As circumstances personal and political, on my job and in the world arena increasingly unfold in ways that threaten the stability of my own and others' lives, I go from hoping for the best to arming myself for whatever comes next. I am not alone. As a regular reader of The Black Commentator, I have come to greatly appreciate the perspective of Dr. Lenore Jean Daniels, who's on the Editorial Board there. Here is her essay for this week. I couldn't agree with it more.
...[T]hey certainly want that freedom which they thought was mine -- that frightening limousine, for example, or the power to give away a suit or my increasingly terrifying trans-Atlantic journeys. How can one say that freedom is taken, not given, and that no one is free until all are free? And that the price is high. -- James Baldwin, "Take Me to the Water"
The conceited villager believes the entire world to be his village. Provided that he can be mayor or humiliate the rival who stole his sweetheart or add to the savings in his strongbox, he considers the universal order good, unaware of those giants with seven-league boots who can crush him underfoot or of the strife in the heavens between comets that go through the air asleep, gulping down worlds. What remains the village in America must rouse itself. These are not times for sleeping in a nightcap, but with weapons for a pillow, like the warriors of Juan de Castellanos: weapons of the mind, which conquer all others. Barricades of ideas are worth more than barricades of stones. -- Jose Marti, Our America
At some point, you have to say "Enough is enough. You will not bury me in it so that I become a zombie among the walking dead."
Your spirit of resistance is in danger! Hollowness becomes fashionable. The dead seek to infect or drain you of that spirit.
Misery loves company.
But it is futile to seek freedom in battle with the dead. Strategies to gain freedom must have as a central goal the removal of human-made systems of oppression -- no matter how many corpses surrounding you say otherwise in an attempt to distract you.
Death don’t ring no doorbells.
Death don’t knock.
Death don’t bother to open no doors,
Just comes on through the walls like TV,
Like King Cole on the radio, cool…
Next thing you know, Death’s there.
You don’t know where Death came from:
Death just comes in
And don’t ring no bell.
--Langston Hughes, "Casual"
It is in this knowledge of resistance that we join others anywhere on Earth in the pursuit of freedom. It is in this spirit of resistance that we maintain our humanity; we may be victimized but never surrender to victimhood. It is in this spirit of resistance that we can say to the clever aid-ers and abetters alike, "we know you, too, and we see in your appeasement glorified road blocks with labels: Democratic Party, Tea Party, the American Way." In Shadowboxing: Representations of Black Feminist Politics, Joy James writes that the system, as well as Black aid-ers and abetters, contributed to the "closure of Black rebellion" [because] "once a person disembarks at the Promised Land, the final destination of the 'North' as geopolitical terrain or chair of the Democratic National Committee as prime political landscape, insurrection becomes 'folly.'"
Ours is the road less taken and increasingly so in these times when government capitulation to corporate pressure signals the capitalists’ fear of losing control. Austerity measures, privatization, de-regulation and police states shift fear to the people who, in turn, are urged to recognize in our voices and see in us the "folly" of insurrection.
It has increasingly become a chaotic and cruel world. We are urged to die -- and quickly! It is no wonder the corporate media, while mocking our anger and passion, misinforms our youth with slick advertisement proclaiming racism, sexism, imperialism dead, and uses a man as dead as a doorknob and as Black as snow to lie to a nation, to the world (change is here; freedom is now!) and who, in the course of his ascendance, has lured the masses of youth and Black Americans to Zombieland, where they roam to this day, wandering and foundering in a state of confusion.
The corporate world did what was best to sustain the system of capitalism and to enrich and further empower its class. It concocted its best trick ever when it selected the best representative from among the dead to represent its interests and goals.
It is a matter of survival!
The true meaning of freedom must survive, too, if the Earth and its people have a future as inhabiters of this planet. By its own definition, capitalism cannot sustain life on this planet. "Freedom, to be viable, has to be sincere and complete. If a republic refuses to open its arms to all, and move ahead with all, it dies." (Jose Marti, "Our America").
Any of us committed, however, to serious and fundamental change (radical disruption of systems of race, gender and economic divisions); any of us activists, writers, journalists, educators, thinkers -- intellectuals because we refuse to live as dead and reject shallow offerings from the road blocks -- need to remember, as Edward Said urged us to remember, that "an intellectual does not represent a statue-like icon, but an individual vocation, an energy, a stubborn force engaging as a committed and recognizable voice in language and in society with a whole slew of issues, all of them having to do in the end with a combination of enlightenment and emancipation or freedom." (Representations of the Intellectual: The 1993 Reith Lectures).
We are armed for battle; we have knowledge of the spirit of resistance. In this spirit, we are strong. When we meet, we will recognize one another by the work we do, that is, by the "barricades of ideas" we help form in the battle to preserve life on this planet._______________________________________________________
Lenore Jean Daniels, PhD, has been a writer for over thirty years, of commentary, resistance criticism and cultural theory, and short stories with a Marxist sensibility to the impact of cultural narrative violence and its antithesis, resistance narratives. With entrenched dedication to justice and equality, she has served as a coordinator of student and community resistance projects that encourage the Black Feminist idea of an equalitarian community and facilitator of student-teacher communities behind the walls of academia for the last twenty years. Dr. Daniels holds a PhD in Modern American Literatures, with a specialty in Cultural Theory (race, gender, class narratives) from Loyola University, Chicago. You may read more of her work at The Black Commentator where she serves on the Editorial Board.