Friday, December 27, 2002

Your assignment

The Nitpicker will be out of town for the next week -- Los Niños and I will be hanging around in the Florida panhandle. Your assignment, should you choose (for whatever reason) to accept an assignment from me, is to read an essay in the January issue of Harper's entitled "Common Ground: Finding our way back to the Enlightenment." It's by Thomas de Zengotita (which means, if my Spanish is correct, Tom of the little Zengo) and is excellent. Check this:

If you are a member of an historically marginalized group, doesn't the outrage that motivates your politics derive from a gut sense of the violation of basic justice inherent in historical arrangements as well as from the harm that you and yours have suffered? It's hard to distinguish the sources, but try. And if you are not a member of such a group, ask yourself this: Why do you even care? If you are a straight white man with middle-class advantages, why aren't you a Republican? That would obviously be in your interest, in any Nietzschean sense of the word that might be accepted by postmodern political thought. So what's the story here? Isn't it true that your politics are, at bottom, motivated by Enlightenment ideals?

It will only hurt for a minute if you confess.

And the benefits will be many.

There's some great stuff in this essay and, in the end, it's a new call to arms for a progressive movement. Sometimes we libs get carried away with all this intellectual hoo-ha and lose sight of making politics work, but, for anyone interested in questions like what it ought to mean to be a liberal, this is a "must read."

Update: On the other hand, Stephen (of To the Barricades fame) says that I'm thinking too much.


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