"Fire is motion / Work is repetition / This is my document / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all defenses."

- Cap'N Jazz, "Oh Messy Life," Analphabetapolothology

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

dangerous familiars

hi to all you patient and adoring darlings!

thanks for your patience these past few days. i've been busy traveling all over West Virginia and Kentucky, and have just recently returned to being settled and having all my things in one small room again.

that is, i'm back at Miami University for one final year. and as i'm shopping around for the most interesting and compelling classes to take, while i'm stressing out about my undergraduate thesis and studying for the GRE's and planning student actions for all my various activisms, i've also found, in the blissful off-time, a surprising nostalgia and reminiscence creeping over me.

even as i look around the campus, at the frightening droves of willowy blondes and preppy jock boys, their polished exteriors enough to make me insecure, and despite the inexplicable phenomenon of cornhole that seems to proliferate here, i can sense that i'm really going to miss this place next fall, when i will surely/hopefully be somewhere far, far away.

i know it's merely because i've gotten familiar with the place, have become accustomed to moving back to the same dorm for the past 4 years, am grateful to see the same familiar faces, to have such a strong community in which to wallow, enjoy coming back each year geared up and ready to fight for a cause i've been devoted to for over 5 semesters.


this familiarity has me kinda scared too. comfort is overrated, even dangerous. keeping on your toes becomes kinda like floating, when you get good at it. and who doesn't want to defy gravity?

i got to thinking about this in one of my classes today. i was sitting in a class full of Education majors, a class called "Cultural Studies, Power, and Education," a class filled with typical Miami-types, feeling a little on edge because everyone in there was so white bread [sic]. the professor had been trying all of class to ease us into a radical mindset (which i gratefully dived right into), while we examined ads from the 90's that proffered 40's gender politics to preschool aged consumers. i glanced around the room to see students rolling their eyes, grimacing at the mention of atheism and Marxism, the girl beside me scrawling the word SOCIALIST in big letters across the first blank page of her notebook, and underlining it.

i give the professor a lot of credit. to open with that kind of radical leap in student expectation is truly courageous. i'm counting on a smaller class next time around.

anyway, this moment turned into a huge realization for my research into the practice of critical pedagogy:
for me (and i consider myself fairly radical, surprise, surprise), this first class wasn't unusual or myth-busting at all. in fact, it was too easy to agree with the professor, too natural to nod along, to laugh at his leftist jokes, to feel grateful for and, yes, comfortable with a liberal bias in the classroom.
on the other hand, my peers were noticeably unnerved, even perturbed, by the professor and what they must have perceived to be Commie rantings. and so, they were reluctant to engage, hesitant to open their minds to the possibility that advertisers care less about the consumer than about selling products.

and then i realized, looking around, everyone in this class was wearing nice Polo Ralph Lauren polo shirts, J Crew khakis, their heads gelled and kempt, glistening examples of Miami's "squarely in the box" reputation. of course they couldn't open their minds to cultural studies and critical pedagogy! it made them uncomfortable!

when capitalism is working for you, when you're comfortable with it, you see no need, no reason, to challenge it. comfort and capitalism are closely related, in fact, they are co-conspirators. in a society used to instant gratification, it becomes hard to get people used to stepping out of their comfort zones. why would they ever have to, if they can find a KFC wherever they go? same goes for ideological comfort zones.

existential discomfort = the worst kind.


speaking of familiars, you should get familiar with the guys over at Said the Gramophone. they keep one of the most beautifully written music blogs out there. in fact, it's one of only 2 i actually read on a regular basis. this post was particularly striking and appropriate for the approaching end of summer. FUN TIMES FOREVER.


Brian said...

Hi Steph,

I was here yesterday and had a great long comment when blogger blew up and ate my comment. GRRRRRR.

The gist was, welcome back, good luck in your last year and the suits on Madison Ave. should read this post because all their hard work is paying off.

stephan!e lee said...

thanks, Brian. :-)


remaerdyaD, the oBsCuRe said...

I feel dissimilar, if that word works here, to comfortable captialismo. But I see it differently here. Me try explain...

I was in the local collector for musicians mit mein originals cued in my player around my neck - I am now able to attach it to a cool, --> Comfortable <-- laniard that has a music-themed pattern printed onto it (you know, the wide cloth type that they have conventions and stuff). So I interrupted a couple conversations with sorta like "hey, look at me, I got some originals if you want to hear (with neon arrows pointing to my selfness)"...

The conversations are fine, do NOT get me wrong. Talk about parody and figuring out covertunes. But, like, nobody plays original music. Nobody is interested. And the options we turned to are mainstream pop music every motherfucking time. So it is like what is the use in being creative when you can just play whatever trite is doled out by industry the masses vote into being "Music".

Obscurity hath becometh mein religion.

Bye for now, eh