Renaissance of Imagination
by Dr. Marvin X
Most problems today originate in the mind or in the lack of using the imagination. There is a concerted effort to deny use of creative thinking in solving problems in the global village. Using imagination often requires transcending tradition or the status quo which puts us at variance with those in authority, whether in the political, economic, religious or social sphere of society, even the keepers of the culture tend to police rather than initiate new cultural experience, new artistic creations and social configurations.
It is perhaps in the field of education where the murder of imagination is most blatant and criminal, for the creative child is often the genius who is of a contrary spirit and mind, who desires to do things differently but is often opposed and may be relegated to special education and thus defined as incorrigible and out of control. Yet, this child is often the leader by the power of his imagination, thus able to usurp the authority of the teacher, therefore he must be banned from the classroom. As a result his creative energy is unused and the educational process suffers. If only he had been given the chance to exercise his creative authority, even allowing him to dialogue with his peers on the lesson at hand. He may have the answer to the conundrum that the majority of his peers find most difficult, yet he is the criminal, the mentally retarded who supposedly suffers from attention deficient disorder. But what is killing him is the suppression of his imagination. We dare say the 50% of students who drop out of schools in America share his problem, and often if they do not drop out they are pushed out because their attendance and test scores are an embarrassment to school ranking and thus funding.
So we end up blaming the creative child for using his imagination while it is the teachers, administrators and parents who are brain dead and stuck on failed educational policies and programs. As far as we are concerned, every child is a genius until made stupid and ignorant by a deranged educational system that primarily has the mission to prepare cogs for the wheel of capitalism, not to inspire children to use their imagination for the advancement of society.
The classics of literature are totally irrelevant to a child when they are not in his language, even those that may be on the eternal themes of humanity. And today far too many children come to school traumatized by life thus they are totally bored by the fictional world presented to them by school. More than likely, the teacher would do well to learn from them. Imagine, the Washington DC children said the only thing they could imagine for their future was what kind of funeral they wanted. How can one teach students in such a state of mind, and of what value is traditional curriculum until the students have processed such damaging mental health issues. And are teachers prepared to be grief counselors? But do they have a choice when students come to school from a war zone, when the school itself is a war zone?
We applaud the sincere suffering teachers who believe in the students but are often blocked by reactionary, conservative administrations and parents from instituting radical approaches that will unlock the imagination of students and ignite that innate passion to learn.
The result of killing the imagination is obvious in the 50% drop out/push out rate of public education. It is seen further in the high incarceration rate of youth for sometimes horrendous crimes often motivated by gang initiation or the desire to belong to a group that tolerates their creative imagination and leadership, while simultaneously offering them a sense of belonging, of brotherhood and sisterhood, for in this regard the family, schools, church and traditional social groups have failed.
One solution is peer education, yes, let the students teach themselves, even if and when it involves removing the teacher from the classroom when he is often of minor importance anyway. So let the teachers stand in the hallways outside the class, reversing the situation so common. Let the class clown (usually the bright, imaginative students) instruct the lesson once they have conferred with the teacher, let the student translate the message into the language of his peers. We have tried this method, so we know it works if you work it. But more than likely, this approach is too radical for the conservative public schools, thus they will likely continue to drift toward disintegration and the continued death of imagination.
The renaissance of imagination can only be achieved by brave and bold leadership that itself has undergone a revolution in consciousness and is duty bound to resurrect brain dead students who deserve a chance to make use of the minds God gave them.
There is such a dearth of sincere political leaders that there is no need to address them with respect to youth matters, for the primary goal of politicians is to get reelected by any means necessary, thus they are prepared to do little more than talk when it comes to the crisis in imagination. The political minds are prone to give only lip service to the people until after election when they suddenly develop an acute case of amnesia, unable to recall the people‘s agenda but only the names of lobbyists to whom they owe a higher degree of loyalty.
The talk of a new black church sounds inspiring but it is doubtful it will engender a renaissance in the imagination of youth or adults, for by its nature the church is conservative, it must remain true to tradition, to the myth and rituals it is duty bound to serve, no matter that these myths and rituals have morphed into something that would seem very foreign and strange to Mary’s baby. For sure, Mary’s baby embodied and exemplified the renaissance of imagination by transcending many of the ancient traditions, and the world is better for his spiritual imagination, yet like the Amon priests who reacted to the monotheism of Akhenaton in Egypt, the priests and preachers of today have revised the words of Jesus to fit their agenda of worshipping Pharaoh or being his magicians who do damage control for him rather than carry out the mission of Jesus to liberate the poor, the oppressed, the imprisoned, the sick and broken hearted.
The renaissance of imagination will thus necessitate transcending religiosity into the realm of radical spirituality that consists of inculcating a new consciousness that develops out of freeing the mind of reactionary mythology that inhibits free thinking; the new consciousness allows radical thinking similar to the prophetic tradition which found itself in confrontation with those in authority, sometimes even at war with them. But new ideas come with a price that involves moving beyond thought into action to realize the renaissance of imagination.
It is in the field of the arts that we expect to observe the imagination forever soaring and searching for new heights, new means of expression, for artists by nature give us visions and prophecy, since their work is to search the consciousness for new ways of representing what lies in the depth of the soul and give creative expression to their findings. They require freedom with discipline in order to do their work. Freedom by itself is chaos but with discipline the artist is able to give birth to a cosmological order which is the mythology of his work, for upon examination by the critic, it is clear the artist has a certain consistency, a repetition of form, shape, colors, style, space and place. There are themes that seem to hold his interest, a vocabulary that is unremarkably his and his alone that marks his style, his originality. We expect the artist to help us understand the chaos of life, its vicissitudes and to make plain the endgame; where are we headed and how shall we get there. We are in the dark, so give us a little light that we may find our way out of this morass, this ever encroaching darkness. Help us imagine life in the sun for that is our home and our pressing wish is to return, for it is there that we experienced love, joy, happiness and peace. There we found justice, righteousness and mercy.
The work of the artist is sacred for his tools are the signs, symbols, words, sounds of the universe, thus he cannot take these tools lightly, for they contain powers beyond himself, powers that include the ancestors, the living and the yet unborn, powers that can shatter lies and falsehoods to usher in a new day, a new birth of imagination for humanity.
The cultural revolution will take a great leap forward when the keepers can organize African centered experiences on a daily basis, including conferences, festivals, bazaars,
and other educational, economic and artistic events that keep the culture alive 24/7, thus not allowing the people time for relapse, but instead there is only time for cultural expression which promotes economic progress and political unity for a radical agenda.
Only in this manner can a renaissance come about that is lasting unto the next generation.
Be careful of contradictions for they are the stuff that breed counter-revolution, so resolve them immediately with unity, criticism, unity and keep on pushing. The tide is turning because you are turning the tide! The new birth will come about when the mind is pregnant with new ideas that must be delivered and cannot be restrained. As they say, there is nothing like an idea whose time has come. We had the renaissance of the 20s and 60s, now it is time for the permanent revolution that will not allow itself to be aborted, diverted or defeated. But it requires eternal vigilance, yes, we must all stay on our posts until properly relieved.
Listen to the women because they are natural bearers of good news, new ideas that may be concealed only because men don’t listen. Then the women will say, “I told you that but you didn’t hear me.” Solomon told us two are better than one because if we stumble by ourselves there is no one to pick us up. So listen to the women, they may be able to keep us from falling when we are on the precipice. They have ideas that are sound but never been used, they have creative minds that have been repressed because men think they know it all, when sometimes they know very little but presume. Let the men not be prone to those classic tragic flaws of pride, arrogance and self importance, flaws that will surely prevent any renaissance except a new birth of old ideas.
Critical thinking is the primary tool in this era. Reacting emotionally will avail us nothing but more reaction from the opposition. Critical thinking precedes detailed planning for the future, then we stay the course, and shall not be moved by the moment but we are steadfast on our agenda, no matter what the opposition does, we do not waver, for it does not matter what someone else thinks, says or does, but only what we think, plan and carry out. We are soldiers up in here, and shall not be moved. Yes, a change is gonna come because we have come to make a change. Develop a five year plan, fifty year plan and hundred year plan. You can do it, simply do as Mama said, “Use the mind God gave you.”
We discussed earlier the retarded thinking of politicians whose mantra is, “Vote
for me, I’ll set you free.” It is very rare when political leaders have freed a people, but more often it is when the people decide to free themselves that they achieve such freedom, and perhaps then the leaders can offer assistance. If it were up to the people, there would be no US troops in Iraq, but the leaders, even after hearing the voice of the people, persist in their own agenda which is the agenda not of the people but of the military-corporate complex. The leaders are thus sycophants of the most servile kind. But if the people use their imagination, they might consider the general strike to stop the war and bring their sons and daughters home and out of harm’s way.
We must engage our minds in the critical thinking that produces solutions instead of allowing the show to go on ad infinitum. There are so many social problems that persist because we refuse to subject them to critical analysis, searching out the connection between events. How can we stop the war in Iraq when we can’t stop the war in the hood? There are just as many if not more sons and daughters being slaughtered in the streets of America as are being killed in the streets of Iraq and Afghanistan. If we pondered for a moment on the devastation in our streets we could easily solve the conundrum in the streets of Baghdad.
Perhaps we should turn to that most astute genre of individuals who are trained to use their esteemed imaginations on the difficult questions of humankind, those who deem themselves philosophers, who have been blessed above all others to have the time to dwell on issues those less suited never bother to consider. In truth, we are not qualified to delineate the meanderings of this elite group, but we know that there is no consensus on a critical issue such as freedom, its meaning and parameters. We know there are those who have thought deeply on this matter ever since our unholy sojourn in the wilderness of North America. The thinking has been divided into camps, often spit between those who say we should pack up and depart and those who say we should plant our feet on solid ground. Usually the path that comes into prominence depends on the circumstances of the moment, for it is usually when times are most difficult that the idea to depart comes into play, and then when things get better, when we achieve a momentary reprieve, we are willing to give ole Massa another chance, to declare our belief in the American dream, or nightmare as the segment who see no hope will maintain.
And what might be possible in the space between the two extremes, between separation and integration, just to clarify terminology. Shall we not take a lesson from the Jews who are eternally pessimistic and always prepared to go. For sure, we know our historical record is one of migrations and immigrations, voluntary or forced, by nature or man as a result of war, struggles over succession, ethnic strife and other matters in the human drama.
Perhaps we need a philosophic position that will keep our feet on solid ground yet prepared for the worse (keep your passport renewed), or shall we take the position of Claude McKay’s poem If We Must Die, “…Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back.” Essentially liberty or death, at least in this position we can remain on solid ground and fight to the bitter end for that which is ours.
But if we say stay, don’t go, what is the nature of our staying and not going--is it to suffer all that might be coming to the oppressor or to declare a space independent of him that is due us for injuries suffered throughout the centuries down to the present moment. Yes, reparations are due from Massa, and reparations are due from Africa, and reparations are due from ourselves, most importantly, for we have the wherewithal to achieve even the most seemingly impossible political configuration that will make national independence a reality.
There is no way we should suffer what America has coming for its iniquities--there is no way the robbed shall suffer the penalty of the robbers, oh, no, the universe is not like this, no matter how much we want to love Massa and save Massa, we shall not go down with Massa, unless we are determined to worship the beast, then of course we shall go down with the beast. Otherwise, as they say in prison, “Ride yo own beef.” No matter what the philosophers and intellectuals conclude and pontificate before crowded audiences for mega honorariums, our destiny is not the destiny of Americans since we have never enjoyed the American dream to any meaningful degree. For sure, we now enjoy a few crumbs from Massa’s table, a few trinkets that pacify the bourgeoisie until they are reminded they too are Africans, especially when their so-called first class status is called into question when driving while black or eating out while black. Even Oprah found she could not shop where she wanted and Condi was told she could not enter Lebanon during the American supported war between Israel and Hezbollah.
But men and women have arisen to great power in America though they must often be seen as belonging to the class of oppressors as opposed to the oppressed class from which they came, thus they are part of a select group that have roots in the African ruling classes who conspired to put us aboard ships for that westward journey into oblivion, from which we are presently attempting to regain our mental equilibrium and spiritual sensibility, which is why we are calling for a renaissance of imagination. For sure, we have made great strides since the revolution of the 60s. Today our children have acquired the necessary qualifications to advance educationally and thus economically; our women have acquired all the trapping of this materialistic culture save a husband, especially from their ethnic group, yet there is a void, a chasm so deep that we must again quote Dr. Nathan Hare who tells us no amount of sex, drugs, money, power or position will satisfy our social angst and shattered cultural strivings. For we have yet to solve the conundrum of the box, how to escape or even find that middle ground wherein we can maintain a level of sanity that is functional.
Perhaps our philosophers can look upon the still waters or even consider the raging ocean tide and come to us with answers that will guide us through this millennium that began with such turbulence and portends to be a rocky road until we reach that final destination called freedom.
And finally, we must applaud the imagination of the hip hop generation that has created a world youth culture, that has made more millionaires than ever before in our history, and made billions for the record, film and fashion industry. Hip hop has its detractors but the glass is clearly half full rather than half empty. Hip hop need only let its voice of consciousness rise again to the top, and this generation will astound the world, for in consciousness it is in synch with the ancestors and the radical tradition of defiance and resistance until victory. When hip hop consciously reconnects with its elders, the circle will be complete, for the family shall be able to reason together again
with respect, no matter the contradictions of the elders or the youth. Issues can be resolved at the table while sharing a holistic version of soul food.
Beaufort, South Carolina