Columns / Discourse / October 8, 2014

Thoughts on the concept of change

If I were to go back and rack my brain over the most heard-of buzzwords during my first month here at Knox, then the terms “leadership” and “change makers” would definitely feature in the top five (this is, of course, strictly limited to academic circles. Otherwise, the words “beer pong” and “party” would take up too much space). We are college students and we are the voice of change. The burden of directing this oft-stumbling world away from the presumed precipice falls on our shoulders, too, we were told. And invariably with that line of conversation several other buzzwords would appear– “patriarchy,” “corporate greed,” “coexistence.”

And yet, the concept of change itself has been kept for the most part in a crystallized box at the end of some hypothetical race track with the winner destined to unleash an idyllic utopia around us. Positive change, be it radical or otherwise, is never a static event. No sooner than the idea is put into action that a hundred different counter-dynamics begin working against it. If the ideal of feminism was the answer to a coexistent gender dynamic and its only obstacle was convincing everyone to break away from the patriarchy, then it would have been a question of time and application. That is, however, not the case. No sooner than feminism was floated as a movement that its subsumption and transfiguration into corporate feminism began taking shape. Corporate feminism can be broadly defined as the culture of privileged women acting as role models for other women and showing them that they, too, can make a name for themselves as the marketed “strong, independent woman.” The ideal feminist does not buy into this, because inspiration comes not from the CEO of a Fortune-500 company that forces its workers to starve. The ideal feminist acknowledges that gender equality is a class struggle, and to break the patriarchy would require breaking the stranglehold of exploitative capitalism in our lives. And now, ze has to combat not just the patriarchy, but mutated forms of feminism, for the definition of the ideal feminist is evolving with the needs of the hour.

The point I’m trying to make here is that there is never going to come a time when you or I will be able to sit back and say we’ve figured out the perfect formula for coexistence, between ourselves and with the environment. Socialist reform bred authoritarianism, gay liberation failed to consider intersectionality, environmentalism still fails to weed out anthropocentric thought. All of these movements are of tantamount importance in our struggle for a coexistent space, but none of them are perfect and create their own chimeras as they go along. Radical thoughts are fallible and must be open to revision as new roadblocks are met with. Change, in this case, is never ending and continuous. It promises to be a struggle, but it’s substantially better than doing nothing or sticking to a rigid principle that becomes limiting.

Change is fluid and the ideals for bringing about positive change will have to transform with time, too. This applies to both the faculty and the students at Knox. The faculty should encourage fluidity in discourse on social problems and not center conversations as if there can be one solution to be found out. So keep revising yourself, fellow radicals. Point out the flaws of patriarchy just as much as corporate feminism, converse as much about the pitfalls of queer theory as its good points and come to terms with the fact that this struggle is perpetual. But we’re all down here in the trenches and there’s solidarity in that thought.


Ahmad Ibrahim

Tags:  corporate greed feminism Knox leadership reform social change

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