Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Notes on my Dissertation

Recently I decided to some research on this new Highschool program at York University for my dissertation. It was in this new building with 7 floors with a floor for every religious group. I don’t remember the name of the building but  I vaguely recall it rhyming with New Tudent Denture. But anyway. Take that in. How inclusive. It felt unreal, almost like a well orchestrated romance to get students to agree to a levy increase leading to higher tuition fees. Alas.
But anyway, the program was supposed to be this very ‘progressive’ system that allows students to take about two technical classes, You know, something like Race and Colonialism and say, Intro to South Asian Studies but the majority of the time, students would be doing “social justice organizing”.
Being strongly committed to the doctrine of Capitalism, specifically Neoliberal capitalism, naturally I was opposed to this communistic savagery. I wrote my pHd on Communistic Savagery. It’s on my blog. [DISCLAIMER: before you get any further, this is satire]
Anyway, going in, I was compelled to take myself to this group that did environmental and social justice organizing. You had a choice between the statists and the race-based  or cultural groups and naturally, the Harry Potter group. There was also this group that reminded me sharply of the KKK, lets call them Basbara. I was naturally very nervous, as one is when they start highschool. My plan was to go in as a participant-researcher. I would blend in with the natives students and base my dissertation on my findings. I was very nervous going in. What would I say? Would I be popular? What if my classmates didn’t love me? It was very nerve wracking.
Naturally, the social stratification that is typical to any forthright institution that should be teaching the youth to WORK HARD, ANYONE CAN MAKE IT was in place [This gave me some comfort]. I’m very keen on the Public schooling system by the way. It gave us Stephen Harper. And he condemns censorship #charliehebdo #jesuisahmed.
Anyway, this school was a little different because it appeared that while the hierarchy of attractiveness where the hottest most normatively attractive person in the room had the most credibility, it also appeared that the person who could make the best case that they were the most marginalized was also considered the cleverest and the most insightful. They didn't have to have prior knowledge of what was required of them. 
On the topic of youth communication models, I should note that I was pleasantly surprised at how sophisticated their slang was. In other public schools I have done research in, students said things like “that’s bae”, and “what a hot mess”. However, in this school, students said things like “Check your privilege” and “black and brown bodies face systemic violence”…and so as soon as I picked it up, I was accepted a little better. I got popular. I made friends with populars. Look, it’s highschool, your priorities are to make popular friends. I found that this was the general goal of the students, as is not atypical. 
This slang or youth jargon was referred to in their language as “allyship”. Now let me tell you that you want to make alliances with the most oppressed people in this school—but they have to be the attractive people too. And if you were attractive, regardless of whether you were oppressed, you could say whatever you wanted. It’s all in my dissertation foreword.
Secondly I should note that these teenagers also had dress codes. So the most popular was a. the most oppressed; b. the most attractive and c. the one who had the most piercings and tattoos [but managed to pull it off without looking like a White trucker or rock fiend. You had to be authentically tribal and etheral. Spoken word artists and other hipsters of colour (HOCs) seem to be what is in, much like I imagine rock and Justin Bieber are in highschools. 
 I was particularly struck with how if You were a member of a community percieved to be conservative, like the savage, communist Muslims, you applauded for your tattoos and piercings. Because in high school, physical attributes and expressions are obviously considered characteristics that should merit individuals the utmost respect. 
As a white man, naturally I tried to make the case that I am poor [I am doing my pHd, okay? Being an academic is hard. I have tried playing the Ukelele in Spadina but someone dropped dead and their ears were bleeding. Naturally I was blamed. The court case is on and I will be updating you soon. It was so hard. Additionally, I slept on the street in India when I went to do research, okay? CLASS STRUGGLE]. 
These arguments didn’t work. So I acknowledged my white privilege and decided to silently apologize. I was here for research anyway. Focus. Focus. By the way I got new raybans.
Even though it was the most reverse racist space I’ve ever encountered, they seemed to be really fucking up. 
Look, I understand that by having an opinion, specifically this one,  I have lost all my specimens friends  in New Tudent Denture. If You're offended by this piece you can always leave. 
            Why, you ask me, were these communists failing?
            Because they weren’t really as critical as they thought they were. You can’t decide that someone is the most credible based on how dark their skin is and how traumatizing their lives might have been. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t privileged in other areas, especially if they are devastatingly attractive. I made friends with the hot ones with the sobbiest stories [the most marginalized]. I found that often people who were equally or even more oppressed but didn't have as much charisma as the popular kids were shut down. This will be explored shortly. 
            The other thing I found was that these hopelessly sad fools [albeit young fools, it’s a hopeful beginning] had very low standards to serve as success pointers. For example, as much as they promoted DECOLONIZATION and other charming romances like AN END TO PATRIARCHY et cetera, they really aspired only to witness spectacles. And even as a white man who is actually critical of Yoga [my ex girlfriend who did her pHd in India called Chandni Chandni Rock explained that perhaps pilates were more culturally appropriate because we have to acknowledge our privilege as I am doing here], I was surprised at the hypocrisy of what constituted these spectacles. Usually, being the most oppressive, I was the victim of these spectacles. I would say something like “Oh I don’t like Jay Sean’s style” [because let’s face it, why would a straight white POOR man appreciate such music] and alas, it was time for the these very fervorous shrieky banshees descending on me to call me racist. I now realize that to continue belonging in the popular crowd, I must celebrate all things Jay Sean. Because he’s oppressed. And his style is inherently superior. I mean of course I don't actually believe that his style is inherently superior but I wanted credibility. I wanted to fit in with them. I wrote about this in my memoir. But my point is that this was considered a win for them. They celebrated this so fervorously. The most popular girls were the ones who had humiliated the most people. Apparently this is what their vigorous classes on anti-oppression merited. Even to me, [a white man studying people of colour but I ACKNOWLEDGE MY PRIVILEGE] this seemed a little bit hypocritical.
            Their other priorities included being offended, being morally outraged and finally, validating people in your clique for feeling this way. They didn't seem particularly keen on actually interrogating their views as they preached, and I think this was safety mechanisms for their obviously very delicate comfort zones.

            Anyway, on my last day, as I left this space, I felt a burden being lifted off my back, after treading on eggshells for weeks, wondering where these beasts came from, and after speaking to other folks including racialised queer people et cetera, this proved to have been a shared  experience…and then I realized I hadn’t been in a highschool, I had been in the left.

No comments:

Post a Comment