Friday, July 20, 2018

HENRY GIROUX'S CRITICAL READS

(The Seminary Co-op)

"It is hard to imagine a more urgent moment for developing a language of critique and possibility that would serve to awaken our critical and imaginative senses and help free us from the tyrannical nightmare that has descended upon the United States under the rule of Donald Trump. In an age of social isolation, information overflow, a culture of immediacy, consumer glut, and spectacularized violence, reading critical books and thinking critically remain necessary if we are to take seriously the notion that a democracy cannot exist or be defended without informed and engaged citizens. This is especially true at a time when denial has become a national pastime matched only by the increasing normalization of one of the most alarming administrations ever to take hold of the American presidency. Against a numbing indifference, paralyzing despair, or withdrawal into the private orbits of the isolated self, there is a need to create those formative cultures that are humanizing, foster the capacity to hear others, sustain complex thoughts, and engage social problems. We have no other choice if we are to resist the increasing destabilization of democratic institutions, the assault on reason, the collapse of the distinction between fact and fiction, the legitimation of tribal identities, and the taste for savagery that now spreads across America like a plague. Reading the word means not only learning how to read the world, but also learning how to think critically and refuse to succumb to the unthinkable. The pedagogical lesson here is that fascism begins with hateful words, the demonization of others considered disposable and moves to an attack on ideas, the burning of books, and the disappearance of intellectuals, the emergence of the carceral state, and the horrors of detention centers and camps.

     Trump’s presidency may only be symptomatic of the long decline of liberal democracy in the United States, but its presence signifies one of the gravest challenges, if not dangers, the country has faced in over a century. A formative culture of lies, ignorance, corruption and violence is now fueled by a range of orthodoxies shaping American life, including social conservatism, market fundamentalism, apocalyptic nationalism, religious extremism, and white nationalism, all of which occupy the centers of power at the highest levels of government. Historical memory and moral witnessing have given way to a bankrupt nostalgia that celebrates the most regressive moments in American history."

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