Bayo Akomolafe is a widely appreciated speaker, teacher, public intellectual, author and facilitator, globally recognized for his poetic, unconventional, counterintuitive, and indigenous take on global crisis, civic action and social change. In this conversation, he joins Future Crunch co-founder Dr Angus Hervey, Future Crunch facilitator, Lilian Kikuvi, and an unexpected guest, The Glitch, for a wide-ranging exploration of the times we live in.
You can watch the recording by clicking on this link. There's also a full transcript of the conversation below.
Good afternoon, good morning, good evening from wherever you're tuning in from. My name is Gus Hervey. I am a political economist and a co-founder of Future Crunch.
My name is Lillian Kikuvi. I'm a diversity and inclusion expert, and a facilitator at Future Crunch. We're joined today by our special guest, Bayo Akomolafe. He is a well accomplished poet, philosopher, professor and we're absolutely honored to have you here. Thank you for joining us from Chennai, India. We are grateful for your time and the wisdom that you're going to share with us. Welcome.
Thank you. Good to be here sister, and brother. Thank you.
Welcome too, to everyone who's joining us from wherever you are in the world. This is a bit of a tradition here at Future Brunch so if you're feeling up to it, please just let us know where you're tuning in from, and you can put it into the chat box over here.
The chatbox is over here! Not over there.
It's definitely somewhere!
Gus and I are broadcasting today from Melbourne, Australia and we are on Aboriginal land. We would like to recognize and honour the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who are the original custodians of this land. We would like to pay our tribute to their past, present and emerging leaders.
It's a privilege to be here on this land, in this country, and to have the opportunity to learn from the oldest continuous cultures on Planet Earth.
Now, before we dive in today, we would ask everyone to remember that this is a live conversation. It's completely unscripted. In order for it to work, we'd like to ask your permission - everyone who's joined in - to allow us as panelists to think out loud. Please don't expect anything that's polished or perfected. This is not going to be an edited podcast. And to my fellow conspirators here on the panel, no one's going to hold any of us to anything that we say, because it's all live. This is a tentative, spontaneous, protosynthesis. We are thinking in draft. And I think if we can all embrace the messiness of an organic conversation, then it's much more likely that we will manifest some magic. With that permission hopefully granted, Bayo, let's dive straight in.
We'll start with the first question we normally ask all of our guests - what has surprised you the most about 2020?
Oh, my goodness, where do I... What has surprised me the most about 2020? Well the first thing I'll say is I'm very disappointed that there are no scripts because I had this entire script prepared, Gus, that I now have to chuck away! I really feel the idea of no scripts. The scriptlessness of 2020 is the most shocking. I wouldn't say it's surprising, but I would say it's most unnerving that the scripts by which we navigate the normal, by which we understand how the world works, by which the familiar becomes intelligible, that all of that has seemingly been thrown out the window.
The idea that I usually tell, the story, is that it seems we have been invaded by an alien or a principle or an idea or a concept, and we do not know how to fit it into the familiar way. I feel that's the most shocking thing about 2020. We have finally been met by that which exceeds the human, if you will, and our eyes have been opened. And now we can see around us that we are not the center of the room, which is what indigenous people have been saying for so long, which is what feminist scholars have been saying for so long, which is what the Yoruba people from Nigeria have been saying for so long.
That we are not in the driver's seat, we are not in charge, we are not the aura and the wonder and the fulcrum by which the universe spins. We are and have always been attached to the universe. The idea that we could stop and pause and look at the world and the world looks back? Well, the world kicks back, it's no longer just a passive recipient of human agency. The world kicks back and says, "No, this is what I want to do." That's shocking and yet it's enlivening and emancipatory for me. And I think for many others.
It's a wonderful way of looking at it Bayo and I think that you actually write about this. You tell the story I think, of fishermen in Japan, or maybe in Brazil, who are fishing with dolphins. They are both fishing, and being acted upon in the act of fishing. And that's a very different ontology to the traditional Aristotelian, Western way of thinking, isn't it - that we are stepping through this world as masters of our own fate? When you say this is shocking, shocking to whom?
I think all of us feel the reverberations of this event, if you will. The echoes of it are still streaming. It's just like the Second World War supposedly ended with the explosion at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, on August 6th and August 9th. And then soon after the Japanese surrendered. But that explosion created new kinds of bodies, as I've been sharing. It created cancerous bodies. It created the hibakusha, literally the bomb survivors. Not everyone was in close proximity to that atomic nuclear explosion. But in a sense, the hibakusha still exist today. Not in a sense, they really do still exist today. And in a sense the bomb is still pulsing in your veins. Because it has radically changed your bodies, they're much more prone to cancer. They have been maligned. It was only a couple of years ago that they were able to get legislation that protected them.
I feel in a sense we are like the hibakusha, not to take anything away from their experience of course. I'm reading through that historical explosion to say that this is like an explosion as well. It's just of an epidemiological variety. It's like this explosion, this viral thing, this epistemological disturbance, this spiritual theological querying of our bodies and our landscapes have disturbed the way we navigate the world. Now we're asking questions about schooling. We're asking questions about universities. Are they worth it? Should we still send our children to universities any longer? What about work? How have we framed work? Should we think about work in the same way?
What of poverty? There is a twist, there's a plot twist in that narrative. I read recently that maybe poverty actually has some (and they said this with a lot of hesitation), maybe it has some advantages we haven't noticed. That people in Africa, whom we deem poor, actually have bodies that are resistant to this virus or they have immune systems that are ready, more resilient. And that's why the cases have not been that deadly... that is one theory. What I'm trying to say here is that we all have been touched in some way or the other. Maybe some more than others. But I think in a very, very real sense, the ecology of being human will never be the same.
By human, I don't mean some humans versus other humans. I mean the very notion of being human, the very notion of being central in the world, the very notion of being supreme, of gaining some suzerainty over and above ecology, over and above non-humans, that has changed radically. Maybe the White House or the UN or UNESCO may not articulate it in your policy statements, but most of us, I dare think, understand in our bones that we're not the only ones in the room. And that there are powers and principalities, and logics and algorithms, in which we're framed, that disturbed the idea that we can just walk forward and progress and do everything that we've been doing the same way before.
Such a big change, this disruption to our ecological system, our ecosystem. The question is how do we understand this new world order? And then how do we find ourselves in this new place, find our identities, and how do we thrive? Because there's a lot of confusion and I feel like within the confusion, there's a lot of distraction.
Right. Thank you, sister. I think we're not in a new world order yet. I think we're in a new world disorder. I come from a culture that is rich with tricksters. I believe that, of course the world is replete with tricksters. Eshu and Loki and Brer Rabbit and Ijapa and Anansi the Spider, there are tricksters everywhere. And tricksters are part of the... they're not just archetypal nonsense, they're part of the fabric of the psyche. And the psyche is not just a thing that exists in our mind, it's an ecological thing. It's the shimmering energy force. The morphological force that shapes our bodies, shapes our actions, shapes our imaginations, shapes the way that we think. Shapes our politics. I feel that we are in a time of breakdown. A time of composting where identities are being invited into this imaginal soup. Where they're crumbling apart, where they're supposed to be torn apart and be made into something different.
And this is not us doing it. This is not a committee, this is not Future Crunch, this is not the White House doing this, it is the non-human. It is geophysical. It is geometaphysical or geomystical. It is like the world is examining itself and shuddering in orgasmic ecstasy. Examining what it means to be alive, examining what it means to be present. So there's a lot of disorder. There's a lot of teenage chaos or composting right now. I feel that our work, and I always hesitate to say and I must say this, that language is very violent. Even if you're very intentional, even if you're very careful about what you say, the very act of speaking is an exclusion of other kinds of speakings and other kinds of possibility. So I want to say that whatever I say is not to be considered as the truth. I would never like my words to be reduced to truth.
I'm a trickster, I play in the fields of improvisation. And whatever emerges from that room, from that way, is a strategy for organizing the world. I feel that our work today is to stay with the trouble of this disorder. That we risk rushing back into victory, into coherence, into intelligibility, into the algorithms of forward movement. This affects activism, this affects education, this affects economies, economics, studies, inquiry, it infects everything. Everything's infected, even God is infected. And now we're in the room together, we have to sit together, talk to each other in new ways. Embark on cartographical projects that take us into places of loss and grieving and noticing where we are. And maybe from there a new kind of politics might emerge. I am deathly afraid that we rush back into the normal, even though the normal is already inflicted. I'm deathly afraid that we just repeat cycles of toxicity. I'll stop there for now.
Bayo we had a very brief conversation when we were getting ready for this, and you spoke there too of this fear that you have of us rushing back into to the victory state. The virus has been controlled, the pandemic is done, the vaccine is out. The wings of victory enfold us, and the statue strides forward into the bold, new future. But you said something really beautiful, you said the coronavirus is still dancing in the village square. Victory hasn't come yet.
In a lot of your work, you talk about... you do this, you kind of try and flip narratives. You say, "what account would the lions give of the hunt?" We always hear the hunter's account of the hunt. If the victor emerges triumphant, what happens if they've still got an alien inside their body (and Ripley did by the way, so James Cameron at least got that right)...
[laughs] yes, she did.
So a lot of what you're talking about is trying to blow up narratives. Getting rid of the Hero's Journey. What are some other narratives that you're seeing emerge here? If, say, the Western narrative of the brave victorious future, perhaps we can leave it behind, then what are some of the narratives that are emerging for you that feel really resonant?
This is a story of archetypes for me. This is a story of lingering myth, that we can... they're in our archives of human and non-human or inhuman, more than human or not yet human becomings. There's a story that comes from a Greek lore about a famous and retired and celebrated hunter and warrior called Actaeon. You might've heard his story. And Acteon is this Brad Pittian, George Cloonian figure that is, yeah, he's just cool like that. And one day he goes into the forest to hunt deer, and he goes with his pack of dogs and as he's with all his laurels and his heroism, as he's wandering through the bush, he happens upon a queer site, a strange sight. He happens upon Artemis. A goddess, the goddess of nature, the goddess of forest, of play, of beauty.
Artemis is having a shower attended to by her muses. And she's just there and naked and sensuous and glorious having a shower, something that should not be looked upon by mere mortal. And Actaeon is just frozen in his gaze and he's just looking. And Artemis returns to gaze and in her gaze is a curse. And she opens her mouth and curses Actaeon in words that none of us can repeat. Actaeon feels the power of this divinity, of this figure and starts to run and run through the bush. And as he's running, the curse starts to take effect because he starts to morph into a deer. He starts to change and become animal. He starts to change into a deer. And by the end of his journey as he arrives at the clearing, he's completely deer. And his dogs, who were his companions, who celebrated him and wagged their tail anytime he came back from war, no longer recognize him, and they rip him to shreds. End of story.
I like that story!
It doesn't end with soaring trumpets, it doesn't end with a broken finish line. It ends with us becoming animal. It ends with defeat. What Rilke called defeat, being defeated over and over again. It ends with the idea, not a victory versus a losing or failure. It ends with the idea of transformations. And I feel this is architecturally electrifying in these moments. I feel that at some stage we're being called to lose, (and this is fearful for most of us including me) to lose our boundaries. To lose our sense of place, to get lost. My elders would say, "In order to find your way, you must become lost."
This kind of lostness is not just losing your bearings for a moment then asking Google, where is the next Outback or where do I go to have a steak. It is a sense of fugitivity where the land itself withdraws its endorsement and says, "I will no longer support you in your quest to ascend, to become The One. I will no longer support that venture." I feel that's a very powerful narrative. Outside of the hero's narrative, outside of the Hero's Journey, there are many other stories and we're being invited to fall apart. I feel, I feel very strongly about this.
I love storytelling, it's a very powerful thing in our culture, African culture. It's used to educate, it's used to inspire, it's used to entertain, similar to what you've shared. The question for me is, how can we use our current stories? Like the African cultures, like the indigenous cultures, how can we use storytelling to transform? You talked about going through this experience as teenagers - how can we use storytelling to support each other in this transformation, in this unfamiliar world that we are all in?
I think it's a mix of story telling and story listening. Storytelling, yes, we must tell stories, especially those stories that have been unsaid, especially those stories. Like the story of Actaeon that I've just shared. I don't mean the stories that were not said and didn't have a place in the room, I mean stories that were completely unsayable. That were totally nonsensical, unintelligible to modern citizens who have to get to the office. We must say things like - the times are urgent, let us slow down - which is disturbing, because we feel that we want to do, do, do. Let's kill the virus, let's get back to normal, let's assure and ensure and insure the future. Let us do things as we've always done them. Saying that things aren't like that is important, because it disturbs. It comes into the room like an elephant in the room, it throws everything in disarray. So we must tell stories like that. But also we must look for new stories. And I feel stories do not come from humans.
I'm a post-humanist, so you're going to hear lots of things that might seem like my un-endorsement of humans. This is not anti-humanism. This is not to dismiss our exceptionalities or to say that we don't do this or do that, it's to situate the human in a field of becoming that is larger than the human. It is to say we're indebted to furniture, to laptops, to computational algorithms that shape our behavior. It is to say we're indebted to the plants, to microbes, to gut bacteria in our bellies that actually shape the way we think and feel and experience intergenerational trauma. It's to say where we're tentacular. And if you were to actually look at the shape of human beings, we're not bipedal at all, we're tentacular like octopi. Or is it octopuses?
Is to say we are spread out, we're diffracted, we're all over the place. And that for me is an invitation to listen again. Is to build wilder coalitions of listening to the earth. To come around to what we have rudely called nature. That idea began in the enlightenment. Nature is a thing outside, is your lawn outside, let's go out to nature. No, nature is you. Nature is your table. Nature is Google as well. Nature is not harmonious, a trope of harmony. Nature is the deconstruction of place and the ongoingness of stability or the disability if you will, of place. And so my sister I feel yes, let us tell stories but we also need to do a lot of listening for the different.
And that brings us into a whole new territory of framing, practices, rituals, rites of passages, exercises, invitations, arenas, agoras, conversations that invite us to be still. And I don't mean the kind of stillness that might be framed in some hippie-like... (without disparaging my brothers in the hippie community)... I don't mean the kind of silence that is just about sitting still, which is very good, but I mean, the kind of silence that is a humbling reaffirmation that we are again, not in charge.
There's a thread running through all of this and it hasn't been mentioned yet, but it's sitting there and lurking for me, which is the question of identity. What is a post-humanist approach to race and identity? Can you speak to that from both the personal and the political, if those two things are separate at all?
No they're not separate. I feel that identity, or the trope and the discourse around identity, has brought us to very, very critical, insightful places where we are able to notice the infractions, the delicate, the painful... not delicate, that's not the word I'm looking for. The painful infractions of communities, the colonial imperial disturbances and interventions that have displaced millions of people. It was not just in the transatlantic slave trade, not just in the Middle Passage, that we began to be torn apart, so to speak. And there is a place of speaking and calling out and noticing and critiquing in power and saying, look, "This is what you've done. This is the place of pain. This is the traumatic that you've brought us into." A Nigerian musician called Burna Boy just wrote... you know Burna boy?
Yeah, I love Burna Boy. Highly recommend his music.
He just penned this beautiful song called Monsters You Made and people are reacting to it in tears. And it's basically really the idea that you turn back and call us monsters, but you do not acknowledge the conditions that made us raise a flag of identity. Because identity is really this proto-academic construct that came out as a result of wanting to galvanize community around a common banner or underneath a common banner by which we might stake our claims in the hallways of power. And identity is still very useful in that way. But I feel that we are stuck. Our politics has kind of stuck today because if you frame... if we depend solely on identity and critique, the thing about critique is that it takes on aspects of that which you critique in order to frame its critique, in order to frame it's disagreement.
It's just like this, if you lean heavily on something oppositional, you tend to take on the shape of that which you lean against, right? If you lean on a rock for so long, you might be bent like a rock. So if our politics were framed entirely on critique or around critique, then our politics is just going to be eternally subsumed or eternally incarcerated in this constellation of calling out. Of continually saying "You've done this to us and we need to hold you to account for this." My question is, because I am tired of that, without dismissing that, I feel very, very exhausted with that and I wonder, "Aren't there other places of power? Aren't there other ways of framing politics that isn't summarily about calling out the single power?" Because in doing that, in calling out power that way, we tend to reinforce the legitimacy of that power.
I don't mean to dismiss identity, I need to put that squarely and upfront. But I just need to suggest that a post-humanist reading might say, for instance, that we exceed identity. Identity is too narrow a framework to hold what we are becoming. Identity is a very modern categorical lens. It's a very limited way of seeing the world. It does not account for the transgressions between our bodies. There's this concept called transcorporeality that speaks about how our bodies are constantly trafficking with the world around us. Identity is a very molar. Molar is a Delusian word that means complete forms. Molecular is the opposite of that in a sense that it speaks about the transgressions of bodies, how we spill. We're constantly spilling.
[AT THIS POINT THE LIVE STREAM IS INTERRUPTED BY A SERIES OF TECHNICAL GLITCHES.]
Let's see if we're back and if we're not, we'll just continue. People who can't see us can watch the recording. Bayo I am so sorry to interrupt your trail of thought because you are...
All right, we're back. Great. The internet trickster was... it's all very messed up. All right. I suppose that wraps that up wherever we were there.
Bayo, We've got a few questions here from the audience. And the first question is a wonderful one about grief. I think again, it comes back to the identity politics and the questions of race that we were discussing as well, the other notion of collective grief. And in fact, I'll be really curious to see if you could tie that into what you and Lilian were talking about. Collective grief and where that intersects with these questions of identity.
Sorry, Bayo and Lilian can the two of you refresh your window?
This is good, Gus. I like it, the three dimensionality of errors and glitches. We shouldn't expect everything to run so smoothly.
We're having a transformative moment. All right, here comes Lilian.
Welcome back Lilian. Ok let's let's take a deep breath and reset. Bayo, thank you. This is fantastic. What I love about your work, it's so dense. It's categorical, it's allegorical, it's mythical, it's irreverent a lot of the time. I love the way that you weave these different things together. You talk about Greek myths; the one for me when I look at your work is Tantalus. Your work is tantalizing. Tantalus was the Greek mythological figure for whom the apple was always just out of reach. When I read your writing, I feel like there's something that's always just out of reach, that you're always just keeping it away from me.
So back to this question of collective grief, it's a question from someone on our live stream Patrick Fitzgerald. You wrote in a Facebook that post-Western globalizing identities act like breakwaters to hold back the flood of grief, towers of steel and frozen grief. Is grief the feeling underlying dysfunction in modern society?
If you mean by dysfunction you mean emancipation, then probably, yes. The things we pathologize are usually the places that we must dwell in. And I say that as a clinical psychologist who was trained to frame disrepair or the shadowy places as something horrible, right? As something we have to fix in order to push people back into the cycles of productivity. I think many of those places that we want to put a bandaid on, are the places that are treasurable, that are abundant with power. I think grief is irreducibly collective so that you say collective grief is in a sense, tautological. It's not a private matter. It's a public affair and it's not even a human thing, it's a murmuration.
The waltzing of birds in the sky where they take on curious shapes. There's no leader, there's no follower... it's just like a performance, like ice skating in the air. Birds just creating these formation. I feel like grief is the affect that onlybecomes possible when a murmuration of bodies, human and nonhuman bacteria, furniture, algorithms, concepts, ideas, spirits, ghosts, it's only possible in this constellation, this web of becoming. The way we frame it is it's something essential inside of us, and that we're only trying to get rid of it or attend to it. That's not the way I was brought up to think about grief.
The rituals that we did in Africa for instance. Where one person grieving is the village grieving. I remember driving into our village with my father in a casket. He was a huge... as we call it an Africa, a Big Man and he was to be buried in the village. It wasn't even our decision. We were trained. We were city kids and my father was an ambassador. He died in service and then he was brought home from his post and we had to take him to the village and we're in this convoy. And as we're driving into the village, I remember seeing women, especially women, just crying on the streets, just running and tearing their clothes, and putting sand on their hair and I was irritated. As a Western-trained, educated boy. They didn't know my dad, what are they doing? It felt hypocritical. And I remember my sister and I getting annoyed by that. They were taking the shine away from us. We're supposed to be the focus of grief here!
Until I learned later on in my latter years, when I started to embark on decolonial readings and excursions, that the way grief is metabolized, is alchemized in my hometown in my world is not like... that word psychotherapy, Western Freudian psychotherapy, it doesn't fit easily into our context. This client relationship. How are you feeling today? No, this is not about cigars and penises, this is really about a world that transcends and goes beyond the human. People will roll on the ground, even though they didn't know you, they will perform it like it's our common vocation. And I think that's a beautiful emblematic figure of grief for our times. That grieving is a cartographical project, potentially a decolonial way of addressing oppression, addressing the closeness of things.
Why? Because grief seems to be associated with shape-shifting. Maybe seasons are the way the earth grieves? Maybe the falling of leaves is the way trees grieve, maybe the waltzing of the leaf to the ground is the way trees grieve? Maybe that's how they like reach the ground with tears. Tears being leaves here. Maybe grief and joy is how plants open or a rose blossoms and closes on itself. I feel grief is just coming to a place, this amniotic place of stillness, of being in a womb again and again. That doesn't tie squarely with the algorithms of modernity. Modernity asks, "Have you been productive? Have you be intelligible?" But with grief, we lose our intelligibility. Literally, we lose words. We don't know what to say. We cannot understand things. And that is what grief is. I think of grief as a gift.
Of course, I don't mean that in an absolute way, as in, let's continue grieving for all time, no. I mean nothing exists in this world without tensions, but there is a place of holding the power of grief together and I don't mean by sitting together and crying together. I mean treating loss as activism, treating loss as collective inquiry. What if loss was a research project? Not tethered to a university, but a field of research, a project that we can do together. Study together as a site of otherwise of the otherwise, if you will. And I could riff on forever. You better stop me now.
[THE GLITCH RETURNS]
How do we do this? How do we sit in grief without becoming overwhelmed? How do we gives ourselves permission, how do we create the kind of psychological safety required to be able to grieve collectively?
I think there are rituals and again by rituals, of course, you know that I do not mean...
[THE GLITCH RETURNS]
I will repeat the question for those who didn't hear. Lillian's question was about psychological safety, how do we stay with grief without overwhelming ourselves? I think there's a simple answer to that. There are technologies available...
Lilian's question, for those who can hear me, how do we transition? How do we model those parameters of safety without being too safe? How do we model the parameters of safety in our modern world, learning a lot from collectivist cultures? Collectivist cultures that privilege grieving for instance, the phenomenon of grieving, not as an individual affair or private matter, but as a public affair. How do we model that in our modern world and also keep an eye on the fact that we don't want to be overwhelmed by this experience? Great question. I love it.
It's a simple one for me. Experimentation, which we're always at the edge of. Invention is the frothing edge of the future. Work is always a matter of dancing between the supposedly old and the supposedly new, right? There is nothing that is old, that is not already infected by the new, and there is nothing that is new, that is not already invaded by the old. As we're pressing towards the new it's easy to forget the historical instances around us. History is replete with stories about people who thought they were doing something new but were actually just moving around pieces that iterated the familiar.
So, I think our work is vast and our work is not singular, it's intergenerational. We have to meet with ancestors. We have to do archival studies. We have to put one foot in the so called past. I think the temporality of the idea that the past flows to the present and to the future and the past is done with and we're living in the moving present and the future is yet to come, does not give justice to how the past is lingering or how the past might actually be yet to come in the words of Karen Barad.
I think time is thick and curdling and is not as lenient as we think it is. Our work is to linger, to stay with ghosts, is to learn from that which is supposedly done with. And there are technologies, there are social, cyclical, philosophical, ontological, epistemological, ethical technologies that might help us frame situations where we understand or seek to understand how to be boundaried in a safe way against...
Ah I see The Glitch is back!
[THE GLITCH RETURNS WITH A VENGEANCE AND WIPES LILIAN FROM THE SCREEN]
For everyone listening, this is an embodiment of everything that we're speaking about, right? No smooth sailing forward. Hail to the God of the Glitch as I go ahead.
Having said that about the old, I think learning from the so-called past, again, that is not quite the language that I would use, learning from the past in order to apply in the present. Not the language I would use. It's present work, it's abiding work. Some of my friends do ancestral work where it's about meeting, not someone that was dead and done with but someone that is maybe not present, but is quite alive. I think it's a phenomenon that Derrida would call Hauntologies. Not ontologies but hontologies. We're being haunted by the ideas of the past in the present. We need to do that work, esteem them and learn and listen to them. But it's also listening to traditions that might inform the questions you've asked about framing useful ways to embrace this more than human phenomenon of grief. This invites us to experiment with new practices and new strategies because experimentation is a way of reiterating the yet to come.
And also the might have been and also the has already been, has already happened. I'm speaking in many tenses now. It's not just moving forward with the so-called new, pristine, and pure, it's a way of bringing all of that into the framework and working with that. So as not to speak into abstract language, I would use an example of some people in India, friends of mine up North, doing some work in a place called Swaraj University, which is unlike any university you've ever known (and I can say that with some confidence). They hold grief circles, informed by traditions in India, but there's also some noticing that there's something that wasn't quite present before when those traditions took place or when they were formed. So, using virtual rooms to act on grief as an instigation to explore our surroundings, not something that is emerging, so to speak. I'm speaking about emergence as the new and the old dancing with each other.
Thank you, Bayo. These events normally go for about an hour. I'm going to ask permission from both of you, if we can run over by maybe just 4 or 5 minutes. I feel like this conversation could go for 3 hours, but boundaries are also quite good. They have their own creative force. Maybe we can answer these two questions simultaneously. We've got a few people who are saying, how do we jolt ourselves out? If we're stuck in corners, what's the push? What's the shove? And Bayo, you might not have this by the way. There may not always be a particular course to follow.
And here's the challenge to you Bayo, can you also include in your answer to this, a description of your course? For those of you who are curious, there is a button below that takes you to Bayo's new online course. So let me summarize. How do we jolt ourselves out of our corners? How do we uncover these new stories or these new ways of stepping into both the past, the present, and the future simultaneously? And how does that all that link into your course?
Let me take the liberty of rephrasing the question. How do we jolt ourselves? I would ask rather, how do we recognize the jolts that are already happening? It's not about us jolting ourselves out of something. Let me explain. There was a book that came out about climate change and chaos. And at the back of that book it says, "We have to do something about climate change yesterday, not tomorrow. We have to do something about climate change yesterday." This book came out in the 1970s when the first Earth Day happened.
Since the 1970s, we've had countless meetings. How many conferences are around climate? How many books have been released around climate? "It's time to slow down. Let us slow down. Let us turn off the lights." Let us do all of this for 40 years, 50 years. Since the 1970s we've been talking about slowing down. We've had the Paris Climate Agreement. We've had Obama, we've had Greta Thunberg, we've had movements. And then, in the opening months of 2020 this year, a virus came and everyone went indoors.
It wasn't us. We didn't jolt ourselves. All our discourses, our rhetoric, our conversations were not measurable to the power of this one virus that came and disrupted the entire apparatus of meaning making. It's not about us jolting ourselves you see, it's about us recognizing the gifts of the jolt and staying with that. Again, this is me invoking the myth of liberal humanism that we're free. It says we're free. We're free political agents. We can shape the world the way we want it, and if I hear some wise dude, I can just unilaterally take the rhetoric and apply it to my world.
There's a woman that I learned about recently that wrote a book about the hidden algorithms of a social app called Tinder and how they have files on every person that navigates their way to Tinder, files upon files. She was a journalist, an investigative journalist, and she exposed this hidden world of Tinder and how it's actually shaping us, but she confessed, "I couldn't stop going to Tinder." I mean she had all the data on Tinder, but she could not remove herself from Tinder.
My brother and my sister, I feel this is the time for us to notice the portal in the sky or the rip or the rupture in the ground and say, "That's an opportunity right there." We've been gifted an opening from the powers that be to do some work in this crack in the ground.
And there are some archeological, geological insights that I do not want to riff upon right now because it could take us 1 hour more about sites opening and how the sacred springs forth. But I feel we have to stay and maybe do some work of staying with and assembling and constellating villages of technologies which we might become fugitive and become invisible to the powers that be and potentially become wiser. I call it weird politics. Politics is about subjects meeting, right? A weird politics is about disintegration of subjecthood or subjectivity and sticking with that. I think I should write that down...
And that might be a way of framing my course. Again, I would also say that I hesitate to frame it. I don't like to put things easy for people, to put it in a nutshell. Just reduce it to a few short words, a few ideas. No, I don't want to do that for you. I want to invite you to go there. And if you feel called in your bones, join us. If not, don't join us. If you're confident, if you know your way through the world, if you have answers, if your convictions are not overwhelmed by your uncertainties and the indeterminacies of this time, don't come.
But if you feel invited, if you feel in your bones, "I don't think I can proceed in the world. I think the questions I have overwhelm the certainties that I have and I feel politically homeless. The left and the right no longer appeal to me. I feel like a fugitive in the world that has birthed me. What do I do with that? And how can it go beyond me?" Then maybe you have a sanctuary with us. I don't want to reduce things for you. It's a monstrous space. It's not a safe space. It's a very provocative space. But read it, see if it appeals to you, see if you feel called, pray, whatever. Do whatever you have to do to meet your own ancestors. And if they tell you go to that then, maybe it's free.
Beautiful. Let's wrap this up. Lilian, is there anything that's clearer to you on the other side of this conversation?
I have a better understanding about that post-humanist perspective. What I'm clear about is the importance of inquiry, especially when you're confused with loss, when you're transforming. As someone who likes certainty and that's something that has enslaved in me, for a very long time. Now, it's about navigating through uncertainty, and that's done by asking lots of questions. That's probably the best... That's the biggest thing that I've gotten out of this. Ask questions, ask lots of questions and ask them to other people around who you have a relationship with, or perhaps don't even have a relationship with, with nature, with our ancestors, ask questions and you'll discover the next step. Thank you Bayo for giving me that clarity.
Bayo, last question to you. We've asked you some questions. The audience has been throwing questions not as hand grenades, but as maybe little packages of pot-pourri actually. Do you have a final question for the audience? A question for people to ask themselves as they walk away from this conversation?
What if the way we respond to crisis is part of the crisis? What if justice, the justices we seek, whether it's racial justice, whether it's climate justice, what if that gets in the way of transformation? What if the frameworks with which we think about hope, about losing hope, about victory, about failure, what if those binary thought patterns and categories of thoughts actually keep us trapped within the very realms that we're trying to leave behind and dismantle and flee? I will leave us with that question.
Bayo, thank you, and thank you so much to everyone who joined us. If you have any thoughts, observations, please put them in the chat we would love to hear what everyone thought. This conversation will be recorded. We will send it out to everyone who attended and didn't attend. And please could you all join me wherever you are at home, wriggle in your seat, wave your hands, close your eyes, or even let your eyes roll back in your heads in thanking Bayo for joining myself and Lilian today.
Gus, can I say something? The most eloquent member of our discussion today, wasn't me obviously, wasn't Lillian, or Gus, or the questions, the beautiful, generous questions. Obviously, it was The Glitch. And I'd repeat that people listen to the eloquence of all the glitch moments that happened. The eloquence of the glitches is something that is negativised and pathologized. You want to listen to glitches as well. The interruptions that disturb smooth sailing forward are just as wise as the words that are interrupted. Listen to the glitches as well, the places of failure.
I love that.
Thank you to the God of the Glitch. Amazing, Bayo, you're a star and we look forward to staying in touch. Everyone, go have a look at the course. I don't think we need to say anymore. Thank you very much. That's it for this edition of Future Brunch.
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