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Are We Losing Our Humanity?, Part 2.1

[By Prof. Jerry Ward]

Dr. Neal Lester, Foundation Professor of
English and Director, Project Humanities, at Arizona State University, will
provide the opening remarks for the September 7 forum.  Lester began Project Humanities as a
university initiative in 2010, and I suspect he shares my belief that maintaining
a divide between the hard sciences and the humanities is bogus.  Whether he shares my belief that divisions
among the soft or human sciences, matters of law, and the actuality of evil are
bogus may be revealed in his remarks.  It
is unlikely his remarks will cast light on my reasons for being deeply angered
by the wording of the question which locates the third discussion topic:
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?
 

The question is at once Nazi and ghetto
fabulous.  For over a million years the
humanity of animals who ordained themselves human beings has been
recognized.  That was the state of
affairs until a few European animals/human beings  gave birth to the idea in an “Enlightenment
Project” that they were superior to other animals/human beings on this planet.  The illegitimate child was named Rasse to denote her implacable imperial
character.
The
wording so angers me because I translate “is
there room
” into Lebensraum.  The arrogance implicit in speaking of “all seven billion people” as if the
implied speaker were  light years  removed from the numerical count is
tendentious at best and vomit-inducing at worst.  It a matter of dismay that contemporary
cultural studies have rendered critical and ethical thinking so impotent that a
person would speak of another person as a commodity,
an item of economic exchange.  There is
no room for such sinister blather in my pre-future vision.
To
the extent that pre-future vision does work in African American literary and
cultural studies, it seeks ways to make anger productive.  It will revisit What Is Life?: Reclaiming the Black Blues Self (Chicago: Third
World Press, 1994) by Kalamu ya Salaam; C. S. Lewis’ s ideas about moral
conflict in The Screwtape Letters
(1942);  LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka’s Home: Social Essays (New York: William Morrow,
1966), Ishmael Reed’s Mixing It Up:
Taking on the Media Bullies and Other Reflections
(New York: Da Capo Press,
2008), Jared Diamond’s Collapse (New
York: Viking, 2005) and Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (New York: The New Press,
2010).  Pre-future vision, in its
dedicated meditations on the hidden dimensions of the September 7 forum will
reconsider Critical Race Theory (New
York: The New Press, 1995), edited by Kimberlé 
Crenshaw et al. as well as the mandate from Vision Foundation International  that “the principle of
generosity toward those in need must be coupled with the recipients’
willingness to make honest effort to help not only self and family but also to
extend that help to others in their communities.”  The decline of compassion in the face of
terrorism must be understood.  Pre-future
vision, without losing its memory of what is most useful in M. M. Bakhtin’s The Dialogic Imagination and Cornel
West’s Keeping Faith: Philosophy and Race
in America
, must seek to discover what such lively phrases as “shotgun
sequence data,” “virulence maps,” and “mutated promoters” mean in speaking
about genome biology.  It must ask in
seeking a fuller response to the forum and the anger-making question what is
the role in global society of the National Human Genome Research Institute, an
arm of the United States National Institutes of Health. Pre-future vision is
not ashamed to make literary and cultural mistakes.