Note to self: I try very hard these days not to get into adversarial exchanges, especially on social media. They normally don’t end well. I lapsed and stupidly got into a minor one yesterday. For some reason they invariably become about theory, and being accused of being theoretical, of using language that is said no one can understand, of being elitist, of not being practical and accessible to people. From across the political spectrum, they normally share a characteristic English anti-intellectualism, that see activism as being devoid of theory.
I have been teaching for over 30 years and in my classes we study difficult work. We together read, view, listen to challenging ideas and thought, it through this we see the world differently, hopefully have another relationship to it and to others.
The etymology of the word ‘theory’ is – conception, mental scheme, contemplation, speculation; a looking at, viewing; a sight, show, to consider.
It what we do always, everyday in the classroom, online, in the kitchen. This is the capacity to think, to think with others.
I like to think that what i do has some value. I was really pleased to receive a letter from the mother of a student who recently started on my course. (I’m trying not it to boast about good feedback or something! More a little recognition for all us who value learning and thought –
Strange times require different behaviours.
I am contacting you to say thank you. My daughter…is a first year student on your BA (Hons) Film and Screen Studies course. You have inspired her. Given her renewed self-confidence. I see her blossoming.
She loves the course. She talks positively of her experience and your teaching. She so looks forward to re-engaging.
I thought I would email to let you know.
I hope you and yours are keeping safe.
I couldn’t ask for more. We couldn’t ask for more.
We all know that social media has many problematic issues, especially FB around privacy, selling of data etc, but we carry on using it. For me its about connection, sharing, valuing friends and what they are doing, reading. In this time of crisis we feel impotent and social media comes a way hearing different voices, to engage with ideas we haven’t met before. I’m happy to disagree with others, to have hard conversations, to have my mind changed, as long as they are open, we hear each other – an ethics of care.
At present more than ever we need to be together given the imposed isolation. We are being touched with the tragic loss of life, death, from close loved ones, to all the thousands of others. The crisis is a manifestation of a political culture of violence, that wants to reduce us to numbers and economic calculation. We need to resist now, as we always have tried to. We need to think together, to find routes for another way of living. This requires thought that goes beyond the capacity of any one individual.
This video recently popped on my Twitter feed – a beautiful meditation on the value of thought. Theory can be like a difficult poem, piece of music, sometimes we can’t make sense of it, perhaps the opacity of the work is its ability to make us think further, to feel more, to hear better…Fred Moten on James Baldwin from 2018 –, it could be for now – it made me happy to be alive, in a future with hope…