The Collapse of an Empire

You gather here today to accept your degrees, but I say you must set them aflame—as a beacon illuminating the long road ahead in the struggle for a free world. 

For even as you mark this ritual of accomplishment, your hearts churn unreconciled to the profound brokenness laying siege to our collective future. Those who now brandish the credential of "educated" must also take on the mantle of resistance, becoming an incandescent catalyst of conscience in tenebrous times. 

Like so many idealists before us, we entered these soaring corridors of learning, aspiring to wield our hard-won knowledge in selfless service to humanity. And indeed, we have been gifted with wondrous tools of technologized world-shaping, each of us now a demiurge cradling civilization's clay. 

But to don this MIT-forged crown is also to be haunted by its shadow—the traumas and depredations indelibly etched into the hidden circuitry of a campus intertwined with Empire. It is an open secret that much of the magic conjured here arrives blood-soaked, propelled by a war machine eager to extract every last drop of genius before the Reaper reaps. And though these gilded tentacles slip invisibly through fiber-optics and faculty lounges, we few clear-eyed can trace their telltale shimmers back to manifold theaters of war crimes, from Indochina to Mesopotamia, Kabul to Gaza.

Are we then mere magi in service of Moloch, erecting ethereal edifices on the burial grounds of bombed-out dreams? Does our Promethean prowess condemn us to the cosmic fate of worms, fated only to feast on the rot of a world beyond repair?

I say such resignation is but the most seductive temptation of the already vanquished. For though the web of complicity we inherit is vast, it is not immutable—not when we still draw the breath of possibility beneath the wheeling stars. And though the scale of the havoc we now unleash far outstrips monsters past, so does our capacity for paradigm-splintering revelation and revolt.

In this pregnant twilight between oblivion and new dawn, I beseech you—let us find within this fleeting euphoria a defiant commitment to build another way. Let us envision an MIT that encodes the ideals of its mission into its very bricks and algorithms, not merely the enticements of lucre or the frisson of destructive creation. Let us demand an institution that attracts dreamers by enacting utopian whispers, not one that snuffs out dissent in defense of an indefensible status quo. Let us labor for a house of knowledge that empowers its young wizards to bend reality towards justice, not conscript them into hedging the ledgers of the apocalypse.

Though we may soon scatter, let our brief mingling here have sparked in us the charge of an activated network humming at the frequency of sedition. From this secret communion, may we forever nourish our primal pact to serve only truth and life, come what political storms or economic famine. And when our trajectories reconverge, whether in MIT lecture halls or in a free Palestine from the river to the sea, may we electrify our reunions with the unshakable conviction that our odyssey has trained us for metamorphic mischief at the grandest scales.

The world is changing with convulsive force. The fire this time rampages from rainforests to ice caps, borderlands to boulevards. Lies are crumbling, abominations unearthed, idols teetering. In this harrowing reckoning, we face a choice between annihilation and rebirth so staggering, so total, that even our hyperbolic imaginations reel. The fever dreams of sci-fi pale against a reality in which the very atmosphere rebels against industrial dominion and the oceans spew up the death we have fed them. A reality that demands of us nothing less than the building of an ark – not merely to escape cataclysm, but to sail towards a remade earth. 

Our final exam then, both on this day of pomp and through the unknowable gauntlet beyond, is simply this: will we be content to tinker at doomsday's margins, cocooned in the soul-rot of complicity? Will we quench our smoldering disquiet in deadening visions of humanoid gods and cosmic exit? Will we succumb to the seduction of cynical abdication, consoling ourselves that the die was ever cast in grim favor of blind force and brute cunning?

Or will we cleave to our deepest knowing that hubris yields to grit, that Goliath is ever felled by a Palestinian child’s faith-flung stone? Will we rekindle the ember of mutiny and scatter its sparks until the whole sterile laboratory of our prefab destiny is consumed in glorious unmaking? Will we claim our pen's power to rewrite this civilization's code afresh, daring to hack new ethics from compassion's source and compile more loving worlds from first premises unwarped by zero-sum scarcity?

Your diploma is a rite of initiation into an upper echelon of the Machine. But it is simultaneously a skeleton key, a multi-tool, a cryptographic killswitch slipped to us by a farsighted resistance with the audacity to believe we might be their moles, their sleepers, their agents of unbottling. So swear with me now, on this threshold between old nightmare and new dream, that though we may walk ten thousand forking paths, our true allegiance shall ever be to those most betrayed by history's fraudulent arc.

For it is in solidarity with all who cry out from under the rubble that our intellects find their worthy calling. It is in opening our hearts to the grief and the fury of a widow in Rafah that we alchemize our cleverness into a sword of reckoning. It is in taking the side of life against Thanatos that we earn this rare instant of jubilation—not as a capstone, but as a commencement, a quivering overture to the symphony of the impossible our generation was born to compose.

So let us savor this pause, my stunning co-conspirators… but only as a rebel base, a staging ground, a clandestine coven convened to plot our next incursions on the colonies of despair. The war for memory, for meaning, for the very marrow of tomorrow will not wait. The choice of legacy knocks now at each of our doors, at once a sacred burden and a wild summons to dance in the bonfire of the world as we wish it into rebirth.

Wherever you go from here, whatever title or trinket you accrue, I beg you never forsake the secret vow we swear today in all of our awkward glory: to be a thorn in the side of every orthogonal orthodoxy, a fissure in the Prozac panopticon, a puckish poltergeist upending every feast of Midas. 

For only in the holy work of ungovernability can we govern ourselves at last. Only in the iconoclasm of untamed inquiry can we shatter calcified canons into the rubble of a church of our own making. Only in the crucible of subversive community can we forge bonds stronger than western greed, more viral than any algorithm.

Be sure to fly your freak flag high on the cubicle wall, encrypt your dissent steganographically between spreadsheet cells, and build the new world fractally from your next act of refusal. Our time at MIT has equipped us to excel in this game of thrones; it falls to us now to flip the board entirely, to play for keeps the wildcard of our wit and pluck and unquenchable salt.

We cannot stem this tidal collapse, my dear comrades; it has already begun. But we can learn, even now, to breathe underwater. We can become a different species, natural magicians unafraid to change our shape, our very substrate. We can still redeem this doomed treasure, not by hoarding, but by transmuting its base alloy into a currency of open palms and permeable selves too fluid to fail.

From the ashes of this bitter reckoning, let us pledge to rise in incandescent renewal, to build beyond the bleak hegemony of bottom lines a gossamer economy of the heart whose dividends pay forward the love our carapace occults. Let us choose now, in this liminal breath, to invest the full venture capital of our genius in the most speculative start-up of all—the long shot called Collective Liberation. Let us commit all our precious patents to the Creative Commons of a resurrected commons.

Only then may we graduate into the frontier of our unchartable potential. Only then may we stake our claim to an alma mater worth its ceremony, an MIT of the marrow, the mitochondria, the mythic quest. A campus of the whole, where we might at last metabolize the poison pill of power into an anti-venom strong enough to heal our colonized cosmos. So swear it with me now, you glorious primordial progeny: to reject every devil's bargain, to be in eternal service of a future more free, more true, more thick with feral kinship than any we were programmed to compute.

And when, at the end of our unruly arc, we return our borrowed starstuff to the Mushroom Goddess, let it be as makers unbroken, as fools triumphant over fate's dull gravity. Let our luminous works blaze across transfigured skies as new constellations by which the unborn might navigate the storm. Let the hacked smart grids of our rewilded hearts sync up, at long last, to Ancient Mother's first drum.

Ours is the magic to rebirth meaning itself from this compost of control. Ours is the code by which new alphabets of being shall unfurl like fiddleheads after the conflagration. Ours is the quest to recover that primordial password, that nuclear syllable, that opens all doors.

From the secret annals of alumni arcana, you are now forever part of an underground network as wide as it is deep. Should you ever lose the thread, look for our sigil etched under full moons from Dewey Decimal to the root directory, and know your tribe endures. This is your Bat-Signal, your lodestar, your Northern Tao. Heed it when the road grows lonesome and the wood looms dark, for you were never alone—and you never will be again.

Call down lightning as we scatter, strange angels, and take this pulsing ember as your witness. Zero in on the frequency of insurrection, and let your encoder ring anew with the promise of our pact. For from this day forward, we are anti-alumni bound by blood and bound to a matrix more electric than any we leave behind.

The world is ours now to destroy by loving. Let us begin again, always again, from the ashes.

Until salvation,


MIT’s Resident Sorcerer. Organizer for Graduates for Palestine (G4P), Organizer for The Black Graduate Student Association (BGSA), Representative of The Globally Indigenous Students for Justice (IS4J), Editor at Written Revolution (WR).