I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, Stephen, that you read my tortured story on human nature as about the aftermath of the election and not as a reflection of my current whole life situation. ‘Cuz in academia, that’s what we do, and you’re fulfilling your “function” in the DRP course as our instructor. Or, perhaps you elided that part “on purpose” out of some ethic of propriety – a boundary that shouldn’t be crossed in polite company (i.e., publicly)?
I’m struck by the incredible energy on the DRP email list right now – getting religion back in schools, campaigning for school boards, all the great things we can read, and other “debates to be had” (Scott). No Doubt there is tremendous Education occurring at this very moment! And I don’t mean to impugn it, although for some reason I keep getting pissed off when I start to write about this. Apologies for any misdirected stray rage.
Joanna highlighted the need for a “defamiliarization campaign” about religion in schools: “We need to recognize that we’re always teaching religion, the task seems to be to name it.” Similarly, we’re (and I do mean us, and I mean it vertically (teacher:student) and horizontally (student:student, teacher:teacher?) are always teaching politics.
So here’s all this massive energy about things none of us are currently actually DOING (like running for the school board), which some of us may do in the future (godspeed!) but somehow not noticing (?), or choosing not to notice (?) how we’re “contributing” to an educaton that says democracy needs to happen there and then, not here and now.
Which is reminiscent of the Amherst Town Meeting debate about the “place” for local discussions of international policy.
But if we engaged that energy here, say, in the department, we’d be confronting a mini-version of the larger dynamic. We’d have to confront those aspects of the “cycle of violence” Mel Gilles describes in her piece, The Politics of Victimization.
But that would mean naming the ways our department – the people in it – act “as if” there are essential truths and ways of going about things. So, don’t bring up subtle dynamics of racism when they occur (or afterwards, or at all). Don’t notice that 2/3rds of the faculty has issues with another 2/3rds. Don’t try to “mix” social interaction with cultural studies. Or….whatever combinations cross existing “essential” boundaries.
Couldn’t we produce (create, generate) our own “site of intersection between theory and practice” (Stephen, paraphrasing Donna)? Isn’t that what we need to do to generate the “grand narrative” we need in order to stop putting palliative and redressive bandaids on political wounds?
I like Stephen’s formulation: “the point is to transform from thug to thief; that is, from a brutal assassin to one who plays with all social norms and rules. They are related, two sides of the same coin, just as liberal democracy is always ready to collapse into fascism.” Becoming a thief, however, requires practice just like any other skill. We want to change norms and rules? Then we have to get our hands dirty trying to do it! We want to be skilled with our play? Practice practice practice!
Unfortunately, as unhooked and unhinged wrote, it seems (if not always, at least far too damn often) that there’s “no real way to recover from the mistake of not knowing.” We should all be perfect first – know the right procedure, the optimal timing, the precise move and then enact it without error, hesitation, or misstep. Or else.