There isn’t a day that doesn’t go by where I haven’t thought about the fate of my submitted thesis. How much headache my arguments have given my supervisor — especially that brevity isn’t my greatest strength when it comes to writing? Was I clear enough in articulating my arguments? Whose perspective that I have overlooked or indeliberately excluded while writing a document devoid of social interaction and collaboration with everybody else? Which ideas that have gotten obsolete within these two weeks of submission? What tiny typos —which evidently often surfaced at every moment of document binding — I have made, which would make my supervisor and examiners question the quality of my work? More importantly at this point of time, which part of these posed questions above are legit concerns which should be weighed seriously and productively, and which are just mere worries out of my control?
The more I thought of it, the more I came across some emerging takes on today’s social movements, especially as the world is in upheaval these days — Lebanon, Hong Kong, Iraq, Algeria, Sudan, Chile, and many more. One of those includes this newsletter post from Alan Jacobs, on the rise of leaderless movements (literally the area of my research). He started with the report by Nick Taber, giving a glimpse on Hong Kong’s movement which acts without any formal leadership, and how much this reminds him of the model of distributed action in a novel called New Model Army — envisioned in the way that collectivised and non-hierarchical organisations of mercenaries took over the European political scene in the book. The leaderless strategy of the Hong Kong protest was also mentioned by Maciej Ceglowski, who was at the front line of one of the protests:
The protesters learned in 2014 that having leaders was a weakness. Once the leadership was arrested, the heart went out of the occupy movement, and it lost momentum. So in 2019, there is no leadership at all. The protests are intentionally decentralised, using a jury-rigged combination of a popular message board, the group chat app Telegram, and in-person huddles at the protests.
And if people were asking “why so many protests?!”, other than giving the belligerent answer of “we’re SO tired of everything!” and at the same time, being so tired to list down what these everything were — send them this article:
Afflicted by what the anthropologist David Graeber calls “despair fatigue”, protesters are putting their bodies on the line because it feels as if they have no other choice – and because those who rule over them have rarely seemed more vulnerable. Most have spent their lives under the maxim “there is no alternative” – and now circumstances have forced them to widen their political imaginations in search of something new. As one poster proclaims in Chile: “It’s not about 30 pesos, it’s about 30 years.
On a personal note, I have received many requests for a number of interesting opportunities lately, which, some of them are entirely new but I know I could figure them out given some sufficient information. This is scary, but exciting, but also scary — but still exciting!
“Best advice I ever got was an old friend of mine, a black friend, who said you have to go the way your blood beats. If you don’t live the only life you have, you won’t live some other life, you won’t live any life at all. That’s the only advice you can give anybody. And it’s not advice, it’s an observation.” – James Baldwin, interviewed by Richard Goldstein, via Stacy-Marie Ishmael.
I think I am slowly heading the way my blood beats back again. Like how this spectrometer that made her way menacingly through a small German town, proclaiming by appearance, by potential, and by function how important her existence is. Look at her.