Nearly three weeks ago, I wrote this:
I’m writing a Thing. It has changed shape several times over the last ten days, in response (or shocked horror and muteness) to Intervening Events in the World around us; a world that we’re all in, and all in together; even the most medieval of medievalists.
The Thing will include unicorns, literal and figurative.
Here are some favourite unicorns to keep you going in the meantime.
Let’s go back to that first image:
1) “Love” is a constant active continuing live process; it’s not (just) a moment of declaring “I love you.” It’s work. It’s hard. It changes constantly, and changes you. And, hopefully, your world.
2) “Justice” and “public” are about care for all. Cares, plural; for individuals, groups, bodies, institutions: plural. Simultaneous multiple cares and duties of care that intersect. So: for intersectional social justice.
This “next post” has changed shape, and content, every time there’s been yet another injustice, yet another public outrage. There have been so many. Too many. As friends and others have remarked, it’s been a year of outrages. 2015 wasn’t such a great year either. It’s easy to tire of constant injustices; to feel careworn, worn down, worn out; that’s understandable and human. But that’s dangerous. Please be and stay outraged.
I’m using the words “outrage” and “outraged” because they’re the right words. The reality of #BlackLivesMatter is outrageous. That this is, and has been for generations, actual lived reality for people should outrage everyone. If you are (as I am) not Black, you ought to be outraged too. In a respectful outrage as a supportive ally and advocate, in solidarity; not as “all lives matter”; not in making comparisons with other outrages to other people, in other places, and in other times. Because Black Lives Matter. Full stop.
(Though while bearing them in mind and bearing witness to All Of The Things, simultaneously. You are a human, you have a beautiful brilliant mind that’s big enough to carry more than one, or two, or three, or this current horrible large number of matters of human and global rights and wrongs. Things that matter directly to you. Matters and identities that you are a part of, that are part of you and kith and kin. Indirect matters for which you jollywell ought to feel and care, as a decent sensitive human being. And a duty never to forget or to surrender (or surrender oneself in complacency and compliance; giving up so as to counter-balance the (also very real) need for self-care, in human survival). Orlando. Brexit. Istanbul. Syria. Mexico. Irak. South Sudan. Pakistan. Kenya. Zimbabwe. Canada / Turtle Island. World histories of murder, slavery, oppression, abuse, silencing, dehumanisation of “others,” systemic violence, annihilation.
That is history and why it is vital: it is alive, right now, and intimately linked to past and future through that bridge of the present. The same mechanisms and strategies are used now—often so directly as not to need any “translation” or comment to explain the mapping—so knowing how they work helps to know how to resist, fight, and grow out of them. Why history matters: so much has happened in the last two days, weeks, months that it would easy not to remember events, to erase them and make room for the latest outrage. To forget how outrages feed one another, reflect on each other, are related. To glaze over, to blur and gloss over outrages’ relationships to what might seem like an abstracted (or vague) idea of social injustice as embodied by the very fabric of that society, in its institutions, to the highest levels of power. Blurring is a danger in fast times, in a commodifying culture driven by fads and fashions.)
That parenthetical thought will return in this post’s continuation (either (2) or (3), we’ll see). Here’s the big deep important idea: it’s also a beautiful example of Twitter rhythm, aesthetics, Tweets as poetry. We’ll also return to poetry in one of these continuations… :
Can YOU say that publicly? Without any ifs and buts? Yes? Well done, my virtual friend!
I’m grateful to @yesmam47 on Twitter for using the word OUTRAGE and making me think in OUTRAGED terms. (She blocked me & other interlocutors mid-conversation, but I think I understand why—towering flaming incandescent consuming suffering passionate RAGE—respect that decision, appreciate the time she took in this conversation, and I thank her again for sharing that OUTRAGE. “Helen’s daughter,” I learned from you. You made me work. Thank you.)
Get ideas out. Out in the open. Talk ideas out openly with others.
This is what public discourse, including academic OUTreach, should be about.
Here follows a conversation from Twitter, earlier today. Today was also Nikola Tesla’s birthday. The excellent comic from The Oatmeal was therefore circulating again (it first came out I think four years ago):
Which led to our conversation. There are crossings-over and sometimes more than one person speaks at once, but that’s live conversation for you.
What you’ll read below is (well, my part of it anyway) imperfect, bumbling, clumsy, and I’m not convinced I got it right or even got right what I was thinking. But that’s live-action thinking for you.
I’m trying to understand something big, and I’m trying to figure it out live, in public. That’s what many citizens are doing, in public open free spaces like Twitter, every day. That’s what academics working at public universities OUGHT to do. That’s OUTREACH. Why should OUTREACH not be OUTRAGED too? Being an academic does not exempt you from humanity. Being a member of homo sapiens entails responsibilities and duties.
This was hard work, and that’s a good thing: a reminder that academics are geeky, and that using your mind is good for it, especially here where this is not an area of expertise and I’m trying to use what little I do know to help in understanding what I don’t. It’s another kind of “applied medievalism” coupled with practising what I preach when teaching, in getting students to tell & explain things to each other as a way of understanding in deep learning.
Doing that out in public is naked and scary. We (us academics) should all do that—be a metaphorically naked fragile vulnerable body, outside in the open—more often, as a reminder of what it’s like to be a student and because we should be learning actively ourselves constantly, throughout our lives, modelling lifelong learning for others and learning from others. Yes, that means learning from non-academics. Yes, that means making mistakes, getting things wrong and half-wrong, not always expressing yourself properly, having to come back and set things straight, maybe even changing your mind, maybe thinking again and more after a conversation has ended. No, that’s not humiliating: what it ought to be is humbling. And joyful. A humbling joy and joyous humility. A reminder that the life of the mind is also good because it is a joy and might do good, spreading that joy.
But. Bumbling, clumsy, hard work nonetheless.
Enough of the comments. On with the bumbling.
Next up: more reading, some Medievalism, some practical things that anybody—medievalists, academics, or otherwise—can do. Actively, proactively, interactively.
CONCLUSION AND MAIN MESSAGE: BE OUTRAGED