I had a dream last night which was really a nightmare.
In it, I received a phonecall directing me to go to the cabinet office. Dutifully, I went. It was early in the morning, and I didn’t have to wait as long as I expected. Not long after I arrived, someone came and led me into a back room. There were people in the room I didn’t know, mostly young politically weighted professionals. They introduced themselves to me. Most had heard of me but we had never met. We observed each other warily.
Then into the office walked several old friends, people with whom I spent many days in my twenties. They were brothers, and they were working for the government.
“You’re with me,” said the one I knew best, whom I’ll call John.
Turns out we were the publicity / public relations / negotiating arm of whatever work was being wrought within the cabinet office. This day, the work was a long-term meeting with foreign investors. I found myself rather liking the investor in question, who was a European of some sort and who was proposing a major land development somewhere on New Providence. At the same time, though, I found myself hating the job itself, hating the project, hating the government and its policies which were poised to sell yet more of our patrimony to yet another profit-seeker. I said only one thing in the negotiations that we conducted all day. I can’t remember what it was, but it was something that was self-evident to me but that no one had thought about, and it had to do with the long-term implications of proceeding with the development as projected, and it seemed to change the way in which the development would, well, develop.
At the end of the day, when we were finally finished (fourteen hours or more of time wasted selling Bahamian land to external interests) John told me I was invaluable and I needed to be in all of the meetings from here on in. Thank the lord, that’s when I woke up.
All day I’ve been happy. Happy and relieved that I no longer work for government, that I no longer have to spend my days doing things I absolutely repudiate for the sake of a job, that all I have to combat the injustices our governments perpetrate on the people they supposedly serve is my mouth in a closed room.
And I recognize the feelings I had in the dream. They were the feelings I had–exactly–when I sat in the room I sat in while government officials discussed with resort officials the way they wanted Sidney Poitier to be recognized, the way they wanted to rename the bridge. I had been summoned to a meeting about which I knew nothing. My presence there was little more than an embodied stamp of approval on something about which I had not been consulted, had not even been wholly informed. I was there so that politicians, presumably, could say that the “Co-chair” of a non-existent committee had been consulted, nay, present, during negotiations. They’re the feelings one has when one has been silenced.
My waking up was liberation, because I now work for the one government corporation whose freedom of speech is enshrined in its very act. I know, of course, that speaking too liberally can still be punished, can still be silenced, but at the same time my employer is governed, indeed, constituted, by a law that promises “academic freedom”. That is why I support the students who have begun to criticize the government (the government that many of them trust(ed), voted for, and may even still wish to support) and the administration of the college. That is why I do not share the media and public opinion about that criticism–that it’s just another example of the college’s unruliness.
I support the students without wholly agreeing with all their demands because what they are doing is right, what they are doing is not partisan, and what they are doing stems from fundamental principles. I do not support their harnessing or dismissing of their actions by any political faction, because what they are fighting for is beyond any party good. They are fighting for their future, and that is not shaped or bound by any three-letter profanity that I can think of; and they know that, in the words of Dia da Costa,
the very construction of political culture needs to be changed, the method and purpose of government and democracy need rethinking and reorganisation. Political economic culture cannot be about individual and party gain because that amounts to reproducing and reducing social life to liberal democratic and market epistemes. (da Costa, “Theatre as Space of Political Economy”)
The students have had the audacity to imagine a different world, and to act as though they are right to want to live in it. More power to them, I say.