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Are We Losing Our Humanity?: Part 1

[By Prof. Jerry Ward]

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
National Press Club, 529 14th Street, NW, 13th Floor
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?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?
Discussion topics:
*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?
The Challenges Before us Forums
In the spirit of ASU’s The Challenges Before Us project to
tackle some of the many challenges facing society today, the forums are
designed to open a dialogue between experts, practitioners and the community at
large.   [ASU is the abbreviation for
Arizona State University]
In “Are We Losing Our Humanity?, Part 2, I shall comment on
two things.
1) Why the third topic question above has angered me greatly
2) 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

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