Iconoclasts for Love
With every day, the thick walls of this institution grow, and discontent narrows my field of vision. The knowledge, or beauty, that someone once declared to be the splendor of truth, wanders through the halls of this impersonal black box and dissolves, on its way through a maze of elevators and credit points. All these costly institutions keep a distance from us, hidden behind the supposedly supportive screen of neatly organized individualism, pushing us to work on our originality, as if our very nature is something to work on rather than come back to. We hold on to comfort much more than to ourselves.
As commercialized eccentrics or conformists, we step on the ladder of academic success. It’s deifying devotion and self-sacrifice for a machine which has not changed much in its essence since Pink Floyd minced some schoolkids in a music video. Pay for and consume knowledge. Don’t generate it. We study as fast as we can pay, not as fast – or slow – as we want. In advance of each new semester we go shopping on Stine, picking courses aimlessly from a range of seminars and lectures, judging some by title or teacher, picking others only to fill the gaps between morning and evening. We collect credit points dropwise, consume condensed knowledge, only to be able to decorate our own products with canonized names, and lay down our opinions within preordained boundaries.
This general framework, a market, is a blood-sucking investment for many of us. Its deficiencies affect us all in different ways. Some of us pray for the clock to slow down, others beg it to hurry up and many, send long bills to their future selves. It prevents us all from developing ourselves as complete human beings. We crop parts of ourselves that we think may be a barrier for success; repudiate the illegitimate child of emotion and intellect. Our curiosity and scholarly intentions dissolve like whitecaps on the shore of corruption.
Maybe this is a hidden conflict between the authority over knowledge and our own power to think. This authority prescribes Culture of Remembrance as one of the remedies for too much self-reliance. A mantra, by now firmly established in our media, our schools, and our universities. Morphine, for all the mistakes our civilization has made in the past, for its inability to admit and make up for something. We should ask for help. Ideally, ask those for help who suffered from our mistakes. The others, civilizations that have helped humans to navigate the complexities of human life on earth, as well as our civilization has – tried at least. Isn’t it that through the other, we come to know the world? That, in a conversation, the other is the limit of our own, small world?
The Aborigines say they belong to Mother Earth. For answers to questions about existence, they tell their children: “Go, and ask your mother.” But that’s not knowledge as we know it, right? It’s just ancient, dusty wisdom. What kind of disease, what kind of complex ignorance, or plain arrogance, infected us? We’d rather strangle ourselves with a rope of remembrance, than admit past deviations of humanity and change the course. We idealize the past, love the dead man’s struggle so much, we overlook the living. The Human of The Humanities, our wounded spirit, a pathetic and self-pitying lost purpose, kneels in a confessional box. Barred, we only see ourselves thinking. We stick to blood-smeared tools for thought, never questioning if they might be part of the disease.
When the yawning of indifference is too loud, we are deaf to whining justice. But there are moments when those dear to us, those we care about, those with high hopes and fresh dreams, determined like whirlwinds, knowing no fear – overtake us, grab our hands, take us back to ourselves, and dissolve the knot in response and ability. I wrote this speech for you. Not for some anonymous academic audience, but for the faces I see and recognize, wandering through the halls of this impersonal black box – dissolving in a maze of elevators and credit points. Let us be radical lovers. Even if no one ever told us so, we are the cure for a diseased society. Even if no one before us ever was – we must be.