August 13, 2012
Are We Losing Our Humanity?: Part 1
This is an announcement. Time is not accidental. Dates are. It is accidental that November 5, 2012 is the deadline for submissions to PMLA on the general topic of tragedy. It is accidental that on November 6, 2012 millions of American citizens will participate in the ritual of electing a president. It is accidental that in the May 2012 issue of PMLA one finds Rob Nixon’s thoughtful article “Neo-liberalism, Genre, and ‘The Tragedy of the Commons’ “ (593-599) and Rudolph Fisher’s missing story “The Shadow of White,” nicely authenticated by Molly Anne Rothenberg’ s remarks on how “Dr. Fisher offers his audience a therapeutics of the imagination”(618). It is accidental that Rosemary Feal, Executive Director of the Modern Language Association, will moderate the forum “Are We Losing Our Humanity?” at the National Press Club on September 7, 2012.
These accidents are opportunities for using pre-future logics to discover and speculate. Several billion people around the world will experience the generic properties of tragedy in the outcomes of November 6, and they will not speak of their experiences in privileged academic languages or publish their feelings in peer-reviewed journals. They will curse. They will use the plain speech that the academic folk (some anthropologists and linguists are exceptions ) dismiss . A few intelligent heretics will, like Walter Rodney, Ella Baker, and Frantz Fanon, listen to the anguish and use their critical gifts to write survival activities that pertain to food, health care, and sources of energy. A smaller number of heretics will broadcast the crucial information in Rob Nixon’s article, imitate Dr. Fisher, and expose the obscene content of the September 7 forum. As an agent of the MLA, Feal has chosen to make a literary and moral sacrifice that we must respect.
For readers who have difficulty following the rhetorical turns of pre-future thought, I will say that the content of the September 7 forum is about who has the right to live and who should be urged to die. That is my ultimate reduction of the sophisticated language used in the following information about the forum that I have “borrowed” from the Internet.
September 7, 2012; 9:00 to 10:30 am
Coffee at 8:30
Coffee at 8:30
National Press Club, 529 14th Street, NW, 13th Floor
Washington, DC 20013
Washington, DC 20013
About the event
The pressure of explosive population growth will increasingly require us to empathize, collaborate, and negotiate within our own small communities and as nations. Yet, vitriolic political rhetoric, more time spent with technology and entertainment, and evidence of religious and cultural intolerance despite a spike in diversity within nations may all be indicative of a decrease in a globally shared sense of humanity.
As a technological, economic, and political leader of incredible social diversity, the United States serves as a bellwether for world’s ability to “all get along.” What are the implications of diminished humanist values in an era when American business, political, scientific, and policy decisions have inevitable and repercussive global ramifications?
· In a world of proliferating technology, intensifying competition for resources, and rising nation-states how will we be able to humanize the increasingly complex choices we must make as a society?
· How can we create a culture of intellectual confluence that embraces both technological advance and that which makes us human?
· Is there room for the humanity of all seven billion people to be recognized, or is it inevitable that many will remain (or become) commodities?
· As our interactions are progressively mediated through electronics, how will we educate for humanistic interchange?
· How does the legal definition of personhood blur the human status of individual people?
Can a re-infusion of humanist values and perspectives in the way we train our scientists, businesspeople, doctors, and engineers help them develop more efficient systems and have greater impact, while increasing the bottom line?
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In “Are We Losing Our Humanity?, Part 2, I shall comment on two things.
- Why the third topic question above has angered me greatly
- Why the September 7 forum provides a unique opportunity to rethink what the field and function of African American literary and cultural studies might be