The title of this blog is a quoted from the main character of one of my favorite relatively recent films–The Departed(2006 Dir. Martin Scorsese, Writer William Monahan). What does Marty Scorsese’s Irish Catholic crime drama have to do with Octavia Butler and Afrofuturism you may be asking? Short answer: more than you think!
About a week ago I watched the 1996 documentary The Last Angel of History (1996 Dir. John Akomfrah), and beyond being entertained I was downright awed by the story of “The Data Thief”. For those of you who have yet to see the film, the Data Thief is a character who navigates his way through history collecting knowledge (I won’t give away too much, you’ll have to see the film for yourself, but here’s a clip of the first few minutes to whet your interest http://youtu.be/uE3uqVRGQHY). What I found most compelling about the story of the Data Thief is that once he began to gain knowledge, he became an exile and a nomad whom had no place to live on his home planet, nor on Earth. The Data Thief risked his comfort and stability in the pursuit of knowledge. That is darn-right commendable! And it made me inventory what I have given up and am willing to give up for the pursuit of knowledge; relationships, “friend”ships, sleep, favor, money? But the most precious comfort I will admit to have given up is time. I think all to often in today’s world, we have gotten used to getting everything we want easily, without real sacrifice and getting it when we want it; however, this manner of behaving is problematic, because when it comes down to getting information and knowledge we have gotten used to just being “satisfied” and not necessarily “full”. By that I mean, that today people are willing to accept what they are given and not ask for more, because to get more may mean sacrificing comforts or looking ungrateful. But why not want more? Why not be full? (Don’t get me wrong, satisfied is the way to go when if comes to your watching you waistline, but when if comes to your intellectual fulfillment why not want all that you can consume) And an even more important question I have is, who benefits from your complacency, your lack of diligence and your contentment with the information that they are willing to give you?
The quotation from my title comes from a speech in The Departed where Frank Costello critiques the complacency of Black people in America, claiming that power is something that marginalized people cannot sit and wait to be handed. In this I see the Data Thief (TEN years before Costello) making the same assertion, that in the pursuit of knowledge and information there is no room for complacency, and that if it means being uncomfortable, or it makes you a “thief” then so be it! History, information and knowledge are too important to people who have been denied access to them for us to just accept what is given. If we want to be to be full then we have to stop sitting idly by waiting to be satisfied, like with the Data Thief, if it means relinquishing (some) comforts then we must simply do it–“…no one gives it to you. You have to take it.”