Friday, November 9, 2007

Democracy Matters

The book I have been into lately I have a of love-hate relationship with. It’s by a guy named Cornel West and is called Democracy Matters. It has this great picture of West on the front; leaning forward with his hands pointing at you, wearing these great Malcolm X style glasses and a look that says, “I know a lot that you don’t.” West is an Ivy League professor who is an accomplished scholar, philosopher, and intellectual, who writes with an eloquence reminiscent of a 17th century rhetorician.

His thesis: “The aim of this book is to put forward a strong democratic vision and critique, rooted in a deep democratic tradition, forged on the nightside of the precious American democratic experiment – a tradition of Socratic examination, prophetic practice, and dark hope.”

Every sentence is packed with information and ideology, and to get the most out of this book I have found that I have to carefully read each page and really take my time. So the love part is that I love his form of writing, I love the points he makes, almost philosophical in nature, and I love that he hasn’t given up on the century old idea of methodical, eloquent and meaningful writing. To read this book really is like reading something written a hundred years ago, except for all his references to current events. The book was published in 2004, at the height of the Iraq invasion, and is the sequel to his highly acclaimed book, Race Matters. And that is where the hate part comes in…well, maybe not quite hate, its more of a disagreement really. He makes no bones about the fact that he is pretty far to the left, and he spends a bit of his time early on beating the Bush administration, which I have some problem with because in some ways it seems like such a cop-out because its such an easy/trendy thing to do. But he is careful to, eventually, critique the democratic side of the political spectrum, which I appreciate. He goes on to talk about race, equality, hypocrisy, nihilism, politics, greed, corruption, and a variety of other things that taint our democracy. It’s really a great read overall, and, though I obviously don’t agree with his every point, I have loved learning from his ideas, and picking up some new vocabulary.

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