Reading into 2016
"Gentlemen, I know a cigar is a phallic symbol," Sigmund Freud is alleged to have said, "but it is also a cigar." Likewise, the public intellectual David Walker addressed commonsensical words "to the coloured citizens of the world, but in particular, and very expressly, to those of the United States of America." Freud's words are beyond verification; Walker's words yet hammer nails into consciousness. Thus, citizens of the world, but very expressly American citizens, deserve to be warned that 2016 will be an amoral year of hostile humor. We should take up our barrels and laugh into them.
January 1, 2016 marks the beginning of the sunset of the Age of Obama, and the ignoble luxury of blaming our first Kenyan American President for all the illich of the world shall begin to evaporate. As we prepare to indict ourselves in the November 8, 2016 election of a new President, we should clearly understand that our voting will be neither a symbolic affirmation of democracy, a taking back of our country, nor a reason rather than an excuse for partisan jubilation. The election will be such a Mammon-tainted performance that we shall have to admit that Democrats and Republicans have snookered and bamboozled us into donating our sovereignty to a death-bound new world order.
Readers trained in the natural and social sciences may have a slight advantage over those trained in the human sciences ( classical humanities) in 2016, for they will be more disposed to read deeply and interestedly than closely and disinterestedly. Deep and close may live in the same neighborhood, but they have divergent intellectual class identities.
American readers who are deep will be less likely to "pig out" on literature as such and more disposed to do work hard at trying to understand the legacy of Leo Strauss (1899-1973) with help from the Leo Strauss Center (http://leostrausscenter.uchicago.edu). They will be deeply interested in how our government has adapted ideas Strauss proposed about political philosophy, Jewish studies, and Islamic studies. They will be even more deeply interested in understanding how those ideas have been translated into domestic and foreign policies which are related to the phenomena of fear, terrorism, and abject disregard for anything close to the sanctity of human life on Earth. They will note in passing that the Strauss Center gets major support from the Winiarski Family Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
These readers will give passionate attention to Pierre Teilhard De Chardin's The Phenomenon of Man (1955; New York: Harper Torchbook, 1961), and the date of the original French edition of Le Phénomene Humain ---1955 ---will wave like a bloody white flag before their eyes. 1955? 1955? Ah, in the summer of 1955, the lynching of Emmett Till in Mississippi began the writing of what Charles Blow calls "a vital American story" (see his op-ed in the August 31, 2015 edition of The New York Times). But a few months earlier, April 18-24, 1955, twenty-nine African and Asian nations met in Bandung, Indonesia. So, the deep readers will examine the final communiqué (April 24) of that conference and give special notice to the claim in section B (Cultural co-operation).1 that "the cultures of Asia and Africa are based in spiritual and universal foundations." EPIPHANY. In 1955, our nation, the U.S.S.R, and selected European nations were busily hatching the eggs of Cold War neo-colonialism, and close reading of the Bandung communiqué may yet prove these imperial powers attended too cavalierly to the profound implication of what the emerging Third World countries agreed upon in Bandung and did not say specifically.
As the chickens of rainbow colors have come home to roost with violent and deliberate speed throughout the world in 2015, we may be persuaded to add to our list of required reading for 2016
Diamond, Jared. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. New York: Viking, 2005.
Faust, David. The Limits of Scientific Reasoning. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984.
Lorenz, Edward N. The Essence of Chaos. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1993.
Power, Samantha. "A Problem from Hell:" America and the Age of Genocide. New York: Perennial, 2003.
Reich, Walter, ed. Origins of Terrorism: Psychologies, Ideologies, Theologies, States of Mind. Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 1998.
Roberts, Brian Russell and Keith Foulcher, eds. Indonesia Notebook: A Sourcebook on Richard Wright, Modern Indonesia, and the Bandung Conference. Durham: Duke University Press, 2016.
Wright, Richard. The Color Curtain: A Report on the Bandung Conference. New York: World Publishing Company, 1956.
Reading will not resolve existing problems or those as yet unborn. Nevertheless, reading can assist us in not being wimpy and weepy on November 9, 2016. No matter what a cowrie shell is forced to symbolize in the collective American mind, it is still a shell of a marine gastropod mollusk.
Jerry W. Ward, Jr.
December 7, 2015