In “Use and Abuse of History,” Nietzsche writes that “we need history, but not the way a spoiled loafer in the garden of knowledge needs it.” I find this statement important for all participants of a history, and particularly so for those fighting a history’s oppression. With respect to this week of November in 2011’s tumultuous context, the statement makes an important distinction between “knowing” history and knowing how to make use of it.
As Nietzsche goes on to articulate in “Use,” to invoke the past is to essentially recreate a “dead” moment, whereby in recalling an occurrence one does not remember it precisely as it took place, but as bias influences one to think it did. In order to use history “correctly” then, Nietzsche suggests we understand the challenges in re-imagining these occurrences.
Here, I presuppose that most readers already understand inherent bias present among all students, faculty and administrators involved in last year’s clash. I also highlight my own bias in attempting to foster critical reflection on what occurred the day of Nov. 18, 2011.
I speak as a student interested in bettering my communities and holding others with that same interest accountable. Whether others are fellow students, faculty, administrators or anyone else makes little difference to me.
I also speak with an opposition to political oppression and a suspicion of authority, as well as a passion for my individual findings of knowledge or information.
Finally, I speak with consciousness that even when others share my biases, I still speak only for myself. I believe this last clarification is particularly important for supportive readers to consider, as in supporting the views of individuals it’s not uncommon to surrender our own voices in “being represented.”
Furthermore, being of Western culture I believe we often curb the volume of our voices when we consciously or unconsciously idolize musicians and movie stars, politicians, theorists and family and so on.
At 21, I certainly still idolize certain figures at times, but then I correct myself, or try, because only I can voice my understandings. Only I know my story. Similarly, figures only know their story, and that same exclusivity to one’s voice applies to any reader absorbing these statements.
It’s in this fashion that I will approach my personal studies of the events on the week of Nov. 18, 2011. As usual, in sharing this, I suggest others approach the day’s history likewise.
In the next few days, there will be many stories about what happened in Davis that week, but I believe it’s important to avoid excessively romanticizing the history of Nov. 18’s actions. Lest we become abusers of history to further our cause like the powers that be, I think a strong analysis requires consideration of the multiple parties and facets described.
Correspondingly, I think demonizing any claimed figures of oppression falls under dogmatic and uneducated culture. To me, figures merely represent structures of oppression much larger than one person — structures including not only the aforementioned figures of one’s life, but also one’s self and much more.
In other words, in thinking about the history of Nov. 18, 2011, we should be careful not to forget the flaws of our interpretations or that of the oppressors and oppressed. For critical dialogue about re-imagining the events and how to use their recreation, these distinctions are integral.
I know that for some, more dialogue doesn’t seem to create action quickly enough to assure barbaric responses to peaceful protest are never approved by UC again.
As I have previously suggested, those concerned should inform themselves further about the issues to question the UC administration’s progress on policy adjustments today. But recognizing a need to go beyond waiting for answers from “leaders,” I encourage others to also question those we’re inclined to side with, why we’re inclined to do so, and more.
It’s only after exercising this cautionary approach, I believe, that we can employ the history we record to achieve positive contributions to the gradual process of change.
In truth, Nov. 18, 2012, will pass just like the year before it, but the education one can gain from it will remain indefinitely.
From there, change comes when “we” decide.
JIMMY RECINOS will miss you Thanksgiving weekend, but you can wish him a good one at email@example.com.