I would like to share a quote from a book I am re-reading with a student and which I think deserves careful study and discussion: Revolt of the Masses by José Ortega y Gasset .
I offer this quote without comment (for the present):
“Advanced civilisation is one and the same thing as arduous problems. Hence, the greater the progress, the greater danger it is in. Life gets gradually better, but evidently also gradually more complicated. Of course, as problems become more complex, the means of solving them also become more perfect. But each new generation must master these perfected means. Amongst them- to come to the concrete- there is one most plainly attached to the advance of a civilisation, namely, that it have a great deal of the past at its back, a great deal of experience; in a word: history. Historical knowledge is a technique of the first order to preserve and continue a civilisation already advanced. Not that it affords positive solutions to the new aspect of vital conditions- life is always different from what it was- but that it prevents us committing the ingenuous mistakes of other times. But if, in addition to being old and, therefore, beginning to find life difficult, you have lost the memory of the past, and do not profit by experience, then everything turns to disadvantage.” (Take from chapter x, “Primitivism and history”)
Talking about the Bandung Conference of 1955 and the Non-Aligned Movement with a student this evening.
In this era of a fracturing Atlantic Alliance I find it immensely valuable to better understand how there has long been more than a bipolar world out there. And I believe very strongly that young adults deserve to learn about and engage with alternative narratives about the historical roots of the twenty-first century world. They need to know about the aspirations of the developing world nations and to engage with the fault lines of colonialism, neocolonialism, and neo-imperialism. I am grateful that there are many outstanding works of scholarship out there that make my own reading so much richer and my perspective better informed.
For anyone interested, this book is an outstanding introduction to the politics of the Non-Aligned Movement and the developing world in the mid-late twentieth century:
In the days following Dr. King’s assassination, Washington D.C. experienced the most destructive rioting in its history. I think that the disturbances which followed King’s murder are worth revisiting because of what they can tell us of the disparity between the promise of American life and its reality for many. I also think it is worth revisiting on account of the role of racism in shaping the physical, economic, psychological, and sociological landscape of urban and black life in the United States.
In the fall of 1968, the Washington Post put out a book on the riots which still stands as a valuable document that has helped me to understand a world I grew up adjacent to but also very far away from.
Next week is the 50th anniversary of the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
One of the things that I think that has been neglected over the years is how Coretta Scott King and her four children were impacted by his death. I am currently working on an editorial on this topic and I am hoping that the London Free Press -or someone else- will run it.
In the meantime, I recommend watching this segment from 60 Minutes (11:37-24:52). Just before Christmas 1968, Mike Wallace went to the King household to see how they were faring.
Last Friday I visited the Amherstburg Freedom Museum dedicated to the Underground Railroad and the history of the black communities of Essex County.
I highly recommend making the trip if you can. In addition to a preserved cabin built by a freeman in the 1850s, the museum site also has an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church built in 1848 and which served as a terminus of the Underground Railroad. The museum features an art gallery and exhibit complete with artifacts and narratives of the Railroad, the slave trade and the connection between Ontario and Canada and the institution of slavery. https://amherstburgfreedom.org