Inauguration Day

Photo CC-BY Marc Nozell, Flick Commons
Photo CC-BY Marc Nozell, Flickr

One can give nothing whatever without giving oneself – that is to say, risking oneself. If one cannot risk oneself, then one is spimply incapable of giving.”

―James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time (1963)

As in previous years, my unwritten new year resolution is to write here more. I started blogging 18 years ago, and about 7 or 8 years ago my ‘personal’ blogging was reduced drastically, no doubt related to the rise of microblogging and new chapters in my life with greater public pressures, workloads and responsibilities.

The sad news of the death of Mark Fisher last week shook me deeply and reminded me how important someone’s public writing can be for others, or at least how much his blogging influenced me and helped me shape my own work ethic and politics.

I have blogged about trying to blog more meaningfully, only to be defeated by heavy workloads and my inability to not sleep or sacrifice even more personal and family wellbeing, so my blogging has been in the past few years largely dominated by updates, announcements and data research related posts.

I look up to colleagues like Martin Eve (and others) who reliably and periodically contribute to meaningful, public intellectual debate through their blog posts. Some of the most thought-provoking writing today is written not to meet targets, not to fulfill mandates, not as part of job descriptions. It’s urgent writing; it works as an invitation for collective thought and discussion. A space of reflection, shared generously, despite constraints. Good writing brings down walls.

Today I cannot but exercise my right to write about what I consider important.

Later today the world will witness Donald Trump’s inauguration as the new President of the United States of America. This morning I cannot but make a pause in everything urgent that I am working on to write this brief blog post where I express my profound concern and total rejection of everything that this political figure represents, both for the US and the rest of the world.

I am a Mexican and British citizen. I have friends and family living and working around the world. I aspire to being a ‘citizen of the world’. I  grew up witnessing at different levels of personal proximity the effects of social polarisation, corruption, stark inequality, discrimination, poverty and even civil war. The level of civic disempowerment that we are experiencing at this stage of the 21st century seems unparalleled; the more access we seem to have to means of producing and disseminating information the more defenseless we seem to become. This contradiction is painful to those of us who grew up being told that information was power and that education would lead to greater equality and with it, greater chances of wellbeing if not peace.

I want to be optimistic, not succumb to paranoia and keep hoping that everything will be all right. However we must also not lie to ourselves and pretend that the ‘values’ (tropes and motifs would be better terms) of the extreme right are not mainstream now. ‘The Brexit Bad Boys’ (sic), Trump, the alt-right, the ‘post-truth’ media ecosystem are not mere multimedia simulacra. It’s not just a dystopian fiction. It’s very much a tangible reality already affecting directly the lives of millions, within and outside the United States.

Those of us who believe in humanism and liberal, democratic values, who crave and work for equality and justice, cannot sit in front of the TV, sigh and merely hope for the better. Politically, it cannot be business as usual. We cannot be shy about publicly expressing our rejection of the politics of division, bullying and hate.

The revolution won’t be blogged, it won’t be tweeted, it won’t happen either on the streets. The Angel of History won’t come for us. In an age of total surveillance (not just from the State, but from everyone around us, including ourselves) the temptation is to continue remaining silent, our heads down, keeping calm and carrying on. (Others opt for constant commentary, noise silencing the signal).

Saying what we feel and believe, however, leaves a testimony, albeit a limited and fragile one. Saying what we feel and believe, openly, also works as a greeting, an expression of friendship and solidarity. When we write we give ourselves, and as such writing (not as an administrative requirement or task, but as a human need to share) is a risk. The risks of remaining silent seem much worse.

One cannot but hope for peace, tolerance, equality, respect. The near future looks very challenging. Information literacy, critical thinking, education are our armory.  Resisting won’t be futile.