Radical revolution of values

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin—we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth with righteous indignation. It will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.

A true revolution of values will lay a hand on the world order and say of war, “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war.

From Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech at Riverside Church, New York City, 4 April 1967.

William Gass and William Gaddis at “The Writer and Religion” conference, 1994 (Audio)

Gene Wilder at the 92nd Street Y in 2013

 

Azar Nafisi to Speak at UNF

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Readers in Northeast Florida may be interested in catching Azar Nafisi speak at the University Center of the University of North Florida at 7:30PM on Monday, March 3rd. Nafisi’s bestselling memoir Reading Lolita in Tehran recounts the Western literature course that Nafisi taught in secret to a small group of Iranian women in her house in the late 90s, and engages the events of the Islamic Revolution, the Iran-Iraq war, and the conservative cultural revolution that led to the necessity of keeping such a course on the down-low. My wife didn’t finish the book; I didn’t start it. My wife said it was good though; she told me she can’t remember why she quit reading it. How’s that for a book review? (I highly recommend Hamid Dabashi’s highly-critical and thoroughly engrossing critique of the book, “Native informers and the making of the American empire,” in which he refers to Reading Lolita in Tehran as “the locus classicus of the ideological foregrounding of the US imperial domination at home and abroad” — read the whole essay here.)

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Nafisi’s lecture, “The Republic of the Imagination,” is part of UNF’s ongoing “Distinguished Voices” series (great name, by the way, guys. Lot of thought and creativity put into that one). The next speaker in the series is pretty-boy news analyst and frequent Daily Show guest Fareed Zakaria. Get free tickets for any of the lectures in the series here.

Alphonso Lingis to Speak at UNF

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American philosopher and noted writer Alphonso Lingis will deliver a talk on “War and Splendor” at the University of North Florida, in Jacksonville, Florida, at 7:30 pm on Wednesday, October 3rd. Dr. Lingis is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Pennsylvania State University; his writing lyrically bridges the gaps between the liberal arts of anthropology and philosophy. Dr. Lingis’s current work, including his latest book, The First Person Singular, has focused on his travels to developing nations in Africa, South America, and Asia. By all accounts, Dr. Lingis is a fascinating speaker whose use of costumes, make-up, and music during his “lectures” creates an air of performance art. You can read more about Alphonso Lingis here. If you have the time, I highly recommend checking out Lingis’s paper “Our Uncertain Compassion.” Go here to reserve free tickets to see Dr. Lingis speak (your receipt will also provide directions. This promises to be both enlightening and entertaining–don’t miss it!

Jacksonville readers can look forward to more engaging speakers at UNF over the month of October, including resident genius Dr. Samuel Kimball and PBS documentary maker Ken Burns. Updates and info forthcoming.