I bought The Art of War to read on the airplane, but I’m looking at the translation available from Project Gutenberg and think I got ripped off. The free version is much better, it seems.
I go back and forth about education standards. I really do think that every kid in the United States ought to come out of high school with a certain level of knowledge. I don’t know exactly what that level should be, but I have some ideas.
I think that if you have a high school diploma, that means that you should have read and know the Constitution, Hamlet, and Huckleberry Finn. You should have a basic knowledge of home ec–how to balance a check book, how credit cards work and how to understand interest rates, how to cook some basic meals and how to sew on a button and fix a hem. You should have some level of mathematics proficiency and a basic understanding of biology and chemistry. You should be able to type and to write basic logical sentences and paragraphs. You should have some basic skills in a language other than English.
And now I’m pretty convinced that you should be familiar with The Art of War.
I keep thinking about Maya Angelou on Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous talking about how people don’t really want change; they want exchange. How they don’t want to dismantle racism or sexism or whatever other -ism; they just want to be the folks on top.
That has stuck with me eleven years. I don’t really know if I think Angelou is that great a thinker or a writer, for that matter, but that’s got to be some of the wisest stuff I’ve ever heard.
Because the temptation is always there–to be hurt and angry all the time, to say "you’ve dicked me over as hard as you can and now I’m going to fuck you up in return."
Let’s just think about this in terms of sexism. Men, in general, have an expectation of being heard and responded to when they speak. And, frankly, it’s annoying when you’re trying to have a good discussion and over wanders someone with a penis who just butts in like he’s due an audience and starts talking like whatever you were talking about was not that important and anyway, he’s got an opinion on it that will clarify the whole situation and he’s going to spout it.
And the temptation is great–I occasionally succumb to it–to just meet that with an attitude of "It is not your place to speak about my experience so shut the fuck up." See? "You continually silence me with your fucktarded behavior, therefore I will, when I get the opportunity, relish in being able to silence you." Woo, it feels good.
But it’s not fixing anything.
I don’t think.
I don’t know. I’m not that far in The Art of War. Maybe revenge does serve some purpose.
But I don’t think so.
No, I take that back. I think revenge helps perpetuate certain structures. I think it helps strengthen and codify how things are. Revenge is not revolutionary, because revenge–hurting you as bad or worse as you hurt me–can only be understood under the current paradigm.
If you broke my brother’s arm and, to get even, I made you a chocolate cake, that would be weird. Revenge, in order to be meaningful, must call on the current understanding of how things work. You break my brother’s arm; I run over your mom. Violence is met with escalating violence. Hegemony is reinforced.
But if you’re really looking to change things, I think the first thing you have to do is to refrain, if at all possible, from taking revenge. If you’re working towards some other way of relating to people and being related to, you have to be willing to do that work, right there.
Do you see what I’m saying?
If you want men and women to see each other as equally human, if you want sexism to come to an end, if you want the patriarchy to crumble at your feet, you have to live in the world like you want the world to be, like you’ve already shifted paradigms.
You have to be willing to let go of the immediate reward of revenge in order to work towards the goal of real change.
I don’t know that that’s always possible.
Maybe most of the time it’s not.
And, to tell you the truth, I’m not sure what real change will look like. I’m not sure anyone does.
Which is also probably why revenge is such an easy temptation to give into. We all know what getting even will look like. We all can imagine how good that will feel. It’s easy to be motivated by the thought of having revenge.
Being motivated by the thought of working towards some future so vastly different than what we have now? That’s a lot more difficult.
Carole Maso? Would you take us through to the end?
The future is all the people who’ve ever been kept out, singing.
In the future everything will be allowed.
So the future is for you, too. Not to worry. But not only for you.
For you, but not only for you.
Not to discard the canon, but to enlarge it.
No more monoliths. No more Mick Jaggers. No more 0. J. Simpsons. No more James Joyces. No more heroes.
Everything threatens you. Hacks, hackers, slacks, slackers, cybergirls with their cybercurls and wiles, poets of every sort. Rock bands with girls.
You believe your (disappearing) time represents some last golden age of enlightenment, to be guarded, protected, reproduced against the approaching mindlessness, depravity, electronic states of America.
But maybe as you become more and more threatened, you’ll take a few more risks yourself. Who knows? Anything is possible in the future.