“Modern society is what it is, not because the masses are uneducated, but precisely because of the understanding, beliefs and goals of our leaders-all of whom are highly educated. Society is shaped by those who control its head and heart. Real physical needs are easily satisfied. It is our desires and beliefs that make the world what it is…Darwin wields a greater influence than Stalin.” – Serpent In The Sky, John Anthony West(pg. 6)
During the first or second year of Owl’s Asylum on Twitter, a few intellectual forays occurred that left a lasting impression on the culture of Twitter. In my own ways, I feel responsible for not being as mature as I should have been during those earlier times. I responded very much like a college sophomore initiating someone for the first time into a greek brotherhood. And as with all ceremonial acts of violence or abuses, things went much further than they should. I, now, realize that this might have been necessary for us to understand one another as persons, and to establish a certain respect of abilities. But, events such as the Asylum hazing accident caused many to be leery of embracing a healthy culture of critique and open communication of ideas that could lead to offline or online actions.
As an unconventional undergraduate student(don’t they have so many labels in academia?) at Webster University here in St. Louis, I took several classes in computer design and formal art. In my drawing class, as well as interactive design class, I would have to post my work in front of the other students for critique. In some ways, I was stellar, ambitious, of course, but within my right to be reckoned as a force of capability. In other ways, fearless in concept…yet, in execution the response tended to ask that I stick to abstract and surreal work.
In this manner, this public, face to face, acceptance of my works’ more highly regarded features, and my works’ less than favored ones, I learned not only how to critique others, but how to accept critique from my peers.
I do not fear critique.
However, I grew up around Black males who had Black mothers that taught us,”You have to take some, to get some.” Even in the classroom setting, I would only respect the critique of those willing to be critiqued. The more honorable instructors wouldn’t even allow you to offer a critique if you hadn’t completed the assignment or brought it in. Which is only logical and fair: you can’t critique the works of others if you don’t have any work to be critiqued.
We’ve all noticed the paradigm online, and we’ve heard the rap world respond to the blog writer with not only acrimony but assaults. As the Urban Shaman Bilal Sankofa has inferred to me in private as well as us in public, we are wont for a valuable and powerful usage of the online space, but many of us simply are lacking the knowledge or guidance to take advantage of it properly. As the creative director and co-founder of Stolen Outfitters, Donovan Wholihane has relayed for years now his philosophy of “Problems to Products”. We have to all be producers, have something to bring to the table, in order to earn our right to speak among the adults. Put up or shut up, isn’t that what we were taught in the Black community? If not, we are just talking about others for the sake of chatter without an ounce of work of our own to be a testimony to our seriousness. Asylum practices Ma’at, that means give and take, every actions has a reaction, rewards and consequences, smiles and cries…
Even if your product is not the same measure, or type of product, as that which you are critiquing, you still can present it to the floor. I probably have near one gigabyte worth of designs from the brothers over at Stolen Outfitters that I’ve never had the time to critique when asked. I don’t design clothing!(…yet…)But, 1) my critique, due to my honesty, is respected, and 2) people know I mean business and have on many occasions presented worthy works in the public sphere with the hopes of honest critique. That creates a comfortable balance.
It is a balance I ask that we all seek to share as we begin to forge united fronts amongst one another in this digital sphere. Of course, you must be willing to place your work on display high up in front of the class and stand next to it prepared to weather the critiques of your peers. That is if you feel the desire to sit safely in your spot and shred with analysis the work of others and expect to be respected at the adult table.