Tag Archives: graduation

The kids are all right

Greta Thunberg interview at Teh Graun. Full of things I already know be true, but which I nonetheless struggle to articulate through the weary cynicism of four decades of life under capitalist realism. The killer line:

We must focus on what we can do. Not what we can’t do.

It’s true. It’s also difficult. That’s how you know it’s true.

She’s quite a character, Thunberg — in the literary sense. (Having not met her, I’ve no idea what she’s really like, obvs.) I worry on her behalf that she’s gonna be used — maneuvered into position as a media-cyborg figurehead, a living secular saint to which corporations and governments might genuflect as a way to perform a piety that does not extend beyond the surface.

But at the same time, I think that she’s in some respects more cynical than I am, and can see all that coming from a mile off. If she’s wise enough to pick the right allies, she might be able to judo those genuflections into genuine action. I worry more that she’ll endure a lifetime of monstering — and while she’s clearly wise to that already, it’ll make her life an endurance test of epic proportions. It takes a lot of guts to face that and not flinch; it takes guts to lead with actions rather than words. I won’t label her a hero, because as Rebecca Solnit (and Donna Haraway and Ursula Le Guin, and many more before them) have pointed out, heroes are exactly the problem. But she’s inspiring, and hell knows I need some light in the gloom. Maybe you do, too.


Quiet week here last week, as I was distracted by (among other things) the formalities of my doctorate graduation. I would happily have skipped the ceremony, in truth — and had a paper I sent out earlier in the year been accepted, I would have skipped it without hesitation. But the paper wasn’t accepted (indeed, the person running the seminar never received it, for reasons unclear), and so my mother and sister got the full ceremonial theatre malarky, complete with me dressed up like Raistlin™: The Early Years.

It’s not that I don’t value ritual; on the contrary, the power of ritual is a big deal for me. But rituals are about flows of power and energy — and when they’re scaled up, the power and energy flows toward the institution rather than the individual. Graduation is about your absorption, not your escape. I don’t regret going, but for me the important thing is the piece of paper that documents the conferral of the degree: that’s my passport, a thing that will help me get across the borders between here and wherever the hell it is I’m headed.

And much as I regret the necessity for such (not to mention the existence of borders where one’s papers are checked, whether literally or metaphorically), I recognise it nonetheless. Because as Thunberg points out, it’s time to get a move on — it’s time to do the thing(s) we can do.

The way out is through.