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Mayor Bloomberg's Bold New Initiative Is Magnanimous

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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) August 7, 2011: Michael R. Bloomberg, the Mayor of New York City, should be commended for his initiative to help about 315,000 young black and Latino men who are cut off from New York's civic, educational and economic life.


Mayor Bloomberg's plan to spend nearly $130 million on far-reaching measures to improve their circumstances is one of the most far-reaching plans I've read about since President Lyndon B. Johnson's proposed in the 1960s that the United States should strive to be the Great Society, the city of a hill for the entire world to emulate. For understandable reasons, President Johnson's inspiring plan did not work out. But Bloomberg's plan might work out in New York City. If it does, then New York will be able to claim to be the city that all other cities in the United States, large and small, should emulate.


The fact that Mayor Bloomberg plans to contribute generously from his own personal fortune to fund this initiative shows the quality that Aristotle refers to as greatness of soul (aka magnanimity). Mayor Bloomberg is a far-sighted political leader, something we Americans have not seen over the last half century or so.


Mayor Bloomberg's personal generosity reminds me of the public generosity of the generous people of New York City who supported tuition-free higher education for many years in New York City. The City College of the City University of New York is the only public college in the world today that has eight Nobel Prize winners among its graduates. So tuition-free higher education in New York City yielded certain significant results. I was invited to teach in the Department of English at City College/CUNY in 1975-1976, when Mayor Abraham Beame, himself a graduate of City College/CUNY, decided to start charging tuition at all of the campuses of CUNY, not just at City College/CUNY. No doubt the experiment with open admissions at the undergraduate campuses of CUNY contributed mightily to bankrupting New York City in 1976. As a result of that bankruptcy, I didn't get my May 1976 paycheck until a number of years later. Overall, the results of the experiment with open admissions at CUNY were not as impressive as many of us had hoped for. In consequence, I can only hope that Mayor Bloomberg's new initiative produces more positive results.


For Bloomberg's plan to work and become effective, the young black and Latino men involved will have to engage the part of their psyches that Plato and Aristotle refer to as thumos. The ancient Greek term is rendered in English as the spirited part (of the psyche). It is the part of the psyche that controls our fight/flight/freeze responses. I am saying that the young black and Latino men involved need to engage the fighting spirit within their psyches, not to engage in physical violence of any sort, but to engage in the powerful psychodynamism that can motivate them to work and apply themselves to socially acceptable behavior.


In Plato's Republic and Phaedrus, the interlocutors discuss the human psyche as having three parts: (1) the rational part, (2) the desiring part, and (3) the spirited part (Greek, "thumos"). Because I am not fond of referring to the spirited part of the psyche, I prefer to refer to thumos.


Thumos is the psychodynamism behind the kind of behavior that Walter J. Ong refers to as contesting behavior in his book Fighting for Life: Contest, Sexuality, and Consciousness (1981), the published version of his 1979 Messenger Lectures at Cornell University.


But Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette have proposed another way to refer to the psychodynamism of thumos in their book The Warrior Within: Accessing the Knight [Archetype] in the Male Psyche (1993). To avoid a possible misunderstanding here, I should point out that Moore and Gillette claim that there is also a Warrior archetype in the female psyche. But they have written a book only about the male psyche.


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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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