Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Riffing On Rorty

Achieving Our Country by R. Rorty

Date: Tue, 18 May 2021 07:10:54 -0700 
Subject: Re: The children's story 
From: kirby urner 
To: Trimtab Book Club

Yes, thank you hugely Maurice.  This was a really interesting podcast and my plan is to download more Rorty books to my Kindle (my daughter just bought me one, smaller than the original, same graphite grayscale, plus I use Kindle software on other devices).

The podcast deals with Rorty's 
(a) pragmatism 
(b) liberalism 
(c) nationalism.  

The last (c) may seem not to belong and indeed Rorty took incoming from the left especially, which had soured on nationalism to the point of fomenting anti-Americanism, whereas, in Rorty's view, the framework of liberal democracies (the US among them, along with Canada) was a last bastion between us and tyranny.  

Extending this thread a bit...  I found Achieving Our Country (AOC) in Archive.org for checkout.  You get to "keep" a digital image for 14 days.  A short tome:  a couple "lectures" and an appendix.  One thing I remember about Rorty's in-person lectures is he'd hand out dense, single-spaced, well-written multipage notes ahead of his presentation.  The implication I got is we were free to immerse ourselves in the talk and not furiously take notes, the kind of attention dividing many profs see as unhealthy to begin with.

Anyway, AOC is about Rorty, who grew up in a "leftist" (meaning liberal) family matrix (interesting autobiographical section), pointing out that the New Left of more Marxian and more anti-American vintage is a johnny come lately, that there's an older liberalism focused on labor rights, anti-racism, anti-imperialism, predating Marx, and owing much to Hegel nevertheless. Somewhat surprisingly, Walt Whitman was in this camp.  Yes, he read some Hegel.  And John Dewey, Rorty's hero through all his works.

This Old Left has more benign views of the New World's long term potential as it connects to the idealism of the Transcendentalists, although he doesn't invoke this school by name (Emerson...). William James and later "pragmatism" fall in the same line. Per this old left, fighting the Cold War was a good idea as Stalinism was terrible, like Hitlerism.  One could unite heros like James Baldwin (Rorty's pick) and later Muhammad Ali (my example), with some of JFK's best and brightest, going back to FDR.  America is not a "lost cause" and liberalism may include anti-communism.

At the beginning he writes:

National pride is to countries what self-respect is to individuals: a necessary condition for self-improvement. Too much national pride can produce bellicosity and imperialism, just as excessive self-respect can produce arrogance. But just as too little self-respect makes it difficult for a person to display moral courage, so insufficient national pride makes energetic and effective debate about national policy unlikely. Emotional involvement with one's country -- feelings of intense shame or of glowing pride aroused by various parts of its history, and by various present-day national policies -- is necessary if political deliberation is to be imaginative and productive. Such deliberation will probably not occur unless pride outweighs shame. 
The need for this sort of involvement remains even for those who, like myself, hope that the United States of America will someday yield up sovereignty to what Tennyson called "the Parliament of Man, the Federation of the World." For such a federation will never come into existence unless the governments of the individual nation-states cooperate in setting it up, and unless the citizens of those nation-states take a certain amount of pride (even rueful and hesitant pride) in their governments' efforts to do so. 
Those who hope to persuade a nation to exert itself need to remind their country of what it can take pride in as well as what it should be ashamed of.
I would contrast that 2nd paragraph with where Bucky goes with his own narrative since WW2, with himself as an epic character ("great pirate" etc.). 

The desoveriegnization process Bucky posits is more Hegelian in nature, but less a natural "withering of the state" (Marx) and more a natural "canceling out" (draining of significance, desanguination) of older patterns of thought, in the crush (fusion) of our one-planet one-media "global village" (McLuhan) or blooming buzzing "radio garden" (a computer app).

Looking back, the states didn't "yield" regarding the ongoing terraformation or "Borgification" (Star Trek epic) so much as they became compacted together in a cosmic inferno (ongoing) of swiftly integrating circuitry ("networks and networking"), always with a risk of meltdown (overheating).  Bucky-the-cold-warrior helped keep it cold vs. letting it become a theater for hotheads.

Either way, by Rorty's narrative route or by Bucky's, we have a USA to look back on with some pride in its contribution to what we have today, going forward.  Bucky was awarded a Medal of Freedom, like at the end of a Star Wars episode, upon declaring an end to the USA we have known, and the launch of a Grunch sponsored version.


Sunday, May 09, 2021

Quaker Journal Entry

Backyard Vista

[ to dear Lucinda ]

You're probably in worship right now as it's 10:02 and we're still not at Laurelhurst. Carol gets off to a slow start in the mornings. If we don't make it by the end, feel free to come by and visit, and if you see any others who know us, feel free to extend this invitation. Carol had her 2nd vaccination last Friday. Tara has had both. Me only one. Our backyard area is big enough to accomodate socializing, with brief visits with Carol in her regal bed.
Outdoor In-Person Meetings