Whenever I pick up an academic text I start to feel a little overwhelmed. Typically, this would result from the density of the material, the inaccessibility of the language, or some other factor that could be directly attributed to the generally pedantic and pretentious nature of academia in and of itself. Academia, being deeply entrenched in a capitalist economy based on false notions of scarcity of knowledge, can be easily dismissed in radical circles as a higher evil, one of the many forces that works to oppress and marginalize those who aspire to learn and grow, operating as an extension of industrial work forces at large.
Degrees in themselves are tokens of having survived the system.
Debt is the plague one willingly inhales when they enter the halls, lest their parents provide them with enough savings to act as a filter for the noxious atmospheres of crammed hallways and torpid flourescent lighting.
These tropes are well known in my news feeds, present in the lexicon of underground radical discourse, registering school as a de facto representative of the enemy, the parent, the manager, heirarchy, ennui, soul crushing tedium–all taken on, willingly or not, in the name of becoming a citizen of an aspiring social class.
These are ideas that circulate in my mind on a regular basis, par for the course of a dirty punk kid who has been fucked over by the system their whole life, who for once wants to fuck back, to lean into the dark thrust, grin, devour the other ravenously, fueled by the frustration of living most of my life feeling like I don’t have a choice as to how I can live it.
These ideas circulate as I wander the shelves in bookstores, find myself wandering over to the theory section as if it is the only one in the store, picking up the most disturbing theoretical texts I can find about death, the pain of subjecthood, bad sex, witch burnings, the darkness of desire, anything that feeds my romantic longing for truth.
They circulate as I leaf through the pages, finding words that I would never understand without the aid of the internet, many that I never find definitions for, getting lost in the haze of terms and smoke and mirrors that seem to say so much. These authors seem to speak to everything I have ever thought and felt, before tearing apart my basic understanding of how I exist in the world.
Still, the notions of communing with a great evil never leave my mind as I sit down in the softest chair I can find, tear off the shrinkwrap, crack open a tome written by two theorists I may never meet, who may or may not have come from a more affluent background, conversing in a tongue I somehow find myself able to grasp despite never being formally taught the language. I read slowly, deliberately, not wanting to miss some crucial revelation or point of conjecture that may spark some point of reflection in me.
These points of reflection build, tesselate, spiral into a brilliant ball of clear light beaming with the same brilliance one feels the first time they gaze into a kaleidoscope. I realize this evil does not exist objectively as evil, only as a constructed set of relations in a world of nearly infinite possibilities.
Still, the feelings of alienation, of foreclosure, never leave.
If it is reading these texts that invokes such a reaction, why do I do it? I realize that in order to grow as a person I sometimes need to let in something that I believe to be harmful, that sometimes in a strange climate I may have to forage for my own food, risk being poisoned if I do not want to starve.
I get better at learning which ideas are poisonous, not to be considered. I refuse to read Butler, Greer, and most of their contemporaries because they consider my Transness to be an affront to their essential feminine essence. I gloss over the existentialists because they adhere to strictly to Freud, gloss over the vast bulk of political theory because I have read enough to know that Marx too was an asshole.
Once again, I revert back to my default state of isolation, confusion, wondering if I’ll ever get to go back to school, and what it might cost me.
I realize I become overwhelmed not by my lack of comprehension, but the sense of deep knowing I experience as I engage with those aspects of life that were once torn from me. That knowing is also a direct experience of my own power; its inverse is also present: that I recognize my own power by seeing the ways that I have lost it, by feeling the lack as a cruel tension in my ribcage.
My eyes wander from the screen, light tapping of fingers paused for a second, replaced with light sniffling and the precipitant wavering in the lower half of my vision. I think of all the times I’ve had to compromise my integrity to keep going, to work jobs that I fundamentally disagree with, to pay the rent on a house that’s going to be demolished in a few months, working toward a life I would want to look back on rather than one I could live while I have the chance. The alcohol continues to work its way into my bloodstream, making me simultaneously more sensitive and more confident.
Goddamn you, capitalism. I’ll tear my heart out and fist it down your throat until you’re gasping for breath, pull back just before you lose consciousness, do it as many times as it feels good for me, never once worrying about your humanity, as I emulate your inability to feel for human beings. When you’re dead I’ll shit on your grave and refuse to mourn you, the way you refuse to mourn those you destroy. I can say this fantasy exists as a product of an individualistic society, and I know for sure that by dividing us they are winning.
Even in my dreams of revenge I am alone.
Here, I come back to contemplating the memory of purchasing Sex, or the Unbearable, along with Baedan Issue #3: A Journal of Queer Time Travel. Their spines hold years of promise, of learning, of knowledge yet to be integrated. Their contents are crafted with sheer intent, the will of many souls dancing together and spilling out onto the page. I think of my dear friends who read theory, most of whom are very, very far from here. I think of the fact that reading is often a solitary act, and in order to read these texts I must disengage from my peers, dive into bleached paper instead of the world around me. I think of how badly I wish to write, to express myself, and consider my own naïveté, an amateur approach, having dropped the fuck out of school in order to survive. I think of the times I’ve tried to write fiction or poetry, felt utterly inept, each utterance forced, like I’m trying to write with someone else’s left hand. (I’m right handed.)
I think of the fact that no matter how bitter or upset I feel, I’m still drawn to explore these abstract realms, and that even if I’m not meeting a basic word count, or I feel like I have to struggle against my trauma to say anything at all, that it doesn’t mean I should ignore my desire to try, to exist, and to not be silent in the face of a world that seems utterly futile and hopeless. To remember that if I am willing to open up to the process, to let myself be uncertain and in the act of uncovering, grow to know one thing and become aware of so much more that I may never know, that I can perhaps move closer to living the way that I want to.
And if I share that process with you, what does that mean to you?