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A review on the Book "Restoring Hope" by Dr. Cornel West

By       Message Herbert Calhoun     Permalink
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These ministers together, then go on to say that our society is being over-run by moral pygmies, people who lack the requisite humility and thus whose internal engines are fired up only by false egotistical bombast, which in reality is fear of their own shadows, expressing itself in other ways. These moral pygmies are constantly "faking it" and are teaching us how to "fake it" too. But in truth they are haunted by deep inner doubts, and insecurities, lacking both the confidence and the courage to be. They barrel through life beating their chests, with checkbooks, creative comforts and exaggerated titles, pretending to have what it takes. But in fact are scared to death that they may be empty of any humanity whatsoever; and thus that they will not be loved, will not be accepted, or validated in life by mainstream society -- and most of all, scared of their own failures. These are the people who are out front, who think they are leading us to the promise land, but who are in fact leading us over a destructive cliff far away from our own humanity and far away from the center of the democratic cultural ideals that have been bequeathed to us.

But life is a process that involves lots of failure. "Failing up" (by always telling the truth) makes you strong; failing down" (through lies, dissembling, avoidance, deception and fantasy) makes you weaker. And hiding from weaknesses leads to fallings back on convenient crutches as the preferred way of coping; that is to say, as a way to avoid facing the fear, insecurities, and lack of confidence that are at the root of such weaknesses. The author and his guests agree that the crutches have all become endemic idols of choice in contemporary American culture. They include all of the normal post-modern amusements: of drugs, alcohol, sex, shopping, chasing money, religion, the need to be entertained, the need to belong, and thus the need to be swept away from everyday reality by coping through sanctioned fiat. Foremost among these idols is religion itself, which all three agree has a lot to answer for -- as does God.

Reality construction too is a process in which, we blacks, as is true of all groups, must always have a stake. Mustering the courage to be is difficult and "it is dangerous to live in a world in which you do not have the power to help shape the nature of the experiences in that world, or to define who you are." Black reality does not have to be confined to what others tell us is real about our world or about ourselves. When we are honest, we can help define and shape our own reality, and can thus reconceive ourselves to ourselves.   In this way, even without a dime we can write our own narrative, plot our own destinies and become qualitatively a richer people.

Even though in our new erstwhile stage of equality, where the breaking out of the ghetto (or other segregated circumstances), is like a second semester in life, it is not a time to recoil and become complacent or become lemming-like followers of the mainstream living off the land, and constantly looking askance for mainstream approval. But it is also our opportunity to make a case for how the world is -- as well as how it should be -- with us, not just "of," but also "in" it.

As a people black people have many unseen and still "untapped" strengths that these interviews draw out: the Blues, and Jazz or good examples. We can also sing; write poetry, and we can also "rap" and even hum. There is untapped knowledge for life's journey in all of these forms of strengths. For as history has shown, they can be subversive, progressive, conservative, or neutral, but always are life affirming and empowering.

Today, even with a mulatto President, in America, racially we are in a difficult situation, make no mistake about it: Right before our eyes, the American dream has turned to dust, a dim vapor trail, like cotton candy: You bite down on it: nothing is there? These ministers say it is thus time for a paradigm shift in spirituality; time to invent new ways of being spiritual. They say we now need new social movements, new ways of activism, new politics, new ways of being subversive, alternatives to hustling, Uncle Tomming and Aunt Jemaiming, and relying only on the self-destructive "get over strategies" of the ghetto and of the past. We need to call on our historical memory, on our forefathers and foremothers, and on all our historical connections.

As well, going forward, these three ministers admit that God too is a problem, He too must be interrogated. We have the right to ask Him hard questions. Maybe this will mean that we will need more secular models to help us cope? But here we must be careful for we are treading on thin ice. For we don't want to throw out the baby with the bath water. Because in reinventing the spiritual, throwing out God, we may also throw out our own collective vitality.

The role of Hope in Obama's Democracy

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Retired Foreign Service Officer and past Manager of Political and Military Affairs at the US Department of State. For a brief time an Assistant Professor of International Relations at the University of Denver and the University of Washington at (more...)

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