Cornel West: Hope Is Spiritual Armor Against Modern Society’s Spiritual Warfare

Cornel West: Hope Is Spiritual Armor Against Modern Society’s Spiritual Warfare


What does it mean to learn how to die in order
to learn how to live? That’s platonic isn’t it? Philosophy itself is a meditation in preparation
for death. Montaigne says the philosophizers learn how
to die. Seneca says he or she who learns how to die
unlearns slavery because art, paideia—deep education, not cheap schooling—deep education
is about a critical self-examination of that which is inside of us that needs to die. The fears. The cowardice. The complacency. The conformity. The assumptions and pre-supposition, the prejudices
and pre-judgments that we have that need to go. James Brown called it ‘give it up, turn it
loose’. It needs to go. Just like falling in love. You fall in love with somebody, something
has died in you.Anne Carson understands this well in her classic; something’s died in you. The egoism, the fear, the narcissism—I know
a lot of people don’t undergo full-fledged death, but it’s an effort because you’re now
entangled with a new self and that new self means you have been transformed and lo’ and
behold you walk around with a smile on your face feeling good before Sappho’s bittersweet
hits you. That’s part of love too, isn’t it? If bittersweet hasn’t hit you it’s just sentimental. We’re not going to go into that though. But the connection of learning how to die
and the saddest feature of our moment, in regards to Du Bois’s first question, is that
so many young brothers and sisters of the younger generation find themselves so far
removed from the best of their past, far removed from the best that has gone into the shaping
and molding them, that all they have relation is market forces, market forces, market forces. Stimulation, titillation. They’re hungry for care and nurture, hungry
for something deeper. That’s what the spiritual and moral awaking
young people in the last five or ten years is all about. The hunger for what Ashford and Simpson called
The Real Thing. And what is the real thing? Well, it’s something that is dynamic, you
never get your hands on it, it’s intangible but it has everything to do with the ways
in which love, the ways in which justice in motion generate hope, generate encouragement,
generate a certain sense of enthusiasm for what is to come. Anticipation of the not-yet rooted in the
ugly what-is. And Ernst Bloch and others talked about it
in the classical philosophy of hope. The volumes on philosophy of hope. That’s what Du Bois has in mind with integrity. And our young people these days more and more—I’ve
spent a lot of time, in fact I’ve shifted most of my lectures now to both prisons and
high schools and junior highs. They’re so hungry for something that pierces
through the spectacle and the image. They want something that they can hold onto
existentially. And that’s why the music is a fundamental
battlefield. That’s one of the crucial sites of the spiritual
warfare. It’s no accident they eliminated arts programs
in the 1980s under Reagan. Trumped: narrow their imagination, attenuate
their empathy. Let them just be bundles of desires that these
corporations can manipulate in order to convince them to be only consumers so that the profits
can go up, we can push the workers against the wall and therefore think that we are actually
sustaining a democratic experiment rather than undermining its soul and ending up with
a semblance and a simulacra of democracy because you no longer have citizens you just have
consumers. You can’t have a democracy with just consumers. And what was the response? Oh here comes hip-hop. Jesse Rose, Brother André, magnificent, why
she laid it out to 25 years ago. You eliminate the art program? Okay we’re not going to produce anybody that
sounds as good as Sarah Vaughan or Donny Hathaway anymore; some of them lucky to sing in tune,
because they haven’t been taught well. They don’t have examples because they’re no
longer in churches. If they aren’t in church where are they going
to get it? They’re going to get it on the radio but lo’
and behold they can make more money, by not necessarily imitating the best. But they did anyways connect the best. That’s why they went to Sly Stone, that’s
why they went to Curtis Mayfield, that’s why they went to George Clinton, that’s why they
went to James Brown, they went to Aretha, they sampled it, they couldn’t play it anymore,
there’s no instruments to learn how to play. So they had to sample it and use their orality
and the genius of their language to keep the tradition alive. And what happened 15 years later? You don’t even have any groups that sing together
anymore. No Dramatics. No Delfonics. No Main Ingredient. No Whispers. No bands like James Brown or Lakeside, it’s
all computers and individual isolated nomadic individuals. That’s spiritual warfare. You disenable the spiritual armor that’s kept
a people going because usually that’s all black people have had, is our voices and each
other. No land. No territory. No rights. No protection from the state. But at least we had our voices that preserved
our dignity, our sense of style and our empathy. What happens when that is more and more stripped
away? Then you’re going to have a Hobbesian war
of all against all, which is in part a description of where our precious poor and working class
youth of color and poor youth have to live every day, and there’s no serious discussion
about it. Democratic Party, Republican Party. Thank God for Bernie Sanders but that’s another
lecture too. Let’s bring this to a close. The first question is how shall integrity
meet oppression? Second question, what does honesty do in the
face of deception? Thank God for the best of the artists. What does it mean to be candid in an age of
mendacity and criminality? Crime has been normalized. No serious talk about drone strikes, even
though crimes are taking place all the time. How come? It’s normalized! It’s naturalized. We’ve just come to accept it. No, that’s catastrophe. You don’t kill innocent people. It’s wrong. It’s more than wrong, it’s evil. Don’t get used to evil. Indifference to evil is more invidious than
evil itself, says Rabbi Heschel. He’s right about that. And William James says indifference is the
one trait that makes the very angels weep. He’s right about that. We have normalized criminality. Last couple of days two more policeman off,
right? Killing the young black folk, just normal. Just normal. Everybody knows if that kind of killing was
going on in Beverly Hills, sookie sookie now. Shoot, there would be major moral outrage
in every corner of the country. “Don’t be killing these upper class white
brothers and sisters like that. They’re human beings.” What about Jamal the teacher, what about Juanita
and Carlos? What about our indigenous brothers and sisters
locked in these reservations? You normalize that and just keep moving. You deodorize it because you’re afraid of
the funk of your country. You don’t want to deal with the funk. Well, you can’t talk about hope without aspiring
to be a funk master. That’s what the funk is all about. Samuel Beckett called it the mess. Third question: what does decency do in the
face of insult and assault? What is indecent, callousness and indifference
toward the poor and vulnerable? Last question: what does courage do in the
face of brute force? Hope is about being, doing and acting, embodying. Connected to quest for integrity, honesty,
decency and courage plus magnanimity, namely fortitude. So in the end it’s not about how sophisticated
my discourse on hope was, it’s about at your funeral: “She lived a life in which she was
a hope and she generated hope in others.” That’s Curtis Mayfield saying: keep on pushing. It’s not a discourse on pushing. It’s an enactment. In the mess, in the funk, in catastrophe,
in domination, insubordination to not allow any of them to have the last word. There is no hope without a wrestling of despair. It’s like Jacob in the 32nd chapter of Genesis
where he’s wrestling with that angel of death in the midnight hour and he emerges as God
wrestler, that’s the definition of Israel, God wrestler with new energy. That’s not discourse solely. I’m not against discourse but discourse can
become such a distraction. And we live in a culture that specializes
in weapons of mass distraction as well as weapons of mass destruction. And it might be the case that we lose. Now, in America to talk about losing is always
a dangerous thing because we live in a superficial culture of winners. We’ve got to be with the winner. We’ve got to be with the winner. No, there is something about acknowledging
that you might lose that gives a gravitas to what you’re doing. And then we may be surprised by the joy of
the process and sometimes you’ll be surprised by some of the concrete victories.

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    fishy paw

    As anybody with critical thinking skills knows, 'spirituality' is a ridiculous concept. So I think it's safe to ignore this video.

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    Infinite Rumination

    Cornel West your sagacity never ceases to penetrate the soul; it incites the convictions of the human spirit.

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    CYI3ERPUNK

    hope is fine and all ; but u need more than blind hope/faith, u need a deeper philosophical/ethical/logical foundation on which to stand against the tide of propaganda ; spirituality is a fundamentally innate facet of the human condition, but it does not need to be experienced thru organized religion, and religion likely hurts the experience more than it helps it ; and of course one should always strive to be a critical thinker

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    Matthew Malpeli

    "Socialism is a resistance movement against the destruction of love in social reality"

    – Paul Tillich

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    Seth Caplan

    Societies walk backwards into the future. It's easy to say that we have been in a bad place but impossible to say where we should go next.
    hope is just the willingness to keep walking anyway.

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    Rob Cronin

    I can get on board with this 'kind' of discussion, in so far as spirituality is used as a shorthand for psychological and biological processes that the layman doesn't have the time or capacity to define when being self critical.
    However, the kind of sage-ness/rhetoric/performance philosophy that we see in this video has never appealed to me. My inner cynic kicks-in when people start talking about "killing what is inside" and the "death of the self" etc etc etc…

    I see why it appeals to other people, but for me it's just like… state your point and get on with it. I don't need these frills.

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    ReformedThe

    30 secs. In and my back already hurts just watching this guy. Nothing with whats he is saying though i do disagree a little. But man how you stand like that for so long. My back is sore. Im gonna go lay down now.

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    Dan Bee

    Look, folks deciphering the title with no appetite to watch a free informal video. Cool.
    This dude is always miraculous, the way he knows mankind, and how societies pursue ineptitude over what is to come of the ambitious frontier via all of mankind, while we cling to the sovereignty of money as it relates to comfort.
    Elon Musk knows the vision, or I believe personally he knows he has that ambition. To inject mankind with an awe inspiring mission we can work towards and to IGNITE the spirit of the human race, to get us towards a beautiful future instead of arguing all the time about resource allocation, traditions of how to say holiday, or electing the biggest liar in politifact's history to POTUS.
    We cannot just accept cities and country folk are unequal, we are capable of being on the same consensus without a idiot savant tyrannical distractor yapping everyday over his conniving mischief.

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    oaxacachaka

    Didn't a politician sell a bunch of people on hope recently? Was is just a simulacra of hope in order to get votes? But whatever, he's selling a simulation of a revolution that I can imbibe while stuffing my face and secretly saying "fuck da man" to myself.

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    Jasmine Groves

    He's right on the dot when talking about black youth. Another weapon of "mass distraction" is the act of flaunting the wealth and materialism of black celebrities. Here's the trap: when people criticize and question black icons for doing what they do, they risk being labeled as "anti-black". It's a big paradox. Consumerism and conformity have snuck their way into black culture.

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    Nikola Demitri

    To my fellow secular brothers and sisters who are so up in arms against the term "spiritual", stop and reflect for a minute. Spiritual doesn't equal religious and mystical. Hitchens, echoing other great minds before him, described it as the luminous and transcendent, which I think is a fair statement, as it is a description of something very real. Look at the group of men called "the four horsemen of "new" atheism", even these men talk about this existential, immaterial, spiritual side to life. While it may all be an emergent property of the CNS, that doesn't make it any less profound. Read Sam Harris' book "Waking Up", the subtitle of which is "A Guide To Spirituality Without Religion", and understand that talking about the "spiritual" needn't be an invocation of the supernatural. Cheers 🍻✌🏼

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    Tamas Egyed

    There are some good ideas in this but I think passion and emotion went a bit too far and took away from the content

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    iv1908

    Nothing this intelligent man said was no where near funny and all of the chuckling this crowd did was distracting and disrespectful.

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    alg11297

    This is why this imbicile no longer teachers at Harvard. If he actually had something to say he would h ave said it already. Right…I'm racist. Bullshit from anyone else would be dumped.

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    Home Wall

    Hope is what the rich and powerful themselves hope you'll fill yourself with. Like "heaven after death" it's a common scheme to trick others to think something better is coming rather than demand it today. Like Obamacare's private insurance mandate, it gives people the feeling of purchasing healthcare, but they are just buying hope to deal with future bad health when they really just want good health care, not insurance.

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    Razx MNazx

    word up good sir
    haste in the proper circumstance is also a virtue
    god may love us but no window can stay open forever
    those would be god/universal rules not mortal ones
    run bitches run

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    distel1 Enyimè

    Humain first and materiel come after. The world is insane. We are control by psychopath. Powerfull lyrics

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    LordSlag

    This guy doesn't think. He has no place here. Nor does speculation about magical ghosts that control our bodies like meat marionettes. He is merely an ignorant sky pilot who sells in the next world so that he may in this one purchase.

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    MegaChickenfish

    So with the "learning how to die" would it be more accurate to say learning how to change and put chapters of your life behind you? Because everyone knows how to die, it's trying to figure out how NOT to that has us stumped.

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    bill jam

    Cornel West supports BLM which is a George Soros, Ford Foundation device. People talk about how brilliant he is. He supported the riots in Ferguson. Riots that were based on a lie. He campaigned for Sanders, which was a vote for Clinton. Thomas Sowell is a real black educator.

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    Asrat Mengesha

    "Cornel West: Hope Is Spiritual Armor Against Modern Society's Spiritual Warfare" stand up erect, man! don't'be delusional.
    You are not supposed to be mind controlled to control a other minds. Just because you don't understand spirit that doesn't make it against modern….."
    You are highly delusional, mind controlled "intellectual"

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