Thursday, May 16, 2013

16 may 2013

I Still Have the Floorplan

We look off
as newborns look
into other space
where a door opens
onto a room
& farther doors
to further rooms
of the infinite house
where others live
whether we know
them or not —
known space
we’re hoping to
resurrect from
first memory
every time we
reconnect to
our commonplace.

Cornel West [Evan Agostini]

the Enlightenment worldview held by Du Bois is ultimately inadequate, and in many ways antiquated, for our time. The tragic plight and absurd predicament of Africans here and abroad requires a more profound interpretation of the human condition — one that goes far beyond the false dichotomies of expert knowledge versus mass ignorance, individual autonomy versus dogmatic authority and self-mastery versus intolerant tradition. Our tragicomic times require more democratic concepts of knowledge and leadership that highlight human fallibility and mutual accountability, notions of individuality and contested authority that stress dynamic traditions and ideals of self-realization within participatory communities.

The second fundamental pillar of Du Bois’s intellectual project is his Victorian strategies — namely, the ways in which his Enlightenment worldview can be translated into action. They rest upon three basic assumptions. First, that the self-appointed agents of Enlightenment constitute a sacrificial cultural elite engaged in service on behalf of the impulsive and irrational masses. Second, that this service consists of shaping and molding the values and viewpoints of the masses by managing educational and political bureaucracies (e.g., schools and political parties). Third, that the effective management of these bureaucracies by the educated few for the benefit of the pathetic many promotes material and spiritual progress. . . .

In fact, Du Bois’s notion . . . is a descendant of those cultural and political elites conceived by the major Victorian critics during the heyday of the British empire in its industrial phase. S. T. Coleridge’s secular clerisy, Thomas Carlyle’s strong heroes and Matthew Arnold’s disinterested aliens all shun the superficial vulgarity of materialism and the cheap thrills of hedonism in order to preserve and promote highbrow culture and to civilize and contain the lowbrow masses. . . .”The Negro race, like all races, is going to be saved by its exceptional men.” . . . The patriarchal sensibilities speak for themselves. They are unargued for, hence unacceptable.

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