The unexamined life is not worth living. These are the words of Socrates at his trial for heresy, and after one of the most interactive summers I have ever experienced, I now want to take a moment to both reflect, but also interrogate the concept of privileged reflection.
A year ago I wrote, and I must repeat, as I “reflect” I want to be aware and show my appreciation for the ability and privilege to “reflect.” When Socrates made that statement I don’t believe he took into account what must take place for one to be able to constantly reflect on their life. Many people do not have the luxury to reflect on summers that were learning experiences. It is hard to examine your life when you’re struggling to find clean water, or a safe place to use the bathroom, or heat when cold nights make township shantys freeze. It is far too easy to take infrastructure for granted and become comfortable with warm beds in industrial cities. However, this summer was about leaving that comfort. This summer was about rejecting that comfort, if only for a second, and thinking outside of ones personal needs and towards the needs of the individuals that are often forgotten.
There are so many processes (like the security to just sit, think, examine, learn, and eventually grow) that are overlooked and seen as simple and healthy proxies. I never want to take these practices for granted, and want to always show homage to those that came before me and made it possible for me to be where I am today, but also to those who still suffer and will continue to suffer tomorrow if nothing is done.
In the last four months I got a glimpse into a movement that was trying to transform an education system through social and political grassroots activism. This is what I believe to be a genius idea, and what is even more powerful is that this idea has funding to push it forward. This summer I got a chance to meet delegates at the summit for quality education, wrote a grant to organize rural communities to march/protest for better education, taught a class on civil disobedience and the its role in the Civil Rights and Anti-Apartheid movements, and worked with activist who use research/analysis to back up a zeal for equality and justice that I have never experienced. This summer I met South African students that rejected the notion that they should wait for their lives to get better. Students that organized to illegally sleep outside of the South African Parliament in the name of them breaking out of poverty, getting a quality education, and ultimately having access to the privilege that past generations were denied. These are students that believe in what a “life of the mind” has to offer. These students are inspiring.
Some posit that the unexamined life is not worth living, but I think a life that is not used to make the lives of those around us better…is not worth living.