One month into being on a college campus, and I can already tell that one of the trendiest topics in higher education these days is the Arab Spring. I’m sure that played a role in the arts and humanities theme for the year here being literally “revolutions”, and it’s no doubt the reason why the fellow at the Oak Institute played a key role. I should start again. I’m not writing a declamation of this, rather I’m giving props to Colby and higher education for recognizing that the “Arab Spring” was important, for one, and really just outright cool to study.
Of course I find it cool to study though. Me, who owns a sizable vinyl collection in which is included a few sex pistols and clash records, whose roommate proudly hangs a poster depicting the famous “black power” salute at the 1966 Mexico City Summer Olympics, and who attended multiple Bernie Sanders rallies this spring, finds a real life political revolutionary in Khalid Albaih. He’s just so cool. I think Khalid is living the dream of every angsty teenager whose complained about how bad their lunch food is at the local high school. He’s an artist, who is not self-righteous but is righteous, his art is poignant and looks at the worst situations in the world with cock-eyed honesty. What I actually admire about him though, is his ability to keep his head level.
His part in the Arab Spring revolution can’t be understated. Art is the means to the end of political revolution. That’s why the 60’s in America can be defined by a series of Bob Dylan protest songs. Khalid knows this is his role in the chaos that spread across the middle east in 2011. He doesn’t necessarily boast about it, or recognize it explicitly. Rather, he shows the true face of revolution, he is able to say that yes, that cartoon pissed off the dictator of Egypt, but that’s what I was looking to do cause he pisses me off. Only, he would say it way more articulately. Through this intention, this conscious knowing of purpose, Khalid is the epitome of what a good political revolutionary looks like. He is Therou’s Civil Disobedience, Martain Luther King Jr.’s sermons put into action, and his results are impressive.
That is then what all sixty of us enrolled in the continuing revolutions course learned from observing him in conversation. That the role of revolutionary is not filled by people who are clear in intent and ruthless in action for their goals, but articulate, talented, and above all smart people, who act only on the notion that they know what they want is right. That’s what Khalid was teaching us by his conversation, that if want to change the world start by being smart, and being creative.