Stupid Academics – Decry the Beloved Country

2013-09-15 12:26

Opening – Thesis statement – strong opening, expansive yet still specific enough; must grab the reader and sustain the rest of your introduction. Pick your side of the argument and stick to it.

Academia definitely has its place in the world, but in problematic South Africa, it is not being utilised effectively.

As a reasonably smart person, I often sat with eyes like TV screens and my hands on my chin wondering what the heck these theorists were on about. My friends and I (in a probably plagiarised moment) referred to it as a cultural hegemony. Fancy, huh? Great works by people such as Foucault, Deleuze, Guatarri, Barthes and many others almost always seemed completely abstract without the help of a lecturer. Why something as enlightening (my Kant reference) has to be so hermetic is beyond me.  As we continue to carve an identity as a diverse country with a fraught and as yet unresolved history, we need a lot more thought, but also action, from those who think.

A smart man like Thabo Mbeki was decried for being too educated. Is this a bad thing? The only problem I had with this critique was that it was a critique. Surely we need more smart leaders for the rest of the people to aspire to.

President Zuma may be a smart man, but I wish that he would prove it more often in other places beside the political snake pit. One text that I particularly enjoyed was Can the Subaltern Speak? by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. I, however, had no idea what she was on about the first time I read it. Then there were the second and third readings which, surprisingly, didn’t seem to help. I threw the reading across my room before I did the same with myself. My body recovered; my mind did not. This text was particularly significant to me, especially because we have an entire nation of the subaltern who needs to speak. An entire people cannot be allowed to remain voiceless while an elite prospers, monetarily, intellectually or otherwise. Says Spivak

When we come to the concomitant question of the consciousness of the subaltern, the notion of what work cannot say becomes important. In the semioses of the social text, elaborations of insurgency stand in the place of ‘the utterance’. The sender – ‘the peasant’ – is marked only as a pointer to an irretrievable consciousness. As for the receiver, we must ask who is ‘the real receiver’ of an ‘insurgency’?

You see, I get what she’s trying to say, but I don’t get why she has to say it in that way. So I can’t imagine the majority of our people having their own PhD-qualified instructors guiding them through these dense ideas. And you know what, why should they not?! If I have this privilege, so should everyone else.

Conclusion - With every word I read and write, I can feel my understanding and consciousness expanding. This is a lofty claim until you become aware of your own awareness. Then I sit and think about it, and wonder why so few of us get to experience this privilege. Then I question why those of us who have this privilege are so content to have, and keep it?

Sure we talk and write and blog about the issues we feel are important for the populace to know about, but we must know that unless we want the majority to stay in the dark, this is not enough. So before you sit down to read that essay/article and theorise and problematise the world, why not stand up?

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