Dream It All up Again

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The extent of my engagement with institutional politics was confined to the occasional encounter with campus activism personified, Chuck McNally. He would sit me down and relay some story about today's battle against institutional politics. But that was it.

As described by columnist Kevin Deenihan in "________," UC Berkeley's public image as some hotbed of political protest and radical activism is a misconception. The free spirit student protester is an anachronism. The campus no longer bears the mark of the fervor and excitement generated by the potential of the radical left. The people's history and similar revisionist intellectual trends are no longer the heated topics debated in intellectual circles.

As students, we are no longer exposed to the histories of human strife of similar such Marxist theories but instead are asked to critically engage with ahistorical texts. The proposed aim is to creatively assemble facts and render judgements that negate totalitarian theories such as fascism and truth.

Today, the student enters the university unprepared to deal with such high doses of uncertainty. The university professor contends that the student must learn how to think critically, resist the comfort of straightforward answers, and recognize comprehension and understanding as mere illusion. To the mind with some established sense of being, perhaps this regiment of doubt is worthwhile exposure. Today's student is, however, already suffering from a lack of identity, complete absence of cultural history, lack of purpose and bereft of family, community and religion. These claims mean very little to the student. They only further confuse our sense of time and place.

But maybe this is only an intellectual trend. Perhaps the humanities departments will eventually restructure themselves not in some appeal to conservative indoctrination but perhaps cultivating a new sense of community beyond the defeat of postmodernist culture.

In the face of this "reasoned relativism," political activism has suffered a decline, and in its stead some sort of survivalist apathy has swept the hearts of our young and eager future business leaders of America. People come to possess anecdotes, facts, and stories lacking synthesis, interconnectivity or relationship to the realm of community.

And maybe this is the problem with out current conception of liberal humanism. The dominant themes of today's political climate are the rights of the individual and the protection of private property. These themes help proliferate the nonsense tropes confusing today's undergraduates and tomorrow's reality instructors.

This is a plea for a more imaginative response. Not just marginal protests but a rethinking of the essence of government. People talk about the U.S. Constitution as a living document, that it has lived the test of time. That's not a tribute to its flexibility but to the stronghold that it has over the citizens.

We need to dream up a society no longer dependent on oppression and imperial claims but on community and equality.

In the introduction to "The Contours of American History," a historical sketch on U.S. imperialism and of course overseas conquest and oppression, William Appelman Williams formulates two types of democracies-one based on power and passivity, and the other on love and participation. He writes, "There are two kinds of community. One is the community established through the practice of benevolent despotism ... The second kind of community, both as process and achievement, is neither aristocratic nor stratified, skewed nor paradoxical. It is democratic and equitable, straightforward and loving ... Love becomes power and participation before passivity. Equity and equality come before efficiency and ease."

And of course, this proposal is riddled with theoretical problems. But maybe this is not the part we should focus on. Maybe we shouldn't tear it apart. Maybe we need to turn in our indiscriminately critical apparatuses and become forgiving, benevolent readers. Maybe this is the beginning.


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