Making joy is hard. Making meaning is harder. And making truth is maddeningly difficult.
Friendships, food, work, writing, protesting – everything I have done at Conn has involved some mish-mash of these three attempts. Needless to say, this paper has long been yet another target of my creative energies. And not just aesthetic or individual creativity. Remember, I am talking about creating joy, meaning, truth. This creativity, then, is simultaneously personal, social and political.
Every two weeks of the academic year, a motley group of people produce the Voice using one or more of their creativities. This does not mean that the paper that comes out of this attempt necessarily contains joy, meaning or truth for anybody other than its producers; that is our hope. But of course we know it is ultimately a pretty futile one. Few people engage with the ink we spread on 10’’ X 16’’ solid tree goo. Indeed, fewer and fewer people engage with or even put ink on paper with much integrity. Over the years, I have spilled much ink criticizing most of the world’s media for its total lack of a moral compass. In writing my final editorial for the Voice before I graduate, I could continue to offer commentary on the refusals of the media to speak against awful things happening in the world. Instead, today I want to use this space, this ink, this chance to be read, to really appreciate the pervasiveness and persistence of the systems of power we are imbricated in.
Foucault, naturally, says it best: “In defining the effects of power as repression, one adopts a purely juridical conception of such power, one identifies power with a law which says no, power is taken above all as carrying the force of a prohibition. Now I believe that this is a wholly negative, narrow, skeletal conception of power, one which has been curiously widespread. If power were never anything but repressive, if it never did anything but to say no, do you really think one would be brought to obey it? What makes power hold good, what makes it accepted, is simply the fact that it doesn’t only weigh on us as a force that says no, but that it traverses and produces things, it induces pleasure, forms knowledge, produces discourse. It needs to be considered a productive network which runs through the whole social body, much more than as a negative instance whose function is repression.”
Scary indeed, the idea that we are not only “obeying” something called power when we are told “no” or directly and forcibly repressed, but that we are also obeying and feeding power even when we feel pleasure and joy, even when we make and experience meaning in life, and even when we come to know and share truth. This is precisely why I say making joy, meaning and truth is hard. It isn’t hard because these are hard to find. It is hard instead because there are many, too many, things that can give us joy, meaning and truth but in doing so, bring us into the obedience of power. It can be incredibly difficult to identify when this is happening. And don’t even get me started on how hard this makes it to be a person who wants to resist power.
It took me a long time to come around to accepting and understanding that the personal, and indeed everything in life, is way more political than I had ever imagined before. The difficulties didn’t stop once I realized and accepted this, either, because what am I to do with this realization? There are many ways in which this understanding of power is a heavy burden to carry. Just last week a professor asked me in class, “Is the Voice an example of a free press?” I found myself tongue-tied because the answer was – nobody is repressing the Voice and yet we are not “free.” We are produced by systems of power. Power, exercised locally by campus authorities and in the world at large, informs what we consider acceptable topics of investigation and discussion, appropriate degrees of personal investment, ethical reporting, respectable levels of skepticism of authority, “objective” and “rational” kinds of critique, the right target audience, and so forth.
It is in this context that I can feel both intense pride at this, the final issue of 2016, and yet know there is a long way to go. You will find a “Year in Review” section in which we have put together snippets of a truly phenomenal year at the Voice, a year in which many of us began to realize the ways we were being produced by power and began to try resisting it. You will find a “Community Perspectives” page where we continue to break with the expectations set for us and share our ink and paper with faculty and staff. You will find a great deal of discussion of politics and resistance throughout the pages of this paper. All of these are informed in small part by my overarching vision for the Voice as a medium and practice of resistance. I hope as the Voice goes into its future, it continues to oppose not just silences and the repression of truths, but also the truth-making involved in the creation of injustice. This paper has been very important to me as an outlet for my creativities and I carry fond attachments to it and to the people who have poured themselves into it.
This may be the longest writing one page has even taken me, and it is hard to stop mining my mind for thoughts that I can attach ink to in this issue. But a future of frantic proofreading beckons. Do share with me any of your thoughts on this issue that you are moved to share. Have a nice winter.