Wednesday, July 25, 2007

On the topic of Sheeple

You know, it's days like this that I wonder whether the "Powers that Be" (ptb) have a wicked sense of humor, are on vacation, or what. Let's take a quick stock of the summer (the abbreviated version, because I still have some work-work to do). Still in Iraq? Check. Gearing up for Iran? Check. Continuing to dismantle the Constitution? Check. Setting civil rights back even further? Check. Still punishing children for being born into poverty? Check. The rich getting richer? Check.

I need to stop here or I am going to have to engage in some scream therapy.

There was this great scene in School Daze (I think). Laurence Fishurne's character, Dap, stands, screaming in the early morning, "Wake up!" It's a moment that has stuck with me since I first saw the movie as a teen. The movie itself got mixed reviews, and while its focus was on intra-racial politics, the overall message of the movie still strikes a chord with me. Until more of us wake up, we continue to perpetuate... our own shame.

But it's more than that. In so many ways, Gramsci had it right. We (all of us, to some degree or another) really do buy into our own oppression, and we also buy into the idea that we might actually deserve it. And, too many of us let life happen to us. Instead of engaging, thinking, and making up our own minds, we let others do it for us. And, when people do raise questions, too many of us fail to really think about what the questions are, what they mean, and the answers to them. Instead, we let others tell us what to think about it, we let others silence us with fear. We abrogate our responsibility to ourselves and the world.

In the case of Dap's world, he watched the "good" blacks, with the "good" hair, who talked the right way, who didn't challenge the system clash with other black students because they (the other students) were making it hard to assimilate and "get theirs." But the bigger picture here concerning School Daze was Spike Lee's ability to capture how it all plays out in terms of power. One group (the wannabes) decided their road to power was to divest themselves of all those identity markers that made them black. The other group (jigaboos--talk about a racialized and racist assigned identity) consciously chose a different route: to embrace who they were. The irony, of course, is that by fighting with each other, they were not focusing on bigger issues that affected both groups. As a result, they bought into a perception of the way things could and ought to be, that failed to bring them together. This certainly wasn't good for them, but it was good for those who would lose a lot if different interest groups actually saw that they had more in common than they didn't.

The really scary thing about this is that history has borne out this less-than-stellar human behavior over and over again. In education, some us call it the problem of "other people's children." It's all well and good for other people and their kids, but I want what I want for my kids. And, I don't know and care what the larger implications are for my community and society as a whole. In other situations, it becomes sticking your head in the sand.

For the sake of our friends, families, and the world, please, wake up.

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