An awareness of the collective…

I have to get ready now to go back into my classroom tomorrow morning. Although, my students are young adults I suspect their reactions to the events of this weekend will probably bear a similar weight of apprehension to that of my young children, as to what exactly this world that awaits them is.

As teachers, we have a responsibility not to shape the collective consciousness but to awaken a consciousness of the collective. I have read so many polarising arguments over the weekend as to what, why, how and whose fault. I have read very little that will really help me reflect on how I can make a difference as someone who has a voice in a classroom, as we mourn the unspeakable atrocities and killings that have become a staple of our media diet.

One of the many sensitising roles that we can have as teachers is to work to raise awareness. The awareness is essentially about ideology. Ideology, for me, is a difficult word to access, let alone use successfully. It collocates too easily with ‘religious’, it evokes complex definitions and it always seems to be represented as power and the inevitable misuse and abuse of power. Why has the world mourned Paris so publicly and so romantically this weekend when Beirut or Ankara, among many other cities for example, deserved similar ballads of international solidarity? Because it’s Paris? Not because it’s ‘Paris’ but a society that defends freedom of speech, despite its myriad of failings? Because Paris enshrines a value system based on the ideology of freedom? I really don’t know.

Considering ideology, I feel, leads us to an understanding of how badly our world is divided by its ‘isms’. Eduardo Galeano, in an interview with Democracy Now, said “We have a memory cut in pieces. And I write trying to recover our real memory, the memory of humankind, what I call the human rainbow, which is much more colourful and beautiful than the other one, the other rainbow. But the human rainbow had been mutilated by machismo, racism, militarism and a lot of other isms, who have been terribly killing our greatness, our possible greatness, our possible beauty” (he says it around the 15th minute of the link, if you’d like to hear his lovely voice saying it).

What can we do? How do we awaken a consciousness of the collective. One way maybe is to find points of alignment and use them to construct meaningful, intellectually and emotionally responsible narratives of the world around us. To tell stories that include, not separate, one human experience and another. The shifting of imbalance will only come by small deliberate movements that are full of humanity and love. We need to mourn, to hug, to love and to make the right messages out of so much senselessness. The idea of international human rights is not yet universal. Equality is not something everyone believes in or even thinks they should believe in. And humanity…I’m not sure whether it is a setting sun that we once had or a rising sun that we need to clear the overgrown path to see.

Here are three points of alignment that I will browse as I plan tomorrow’s lessons:

One thought on “An awareness of the collective…

  1. Hi Divya,

    A great post, and I wanted to comment in response. Firstly, I agree with you when you talk about ‘the collective’. Any analysis must criticise the prevailing individualism in Western society – it’s a methodological problem, and raising the profile of the collective is a necessary step in developing understanding.

    But Eduardo Galeano himself was a stern critic of two ‘isms’: neoliberalism and capitalism; interestingly, though he postitioned himself on the Left he was also critical of the dogmatism he saw in Left politics (

    So personally, I don’t think you can develop a real understanding of the kind of chaos we see around us without analysing the circuits of capitalism and militarism that we all participate in –
    whether we like it or not. This is what I would add to the conversation you’ve started.

    To give an example: buying from Amazon. How is it that we are able to buy so efficiently, cheaply, and conveniently from Amazon? What is the system that gave birth to this efficiency and convenience? Answer:The modern logistics system came from war, from the military.

    “Corporate and military logistics are increasingly entangled; this is a matter of not only
    military forces clearing the way for corporate trade but corporations actively supporting
    militaries as well. Logistics are one of the most heavily privatized areas of contemporary
    warfare” –The Deadly Life of Logistics: mapping the violence in world trade (2014), Deborah Cowen

    But when you try to develop a more-than-common-sense analysis of what’s happening in today’s world, you often get a response like: “well, what can we do?” “it’s all too much”, or even worse “it’s just human nature” (to cause wars, hurt and maim one another).

    This is a flight from thinking; especially critical thinking. The interesting question here is: what causes this flight from thinking? I propose three possible causes: a depolitization of society (encapsulated by Tony Blair’s “we’re all middle-class now”) – this leads what Tariq Ali calls an “extreme middle” and actually erodes democracy:

    Secondly, you have the rise of expert culture, as described by Ivan Illich in Disabling Professions (1877): “The Age of Professions will be remembered as the time when politics withered, when voters, guided by professors, entrusted to technocrats the power to legislate needs, renounced the authority to decide who needs what and suffered monopolistic oligarchies to determind the means by which these needs shall be met”.

    Thirdly, you have the related phenomenon of the growth of quietism, which follows on from the depoliticization of politics and the rise of an expert culture.

    These three things proliferate in our society, and in the ELT community as well.

    Liked by 1 person

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