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Why Does the Center not Hold? Why Does the Center not Hold?
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2016-09-07 09:45:37
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Why Does the Center not Hold?
An Imaginary Conversation  between Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln
on Zombies or the Walking Dead of 2016

        lino001_400

  The 1st president of the US (1789-97)    The 3rd president of the US        The 16th president of the US

Washington: good morning Thomas, good morning Abraham. I surmise that you too could not sleep well in your grave last night and so you are up and about this bustling modern city bearing my name. It’s a good thing we are invisible. Could you imagine the confusion that would ensue, were we actually visible to the mindless crowd surrounding us? 

Jefferson:  I believe they call those sorts of people “zombies.” nowadays. Are you perhaps implying that we resemble zombies strolling through Washington, albeit invisible.

Lincoln: good morning.Indeed, what the dead have done in the past affects those living today. But I’ve always wondered if those imaginary zombies, as seen on TV, are not, if truth be told, the projection of the internal fears and anxieties of innumerable people living in our age of anxiety; a Junghian projection of some kind.

W: what do you exactly mean Abraham?

L: well, what is a zombie? Somebody with no conscience because he does not have a consciousness. Without a consciousness no responsibility can be taken for any moral action. Yet the zombie looks like a real person; is even able to function on a rational level; sort of a computer or robot. But he is not even conscious of being a zombie or a dehumanized human. Don’t you think that such is the state of many nowadays? They have repressed the inner moral spiritual sense, even if they remain clever on the intellectual level; they may look alive at a purely materialistic, empirical level, as an inanimate machine looks alive when it moves or dead when it does not. Some scientists and doctors speak of our body as a complex machine of sorts. They too are walking dead; they just don’t know it yet.

J: well put, Abraham. Jung may have had it psychologically on target. We always project on others what we fear to acknowledge in ourselves. To acknowledge is to take responsibility. Being a zombie is much more simple and convenient; one acknowledges nothing and is vigilant for nothing, and consequently one takes responsibility for nothing. One simply exists or survives as best as one can. Sometimes the survival takes the form of a struggle; the struggle for survival, or the struggle for being a “winner” in the sense that to survive is to have won the struggle. Everyone else is a “loser.” One struggles for the accumulation of wealth, for aggrandizement of one’s ego and one’s country; one struggles for one’s exceptionalism which makes it easier to neglect ordinary people, to claim one’s rights and defend them even with guns while neglecting duties, ethical obligations and compassion toward others.

W: I see, is this what you had in mind Thomas when you wrote that “eternal vigilance is the price of freedom?” That democracy, for which we fought a revolution, could be easily lost if not sustained by centripetal cultural forces and ideals and the will toward the common good? That it would be enough to become zombies unconcerned with the common good, reason, common sense, the true, the good and the beautiful?

J. Absolutely. It is the ancient Platonic conundrum: can freedom and democracy long survive without vigilance and responsibility buttressed by wisdom and full participation by an educated citizenry? As you know, one of my greatest concerns during my tenure as president of the US (1801-1809), was the lack of eligible participation among the electorate which at the time excluded women and reached barely 20% of the entire male white population of the US. Some called me a naive Utopian or Arcadian, some called me a racist for excluding slaves, women and native Americans from my concern; in any case the idea of full vibrant informed participation was at least introduced. It has taken two centuries for it to come to full fruition with slaves emancipated and freed, with civil rights guaranteed, and with women winning the suffrage, but alas, we now seem to be taking steps backward, with a party once again (and it was originally your party, Abraham) who wants to reverse the clock of civil and human rights and blame all the trouble of our nation on immigrants while hypocritically invoking the invitation found at the foot of the Statue of Liberty: “give me your tired and downtrodden.” But one cannot have the cake and eat it too.

 lino002_400

Rowdy zombies demanding to be fed and unconcerned with the common good

L: what you say, Thomas, is quite true in theory, but I am afraid is only half of the truth. The other half is the practice of the ideals on which our nation was founded. Our country is now 241 years old, almost two centuries and a half. We were presidents for 3% of that span of time altogether, had some influence and effect on its history, to be sure. I tragically was not allowed to serve my full term of 8 years, nevertheless, I think it behooves us to frankly acknowledge, at least to ourselves, that there exists in our country a persistent tragic gap between the ideals of the constitution in theory and their implementation in practice. Those ideals cannot simply remain on paper. That gap makes some of us hypocrites.  I suppose I should know, since I preserved the union by acknowledging such a bitter truth and suggesting that it ought to remedied even at the high cost of a bloody civil war; something that actually happened.

W. I think you have a valid point there Abraham, no doubt about it. Unfortunately, both Thomas and I failed in that respect and kept our slaves after the Declaration of Independence and the signing of the Constitution. I, concerned with my legacy, did in fact free my slaves before my death but I am afraid it was too little too late.

J: Indeed, I concur, it was our less than edifying example which paved the way for the eventual civil war and then for the latent centrifugal ugly forces that have always threatened our country from within, and for which we then go look for enemies abroad.

W. could you be a bit more specific Thomas?

J: of course, I am referring to an ugly propensity in our country, whenever a vibrant two party system buttressed by the constitution, is at risk, to look for scapegoats on which to blame it all. It begins with genocidal wars against the native Americans who are blamed for standing in the way of “progress,” it proceeds with a racist attitude toward the slaves, considered less than human and therefore not deserving of the equal inalienable rights guaranteed by the constitution; it then culminates with periodical demonization of new immigrants’ arrivals, to wit the KKK, the Know Nothing Party, or more recently the Tea Party who blame them for crime and civil disruption, it has its latest virulent expression in an ignoramus and a bigot such as Donald Trump, who is followed by millions of similar individuals who are alarmed by the latest demographic (which they call the browning of America) and wish to make America lily white again, all in the name of patriotism, democracy and law and order, devoid of justice, of course.

 lino003_400

Trump and the walking dead. A projection of ourselves in 2016?

L: I couldn’t have said it any better. As a classically educated man, you Thomas were acquainted with Latin and Greek, French and Italian (which you learned from your Italian friend Phillip Mazzei). No wonder you were chosen for the drafting of the Declaration of Independence. As such you are in better position to elucidate some of the vexing issues still afflicting our country. Your analysis brings us all back to ancient times when it was well grasped that disrespect for truth and injustice is a sure formula for existential suicide for both an individual and a nation. Sadly, our nation is at the crossroad. It has to decide whether or not it wishes to survive as a democracy or it wishes to commit suicide (consciously or unconsciously) by acting like zombies and dehumanizing itself. As a nation, the first in modern democracy, the example we give, the choices we make, and the consequences thereof, will be ours and ours alone. History will then render its final verdict. Meanwhile let’s hope that some of the cooler and wiser heads decide to seriously reflect on our legacy, examine what is worth preserving, and reform what needs urgent change. It would be a veritable tragedy to leave our country, that we cherish so much, to the zombies who will ensure its demise.

 

 *************************************************************************

Check Dr Emanuel Paparella's EBOOKS
Aesthetic Theories of Great Western Philosophers
& Europe Beyond the Euro
You can download them for FREE HERE!
 
 life_46_400
 


     
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