It’s the middle of UK Black History Month and I am returning from an extended blogging break. To be honest, it was not my intention to take this much time away from blogging. I have always loved to write, and the freedom blogging gives me in what and how I return is in itself reward enough for blogging. And people actually read and cite what I write?!!! I am beyond blessed. Considering that I have been blogging for about 10 years [5 on African Skies] it was actually quite a big thing for me to take such a long break.
So why did I take a break? I had not been paying attention before, but last year I noticed that around the end of summer I always seem to be near mental and physical collapse. Every. Single. Year. And this is becoming more and more the case for everyone in academia as all the other the tasks we have to complete [apart from teaching that is] are getting pushed into a non-existent summer.
Also from June to September, I convened two conferences at the university, ramping up my exhaustion levels. Something had to give, and the blog took the hit. And I think that this is so often the case in academia. The things that feed the machine are the things that keep you in academia, the things that you would love to do for the good of humanity, those are the things that are the first to go. I know a lot of academics want to do more good work. They want to redesign their curricula and their teaching and make it more inclusive. They want to advocate for a better world, for an end to inhuman political policies, an end to environmental degradation, an end to extreme poverty globally. But where is the time? And who is speaking with us?
I have met so many people who want to do so much good work. [And I am so grateful for the opportunity to meet these superstars.] But we must also do the job of academia. I often argue that academia/higher education is having an identity crisis – do we work to learn the world and change it? Or do we work to ensure that the business of giving out degrees runs smoothly? Mostly, those of us cogs in the machine who want to change the world, have no choice but to do both. We tick the boxes of corporate speak and in our spare time[what spare time???] we do the things we hope will bring some change. We are not burning the candle at both ends, we are blow-torching it. So, inevitably, something has got to give. Oftentimes it is our bodies. Broken mentally and physically from running on the devil’s treadmill. And the machine swallows us whole. Discarding us and replacing us with people more obedient to its will.
As I grow older, I have begun to see the machine more clearly and how we are held hostage to it. But I am yet to determine what to do to be free of it. To actually be in a position to confront the machine means to becoming part of the people making it work. To stand apart from it means that you become part of a ‘surplus population’ whose death and/or destruction is no more than a withering away from humanity that the world will view with varying levels of indifference… people drowning in the Mediterranean, people losing their habitats as they burn in the Amazon, people who, being used as cheap labour, have their workplaces collapse over their heads in Bangladesh, people being trampled upon as the West rushes to extract conflict minerals in the DRC… If we want to change these things, if we believe that these are people who deserve to breathe freedom too…then we who believe in freedom cannot rest.
However, if you believe in freedom and you are silent, then do you really believe in freedom? So yes, take a break, so that you can return with renewed strength. But do not fall into a culture of silence because that is the path of least resistance. We who believe in freedom cannot rest. Not for long anyway.
African Skies is back.