Into This World We’re Thrown

Lugnasa                                                                        Superior Wolf Moon

mattisPolitical correctness. What a genius it was who invented that phrase. An oxymoron that sounds like a platitude while really functioning as a self-imposed conservative censor. Let’s be clear, there is no such as the politically correct. There are only those cultural observations and changing traditions that reflect a certain political perspective. So, in that sense, I agree with the conservatives.

(The danger in not knowing yourself and being willing to impose your perceptions. Taken to the extreme here.)

When I react negatively to a woman being called a girl, to a black man being called colored or nigger, to a lesbian or gay being called queer (although that community has embraced this epithet), it is precisely my point that the world has moved on. Find people who aren’t like your idea of normal as people nonetheless. Am I right, or correct, in this perspective. I certainly think so. Do you think so? Maybe not. If not, I’m interested in your rationale for your language.

Now, having said that, I find the University of Chicago letter to its incoming students both unobjectionable and positive. Trigger warnings, intellectual safe places and sanctioning speakers on campus are the precise opposite of what colleges and universities are about. If you go to college and don’t find yourself challenged, embarrassed, overwhelmed, exhilarated and scared, you’re not only not getting your money’s worth, you’re being actively cheated.

atlantic-baby-2No matter where you come from you arrive at the beginning of a college education with a set of biases and conceptual short cuts framed by the world into which, as Heidegger put it, you were thrown. This is neither a negative or a positive, it just is. A university education is about pulling those blinders off so you can see the whole street. This is the moment when we learn that our way is not the only way, that our understanding about religion or agriculture or class or gender or race is not shared by 100% of earth’s population. In fact, it’s shared by only a tiny percentage of the seven billion or so alive right now. Again, that’s neither negative or positive, it just is.

We also learn that the perspectives and biases of everyone alive right now are not the end of it. Over time, that is both historically and pre-historically, humanity has entertained a plethora of forms of government, religious practice, kinship patterns, artistic conventions, military custom and all other forms of human activity that can be imagined.

The only way to enter the human experience fully is to learn a reflexive humility when confronted with difference. The only way to gain that humility is to learn yourself inside and out, to know why you view the world the way you do. And the only path to self-knowledge is a gauntlet of hits to your self-complacency.

Zhzi44College is the safe space. It’s not safe in terms of no discomfort. It’s not safe in terms of reinforcement of your cherished beliefs. It’s safe in terms of its recognition that we all need to learn who and what we are within the context of the great body of human knowledge and within the vast sea of living humans. It’s safe in that it provides a place where that is the purpose of daily life.

This is, btw, the soundest argument I can make for the humanities. While science may challenge your understanding of the physical and natural world, it will not, except in rare instances, challenge your mores, your prejudices. It will also not train you in the vast number of options of how to be human, or the vast number of options of how we can be human together. No, for those learnings you need art, literature, philosophy, music, history, political history. Where do you find those? Yes, in a college space.



This entry was posted in Art and Culture, Asia, Commentary on the news, Humanities, Politics, US History, World History. Bookmark the permalink.

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