For those of you who don't know, this is the drug that Breitbart is high on. And while I haven't gotten a chance to meet a lot of my philosophical compatriots face to face, I suspect that many of the more thoughtful ones might have a course or two at Claremont in common.
I've been waiting for Bill Whittle to get his proper funding so as to not be under the financial thumb of PJTV or whatever the reason was for this video to only recently become freely available. This is one of his more inspired 13 minutes - which covers a lot of ground. You're not likely, I think, to see anything this good on television of any sort. Yet.
Declaration Entertainment is the new home of Whittle and he's taking a slightly different tack from what I've seen. He's getting better. And again this particular message is the one that strikes home for former Progressives like me who were never quite comfortable with all of the Commies who show up for the MLK Day Parade.
Interestingly enough, the Frankfurt School was exactly where I was pointed when I wanted to understand and make more sense of everything I had been trying to learn outside of my profession. And 'Critical Theory' is a category in this blog because it was the black critical theorists that I began reading back in '90 when I decided that being part of the Talented Tenth wasn't quite enough for me. Since it is Julyteenth I should expand on that a bit.
I can recall the day when, unlike just about every summer weekend before, I began wanting to enjoy the company of books to the company of my black yuppie compadres. I was at a pool party and a day or two before, I started reading Beloved by Toni Morrison. It was the first book by a black author that truly captivated me with its content and style. So much of what I had read before was so shallow by comparison - here finally was the intellectual level of black literature I had been searching for. As I had previously read Gloria Naylor's "Women of Brewster Place" and some others I forgot - I had been so embarassed. There seemed to be nothing to quench my thirst for art and literature above the level of BET, and I spent a lot of time and money looking for black highbrow culture. That Naylor had won a prize as one of the best American writers, I was more than disappointed. It was this kind of disappointment that was more indicative of my needs rather than Naylor's mediocrity. I began to head towards all things Asian, impressed as I was by the films of Kurosawa, the biography of Mishima, the philosophy of Sun Tzu, the manga of Otomo, the fiction of James Clavell and this chick named Maiko. At the same time, I was mightily impressed by both the Graywolf Annual on Multicultural Literacy and the original Cultural Literacy by E.D. Hirsch Jr.
I was ending my 20s and I wanted more. I figured I had done quite enough of the buppie thing and it wasn't very satisfying. I wanted more than ski trips and a BMW. Well, I wanted those too, but also more. I wanted my black culture to be the ultimate black culture. And when I finally read Toni Morrison, and I finally saw The Colored Museum by George C. Wolfe, I began to see where it was. In fact there was something in academia, and I was introduced to the formal Critical Theorists through my associations with UCLA's black professoriate. So I read, in those days before Skip Gates had compiled the selections for the Norton Anthology, those considered on the leading edge of black scholarship Kimberle Crenshaw, Audre Lorde, Derrick Bell, bell hooks, Stephen L. Carter and the lord and master of all, my new hero Cornel West. It was Cornel West who finally gave me the understanding, at a philosophical level, what my American intellectual inheritance was. Without any idea that there was any substance to Conservative thought in America or Europe at all, I came to know the American Pragmatists through his survey, 'The American Evasion of Philosophy'.
Amidst the brain rot of Afrocentrism and the 50 page books of rabid bloviators like Juwanza Kinjufu and Francis Cress Welsing I came to the Progressive edge seeking Praxis.
Praxis is a specific kind of obedience that organizes itself around a social theory of reality in order to implement in the society the freedom, inherent in faith. If faith is the belief that God created all for freedom, then praxis is the social theory used to analyze what must be done for the historical realization of freedom. To sing about freedom and to pray for its coming is not enough. Freedom must be actualized in history by oppressed peoples who accept the intellectual challenge to analyze the work for the purpose of changing it. -- James Cone, Speaking the Truth
That was something I could sink my teeth into because Evasion showed me without question that all the philosophical basis for 'freedom' and 'liberty' were the All-American ideas of Emerson, Dewey, DuBois, Mills and Neibuhr and further that there was nothing other than pedantic epistemological nonsense coming out of Europe. I was basically in thrall to this mindset until my son was born and I had to get real.
But there were cracks in the armor I could perceive before the beginning of the end. The post-modern deconstructionist babble was its own worst enemy. I understood Eco's semiotics well enough to tell that a lot of baffling bullshit was being sold. So when I finally got the recommendation to follow up on Adorno and company (not surprisingly from a friend at Columbia U.) I had just about had enough. Morrison had ironically showed me that good writing was better than coherent Left theory, so as she went off the deep end of suffering and started Playing in the Dark, I was ready to walk away from it all, which I finally did in about 96 in the midst of my Boohabian playground. The last blackified book I (sorta) read was 'Volunteer Slavery', which although it was about Corporate America, also pretty much summed up too much of black writing's intellectual direction. When I moved to the South and started reading 'Pushed Back To Strength', after about eight years of reading, I was pretty much done.
I settled on reading James Baldwin as the last of my black literature knowing it would return me to the subjects of love and integrity. At least those were the books I wanted to read of Baldwin's. And having done so, I abandoned all of that Progessive philosophy to make money and raise a family in Atlanta, the black mecca. But the last of my high energy New York intellectual pursuits led me to the source and all I could hear was that Marx didn't get everything right, but the only way to really understand capitalism is to master Marxist thought. Therefore, Frankfurt School. Which is kinda weird considering that I actually wanted to get an MBA from Columbia and become a quant programmer on Wall Street.
I was quite fortunate to have made my first six figure year in 1995 as an independent consultant. And that year I learned what it felt like to walk around a city in a suit because I wanted to, on a day I didn't have to work because I didn't feel like it. I was my own boss. The seeds were sown and the practicality of being that kind of breadwinner set me up for my conservative conversion several years hence. But I had stepped outside one main stream of The Narrative when I left New York.