Really meaningful week, of meeting inspiring people, of being heartened by individuals who believe in causes and work relentlessly behind the scenes to make this society that we live in a more humanistic one, of realising that the only sort of validation or recognition worth seeking has to stem from one’s conviction alone.`And the dignity that comes from such work is an inward-looking, self-seeking one; not one that needs to affirmed or confirmed by any kind of external source.
I am so thankful that I have crossed paths with all these people in London this year. I have realised that the kind of people who I should surround myself with are the ones who inspire me, who encourage me, who see in me the things that I appreciate and like about myself and who never choose to put me down and deem me lacking in any way.
Had the privilege of seeing Joanne deliver her dissertation paper at Goldsmiths’ The Place for Poetry event on Thursday, and then meeting Shushien in between for a wander around East London/Spitalfields Market. I thought about how far this girl and I have come together, from comparing notes on our H3 papers and seeing each others’ writing beamed up on the visualiser screen, to those tentative meetings on a project that ultimately did not materialise in Little India. I miss those days of burying myself into the folds of academic theories, of ‘writing what one has not known before one has written’, of sifting through ideas and words and textures to arrive at a conclusion that not only makes a contribution to the academic field, but allows us to gain a deeper understanding of self and society through writing, to strive for that immaterial thing that lies at the end of word counts and carefully ordered sentences. Joanne’s work, and the ideas that came through at the panel, was something that thoroughly inspired me : how she deftly weaved the ideas of marginality and argued for greater inclusion in such a convincing manner, how she managed to hold her own against other established researchers in the field, how sensitively she managed to combine academic theory with real life and how I gleaned from this essay her convictions about translating theory into everyday practice. And that, after all, should be the true values of a humanistic educator, or even an academic: what are our motivations behind publishing a paper, or presenting at a conference? There remians a need for critical self-examination of our ethics and objectives : is it to further add a few more lines on your CV for entry into that esteemed institution, or is it to help the people and issues that we care passionately be about? Too many times have academic conferences degenerated into people defending their ideas to the point of selfishness and a lack of grace; too many times have students become disillusioned with the pretentiousness and cumbersome language of academia that they have dismissed its relevance to their own lives.
In my life – I will always strive to combine the high with low, to not be a hypocritical thinker who perpetuates and engages only within my own sphere of privilege, to link the personal with the political, ideas and policies to the man on the street. In no way am I more qualified or knowledgable than any other individual – we are all here to learn, and everyone else that we meet in this life can be a capable teacher.
So there was Dana, the Kurdish freedom fighter who once endured the most dangerous but also the most important passage of his life in the back of an enclosed leather van, whose life has been split and fractured by border after border, walls that we erect against civilisations on the baiss of histories and stories that we tell to guard ourselves against others. But he also dreams of faraway places: “I’ll like to pursue a PhD in space,” he told me. Why? “Because when you think of all the possibilities and realms of life that may exist on other planets or entitites out there, all our problems and territorial contsts seem so tiny and insignificant.”
And then the other day at the pub, when this man started chatting to Jade and Jan and I. When you assert that you are better than everybody else, when you pretend that you are more knowledgable, when you absolutely, abhorrently refuse to entertain another person’s opinion – what does that reveal about you? It reveals your insecurity and over-inflated self-regard, it reveals your inability to accept yourself and others for who they are and what they can be, it reveals your inability to remain humble.
I have decided that I will learn to never be angry, to never exhaust my emotions on things that materialise themselves as problems. For problems are lessons. For aggressors are teachers. And if I give my emotions and energy up to them I have also given up my power. All I need in this life, is to believe in the things that I am doing, to persist in what I feel strongly about, to remain self-critical and grateful for the numerous things that I already possess. Like what I had learned from the past, like all the different issues and questions that I had struggled through, the only meaning that you can impose on an experience is the lens through which you yourself shape, create and dictate. Some things happen for a reason. The lessons of my childhood, the people of my childhood…..these are perhaps the most instrumental, subterranean lessons from my past.