon.

**Kweli thank you kindly too.

Will get back and catch up soon.

Peace bruthaz,

Kweli said...

I came back and read this one today. Just as you are considering coming back to academia, I seem to be on my way out. Lots of issues out of my hand. I will read this again and again this week; each time I seem to get courage to write/say something on BMAG. It's like coming here to the states was a mistake. Anyway, we shall see.

Ridwan said...

Hey brother:

Don't leave because academia is making you go.

What you learn is part of being frustrated with academia.

Make resistance part of your armor.

In the end you will look back and laugh it off ... life is about learning ... institutions like academia are just that, institutions.

Onward! Kweli.

Kweli said...

I wish they were making me go. In a way they are: I can't afford it. International student rate is too steep. I've been playing this fiction for four years...I got no more rabbits to pull out of the hat. I wouldn't give up easily.

Ridwan said...

Kweli you are a very talented brother and no matter what is front of you defines you.

Find another hat. Pull more tricks.

But don't leave P-ville without your pigskin in hand unless you transferring somewhere else.

Trust me on this one chief.

Life is too damn long for regrets.

Talk to whoever you can to get what you need.

You are in my prayers.