Tuesday, June 20, 2006

You Belong Not To Yourself

Father tells me I should not write anything anywhere anymore. He explains that co-opting is dangerous, especially for someone who is young, clueless, and so out of touch with the bends and curves of the chambers of power. I cannot understand this at first - he notices the puzzle wrenching my face - he explains at length and I know what he means:
"My son, once you write something resembling an opinion, they will think you suddenly a rare and precious jewel in the haystack of everydays. That is not the problem - that is the root of the problem. Immediately the wolves will be up and running, smelling the fresh meat that has revealed itself. They will find you quickly, and all will offer co-opting, membership, a pride of place, a privileged position, a right-hand-seat in their niche club.
"The establishment will extend an arm to you, for you are not-yet- a-threat-but-may-yet-be, and they must speedily turn you into one of them, absorb you into their numbers, teach you their double-speak and parabolic vagueness, and then you will be theirs, a mouthpiece adopted-adapted and changed. You belong not to yourself then.
"OR, maybe the anti-establishment will seize upon you with verve - they will try to outcompete the establishment's easier lifestyle seductions with ideals and causes and belief systems (for they have not the money or resources), and they will appeal to your sensitivity for rebellion, inviting you to join-them, fight-for-freedom, champion-liberty, and so on the struggle into infinity. They want you, and they want you desperately because the opinionated-who-speak-up are so hard to come by. They will think-you-and-make-you the chosen one, and you will walk with them, side by side, along corridors as the future of all Opposition in this country - the young-blood-chance-in-4million. You belong not to yourself then.
"OR, maybe out of the political circle, they will write about you in the press, print articles about you, blog about you, discuss you in forums. Then, they will invoke your name as if they know you - but don't forget they will have narrowed you down to a simple set of values - and it will be the values they have imposed on you, determining-overdetermining you into what they will. You will be an icon-catch-phrase-throwaway-line in no time, you will be a casual reference or maybe a cautionary tale. They will praise you and curse you. They will tell stories about you that are fabrications. They will claim they have met you - and who cares if it is even true. Some will say they were your classmate, or sat next to you on a train. Some will mutter that you were always that way, even from when you were young, and before even 10 years old, and already this way or that way according to their liberally evolving memories of you. Adults will nod-despairingly-understandingly, suggesting they always knew you would turn out like this. Who will you be by that time, my son? Who are you, really? Are you the person I speak to, whom I raised and taught and fought for? Are you the boy who I tried to impart my values and beliefs to? Are you your own person, convinced of what you care about? OR, are you whatever they make you to be, a shadow of yourself, appropriated and abducted? You're just a name in the imaginaries of everyone. You're just a name and a tag-along of THEIR agendas. You belong not to yourself.
"OR, perhaps even sadder, and not even straightforward, there are the ones who want you as their mascot, and they want you for what they can tailor you to represent - a youthful idealism that has grown its own voice - and so, wherever they put you, in a photo, in a conference, in a panel discussion and in their scholarship list, or in their club, or team, or school, or anything - wherever they put you, it is to serve them. Your being there for them just says every one of the myriad things they want you to say, social-political-economic-religious-military (and you haven't yet even opened your mouth to speak) - You say ANYTHING THEY WANT you to SAY (and you haven't even opened your mouth to speak). And in that moment, invited forward to attend their little meeting, photographed and identified, seen-and-not-heard (and perhaps you will have finally said something, but no one is really listening), you will be silently (regardless whatever words you speak, whatever you write, whatever you truly think) saying their message for them. The listeners are all hearing through the filter of someone else's agenda - everything you say flows through the biases that screen your ideas into the shapes of their minds and their ideals. There is no real you. You will be lost. My son, in that moment, you belong not to yourself."