Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Education: Keys to the Cellblock?
Version 1.0

Part I: Artfully Done

Art allows for the kind of education that formal (classical?) schooling lacks. Art being capable of a mind-expanding project free from the constraints of the rigid conformity required to “pass” and “achieve”, the idea of “competition” becomes less equipped to fascinate and dominate the pupil, and monopolize his/her space for growth. True growth is not measured by an increased capacity for memorization and regurgitation. It could perhaps be well argued that it is quite impossible (if not futile and degenerative) for there to be a standard measuring stick for growth at all! Thus indeed the universalism of formal education obliterates the very individualism that, in Enlightenment ideology and its continued spoils, it proudly claims to uphold.

The child who cannot concentrate and “perform” within these structures is outcast by the system, society and her/his peers. Deemed “deviant”, “slow”, “stupid” or perhaps worse, “uncontrollable”, she/he may grow up believing that she/he does embody some or all of these things. Complacency from internalizing these fallacies may profoundly stunt the growth of the individual so that she/he actually becomes what society has labelled her/him. Fulfilling the prophesy of her/his scarlet letter.

The sort of education that is capable of such destruction (and I do not believe that I am over-dramatizing in the least) is more effective in alienation than in the purported assimilation (into the “real world”) that is the rationale for its existence.

I do not wish to discredit formal education systems completely. Indeed, the fact that I can sit here and write this, I owe much to my schooling. However, the fact that I can sit here and write this. I owe more to extra-curricular inquisitiveness and discovery of mostly “mainstream-subversive” literature, film, performance and visual art (sometimes there is a thin ridge between the mainstream and the great “rough” and often-uncharted ocean). Ideally there would be no reef at all and swimming far and wide would be an afternoon delight.

The arts require innovation, perhaps more than any other field. Or perhaps it is that the arts allow for great measures of unbridled creative thinking. Success in formal schooling (up to a point?) does not ask for nor necessarily nourish innovation. And if these are not sought elsewhere, the pupil may be destined to a life of intellectual subservience or, as is observed more frequently, megalomaniac perpetration of old (and plagiarised) or empty (and useless) ideas.

In effect, it may be argued then that the pupil her/himself must have an interest. But where do interests come from? Arguably, culture. The home environment. The community. The society. Exposure to life uncovers resonances and affinities; excitement and passion rise out of experience. And what constitutes this culture? Music, dance, drama, storytelling, images, poetry, film, spectacle (including installation), sport (which could be conceived as being a kind of performance art)…

The pupil is enriched and begins to realise the endlessness (temporal) and limitlessness (spatial) of possibility. In them is sparked a thirst for exploration, discovery, challenge and the kind of enlightenment (small ‘e’) that no curriculum alone can teach. The journey becomes a personal one, whose destination and itinerary are determined on a uniquely individual basis. This is what takes the idea of growth to a transcendental level.

And precisely because of the “anti-social”* nature of this task, many are intimidated to take it on (* in parentheses because it is activity that hegemonic society sees as adverse/antagonistic to its project of control through conformity, despite the fact that it is only very rarely malevolently anarchic). Those daring few are discouraged from the outset and from every level and angle. Fittingly with society’s ideological perspectives, economic reward or even basic subsistence is difficult to come by for these betrayers of the holy social grail (ironically, it is often a mark of financial success and high status to indulge in consumption, observation and patronage of the arts). Hopefully these setbacks will “reform” the deviants and re-assimilate them back into the mainstream working world. “Less innovation!” preaches The Manager up in his panopticon-like tower.

It would do us the opposite of harm to rethink the merits of (and carefully-contrived intentions behind) sticking to the “straight-and-narrow”.

Now is always the time to (a part of me wanted to say “rebel”)… express

© Lulu Kitololo

Monday, November 21, 2005

Make me A Break

I have had to
Old ties
Lose touch
with previous fixtures
Steer clear
of echoing voices
from an indiscriminate time
Uproot and aim for relocation
of endangered pieces
that pieced me together

I have had to
With half-hearted satisfaction
of meals I didn’t ask for
And tricks I played
on my senses
Whims I traveled senseless
Crumbs I licked
whose beauty,
once invented,

I have had to
Out of the scrutinizing spotlight
that demands performance
of me,
That attempts even
to set the key
for songs I
They expect to see me drumming
Instead I play piano
While talking fighting words
of attack, submit
and retreat…

I have had to
To let some air
To let some light
To take it all
It all

Thursday, November 03, 2005

No More Questions

I’m at one of those stages where I’m too tired to ask questions. Not to be alarmed, this is not a permanent transition. Is anything truly ever? But hold up, that’s a question and right now, I’m not interested in those. There is an indefinable space between questions and answers that deserves veneration. A temporal space of indiscriminate creation that carries the weight of difficult demands and allows in the multi-dimensional influx of possibilities, truths and inventions. It’s an extremely difficult place. Pride fights with many suggestions, emotions struggle with others and though I may appear to be cool-calm on the outside, my inside is war-torn, ravaged and bleeding.

I’m realising, or rather admitting, that my entire existence is laden with lies. What I know of my place in the world is built on artificialities and selective amnesia. It’s not an easy thing to deal with in your mid-twenties. Supposedly a time of consolidation yet now realising that the entire formative process was misdirected! But perhaps it is easier than were I 65.

I have to negotiate my position and create new meaning for it. My meaning. I must reinvestigate everything I have presumed and everything I have been taught and told. I must take over my education and determine its curriculum for myself. After all, when you really look at it – pierce through and break it down – I am the keeper and carrier of my sanity. Just me, alone and only.

I have often gazed at madness with a somewhat admiring eye. It is an excuse in itself. A reason not to have to conform to the (spiritually?) oppressive elements of the everyday. But at the end of the day, could it just be another way to escape accountability? Wait, that’s a question again. I always try and listen to “bums” “crazy” people, lunatics, and observe them well and they often have extremely profound things to say and essentially simple truths to relay. And I ask myself why such wise people have been relegated to this (anti-) social position. I reply to myself that it is clearly because they have realised the high moral (?) cost of “normalness” and would rather be…free. For true, to see this world of ours, to really see it for all its hypocrisy, cruelty, injustice, delusion, depravity (and feel free to go on), is to be insane. I think that a lot of us know this and so choose to escape it through selective/voluntary ignorance. It’s much easier that way, much more conducive to a certain (widely-held) definition of “living”. But I keep coming back to the point where I demand of myself if that truly is living. I battle whether that is a kind of living that I can find peace with. That I can deal with, wake up every morning without even stirrings of guilt, shame and self-repudiation.

And “all the questions I can ask only I can answer” but, that’s the most challenging kind of work that this life affords. Indeed this must be the meaning/purpose of life…to figure out how to keep on living. Not in terms of basic survival (food, water, shelter) but in more ideological terms perhaps. Religion, ritual etc., we created these to give some meaning to things but, the purest of intentions are so easily corrupted. And so volatile to discuss. …To figure out a reason to keep on doing, to keep on being, to keep on smiling, to keep on hoping.

I retire to my suspended state, to let things wander in and out freely so that I may observe which ones can go the distance and make this committment. It's about that time for a real good dose of selfishness!