As a very young university student, I was often teased by acquaintances for being bourgeois in my outlook. Obviously, I was unaware of the pros and cons of having that sort of upbringing at that point in my life and the ribbing was like water off a duck’s back.
Then, as a young adult musician, I entered into the demi-monde of the Arts. All the terms of reference in prevalence at the time pointed towards the idea that one should appear to have street smarts, or street credibility (especially if you were a young Black person, living in London). I was perceptive enough to understand the strategic effectiveness of being “woke”, but I struggled internally with this notion. What was wrong with having a decent education, or having relatively sophisticated tastes? Some of my peers and colleagues gave me the impression that a well read Black person should be regarded as untrustworthy – especially by folks of his or her own heritage.
Thankfully, many of these notions are no longer fashionable. Perhaps access to the internet has made it possible for more people to have access to much wider ranges of information than ever used to be the case. In my heart of hearts, I was always open to experiences from as many sides of life as possible. I like to think I can detect similar attitudes in the output of many creative people and thought leaders that I admire.
Curiosity about the human condition and the ability to draw inspiration from what we learn ought to be part and parcel of everyone’s lives. Having the mental training and breeding to make the most of ourselves should also be encouraged.
Sometimes I look back at my younger self and wish I had the confidence in those days to stand my ground and not have to make excuses or apologies for my early experiences.