Get to Know: Derek IdeSocial Movement Studies
Tell us about yourself. What got you into politics and how would you define yourself politically (if at all)?
Our lives, whether we want them to be or not, are always shaped by politics. The only distinction is whether or not we recognize this fact and try to act on it. The worst illiterate, as Bertolt Brecht explained, is the political illiterate who does not understand that from his political ignorance "is born the prostitute, the abandoned child, and the worst thieves of all, the bad politician, corrupted and flunky of the national and multinational companies." Thus, we are all "into" politics in one way or another. As the Panthers used to say, power is the ability to make social phenomena act in a desired manner.
Those who refuse to engage in politics tend to be acting in the desired manner of the rulers; they compose the social phenomena acting in the desired manner of the powerful instead of organizing collectively and forcing social phenomena to act in the manner conducive to their own interests. It is the difference between Paulo Freire's subject and object. So I got into politics because politics got into me. I always credit Tupac as being my spark. He opened me up to the history of the Black Panther Party as a teenager, and from then it was on. I am a socialist, and I'm deeply rooted in that intellectual and political tradition broadly speaking. However, I do not identify with any of the particular subsets of Marxist schools of thought, but my view of history and the world is largely materialist.
How did you come to be involved with the Hampton Institute?
I become involved in the Hampton Institute through the hard work and organizational apparatus set up by Colin Jenkins, who is a dear friend and comrade. Many times we had tossed around the idea of engaging in some sort of product of this sort, some collective endeavor that brings together a diverse group of leftists. He was the only one with the courage to make it happen. He pushed forward with the idea, and we keep growing and expanding, and it is a pleasure to be part of this project with him and everyone else involved.
What do you think some of the goals of the Institute should be? What does the term "a working-class think tank" mean to you?
My visions for the Institute are broad and wide. I take a lot of inspiration from other organizational set-ups that I've experienced as well, such as the International Institute for Research and Education in Amsterdam. In the immediate future continuing to develop an intellectual and theoretical base to operate in is important, but in the not so distant future having a physical structure in place is a goal I would love to see HI move forward with.
The possibilities are endless, but a physical space that can serve as an organizing center, a political library and bookstore, a place to serve community needs (whether medical or recreational or educational or basic needs such as hunger/meals, etc.), is a much needed development in the United States. Other places have them, in some form or another, but there is a serious deficit of leftists engaging in this sort of work. Regardless of political ideology, community networks serving needs have historically been one of the most influential ways for political parties to gain access to a popular base, whether it was the German SPD or the Black Panther Party in the United States or the Ikhwaan in Egypt, any popular political organization sought not just theoretical or intellectual development, but sought to meet real, material, existing needs of the communities in which they operated.
What led you to being in your particular department? What makes you so passionate about that area?
Who doesn't love a good social movement? Studying the movements of people forcing social phenomena to act in a desired manner - that's what it's all about.
What are some of your political goals? What does "the revolution" look like to you?
I do not have a clear cut vision like the old utopian visionary Edward Bellamy or the more recent Michael Albert of a post-capitalist society. I think potential models exist, both in theory (a la Bellamy or Albert, whatever their limitations and problems) and in reality (a la the Panthers, the Zapatistas, or the Bolivarian revolution, etc.) but as for the revolution, god willing it comes soon. As Walter Benjamin once remarked, "Marx says that revolutions are the locomotives of world history. But the situation may be quite different. Perhaps revolutions are not the train ride, but the human race grabbing for the emergency brake." We need to grab that emergency break, because Arundhati Roy's Siachen Glacier metaphor is more than just a metaphor.
What books and/or authors would you suggest to others?
For general readers, anything by Michael Parenti, Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy, and Howard Zinn. Ilan Pappe's The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine is particularly pertinent right now, given the battle raging in the United States between pro-Palestine activists and the vestiges of Zionism. For those specializing in the Middle East, particularly Egypt, Joel Beinin, Zachary Lockman, Mahmoud Hussein, Tareq Ismael, Maxime Rodison, and Anouar Abdel-Malek are all quite useful and informative, in one way or another.
What media sources do you use to keep up on current events?
I do not have a list of sources or alternative news outlets. Generally, with the advent of social media, I've learned to trust certain individuals, groups, or organizations and follow the sources they post. There was a time in my life where I was a loyal follower of a couple independent leftish outlets, but my reach is broad and varied now.
What kind of music do you listen to? What are some of your favorite foods?
I'm a hip-hop guy through and through. Whether I'm listening to Immortal Technique or Tupac or Rappin' 4 Tay, it's the genre I stick with. As for food, don't even get me started! I eat too much as it is. But I'll take a good Indian (Chicken Vindaloo), Thai (Gaeng Matsaman), or Arabi (Kibbe Nayyee) any day of the week.
What (apolitical thing) makes you happy? What are your hobbies or interests?
Hitting the gym. My shoulders can't take the heavy jujitsu and boxing anymore, so pushing some weight on the bench makes me feel good. I did some amateur boxing and took second place in the Golden Gloves here in Toledo, but nothing major. I'm hovering around 315 for 2-3 reps on the flat now, looking to touch that 365 sometime before I'm 30!
Other than that I love reading good fiction, but don't get to nearly as often as I would like. I also enjoy a good fantasy-esque computer game (or any old school SNES RPG), such as the deeply immersive Elder Scrolls series, but I even enjoy the simplicity of games like the Diablo series as well. The good-evil duality ever present in games like that always wins a guy like me over. Spending some quality time with people I like to be around, friends or family, of course.