20 February 2005

Rx: Two hours with Cornel West

His lecture @ Reed College on Friday night was like a vitamin B-12 shot of cure for my malaise, cynicism, and complaciency from the American Bush culture.
Really outstanding and uplifting.

We come now to our present moment, and what do we see? A bleak moment. Let's be honest. One of the bleakest moments in the history of the civilization. America is now -- it's not only an empire, but in scope, in depth, in power, it exceeds the British and the Roman empires. Nothing like it in the history of mankind. No countervailing force at all. The repressive and regimented Soviet Empire went under 12 years ago. It was a countervailing force. It supported Mandela when he was a terrorist for 27 years. We like to remind Americans of that. But there's no countervailing force at all, and like most empires, it’s arrogant, hubris, feels as if it can shape the world in its own image, dictate its terms in terms of what it wants to do. As my dear brother, Noam Chomsky reminds us, not only puts forth a new doctrine of preemptive strike, that’s a doctrine that says if it looks as if someone's about to attack you, you attack them before they're able to. That's not what the new doctrine says. This doctrine says, if a nation has a set of elites who are contemplating possibly challenging U.S. Power, they're subject to attack. That's preventive war. That's a new norm in international relations. That's the law of the jungle. It's in signs and signals. Troops in 100 nations, bases in 70 nations, a major carrier in every ocean.

Internally, 1% of the population owning 48% of the net wealth, financial wealth. 5% own 70% of the wealth – and that's before the tax cuts. And the result is what? As you can imagine, the most vulnerable, beginning with who? The children. Already 22% of all America's children live in poverty. The richest nation in the history of the world – it’s a disgrace. Disgrace. The children – It’s 7% in Canada, it’s 6% in Japan. It’s 22% in America. 42% of red children, 39% of brown children, 37% of black children. They are 100% of the future. Poverty educates. It shapes the way they look at the world. It gives them a sense of who they are. The untrustworthiness of existence. Here the greatest empire in the history of the world has this plutocratic, oligarchic, to some degree still mentocratic hierarchy in its economy, and then the most vulnerable, the children. Who are connected to those children? Poor women. Workers of both genders, handicapped, disproportionately black, brown and red, yes, but numerically mainly white brothers and sisters.

Where is the discourse? Where is the outrage? Where is the indignation? Or is it that the sleepwalking taking place has become so normative that we feel as if we can't make a difference. What is going on? Thank God, again for our artists. When they get beyond family dysfunctionality and vanilla suburbs, they could have broader canvases, many do. There’s some dynamics going on the global scale, and we know what, no empire lasts forever. All empires come and go. They ebb and flow. Chickens do come home to roost. You are going to reap what you sow. Sooner or later, reality is going to come back on you. You can only live in a state of denial for so long. You can only hide and conceal the structures and institutions in place that don't at the present highlight the dilapidated school systems in chocolate cities, unavailable health care for 44 million fellow citizens.

4 comments:

Skye said...

I saw West speak on Friday as well and was struck by a few things:
1. the number of folks there
2. the diversity of folks there
3. His emphasis on artists and art to overcome oppression, citing Coltrane's "Love Supreme" as one artistic summit of the Afro/Am nightmare-journey from slavery and oppression
4. enlightened white people are now oppressed and may in fact, now reaaly understand the blues
It was a fantastic evening.

Anonymous said...

wonderful entry, a nice blog

upsanddowns said...

I saw West a while back and was completely mesmerized, not only with his content, but by his style and musical manner of delivery.

ScottB said...

absolutely