Postmodernism

Connect Intellectual Diversity to Justice Work

Diversity and Justice

(Photo Credit: Democracy Now)

Although an aggressive pursuit of racial, social, economic, and educational justice is admirable and necessary, those engaged in justice work must connect intellectual diversity to their efforts. You cannot claim to champion justice while failing to welcome and appreciate ideas and viewpoints divergent from your own. Justice isn’t justice when it’s disconnected from love. In fact, Dr. Cornel West, one of the greatest minds, public intellectuals, and fighters for justice in world history, often says, “Justice is what love looks like in public.” Are you so “woke” that you only see your ideas and viewpoints as the vehicles through which change can be instigated and engendered?

Democracy, Intellectual Diversity, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

When looking at how to create change, one doesn’t have to look any further than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a real change agent and justice leader, the man who changed America forever. King met, engaged, and debated everyone, including racists and those desiring to kill and undermine him. He understood to develop solutions that have broad support discourse with those known and perceived to be disagreeable is required. The world-renowned slain civil rights leader was serious about democracy, keenly aware of how frank debate, especially with various opposing sides, is essential to an authentic multivocal, multiethnic democracy.

Kingian democracy, therefore, longs for inclusion, inclusion of all voices—regardless of how unsavory—revealing an unwavering faith in democratic ethics and possibilities. In Prophetic Fragments: Illuminations of the Crisis in American Religion and Culture, Cornel West (1988) asserts that: “King was convinced that despite the racism of the Founding Fathers, the ideals of America were sufficient if only they were taken seriously in practice. Therefore, King’s condemnation of and lament for America’s hypocrisy and oppression of poor whites, indigenous peoples, Latinos, and black people was put forward in the name of reaffirming America’s mission of embodying democracy, freedom, and equality” (p. 11).

King didn’t exclude the racist Founding Fathers from his notion of democracy. Unfortunately, though, too many in the postmodern epoch isolate themselves from others for far less critical differences. In this moment of increasing moral, social, cultural, political, and religious decadence, people will isolate themselves from others over the most inconsequential personal choices, including a choice not to “boycott” the NFL or make posts on social media platforms that pledge allegiance to their capricious brands of “woke.”

King embraced the reality that any valid notion of freedom and democracy must welcome intellectual diversity. As Booker T. Washington stated in his 1895 “Atlanta Compromise” speech delivered at the Cotton Estates and International Exposition in Atlanta, “In all things that are purely social we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress.” Washington, sharing some affinities with King, understood the power of intellectual diversity. Washington anticipates the Kingian “beloved community.” With agapic love, King evinced for a nation, for the globe how potent, how beautiful diversity in all of its flavors can be and how we can enjoy being “separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand.”

Postmodern Fragmentation: A Challenge for Justice Work

In Postmodernism or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, leading Marxist cultural theorist Fredric Jameson (1991) asserts that one of the central problems in postmodernism, the cultural and historical period in which we reside, is a general proclivity to cherish fragmentation and reject totality. This fatuous acceptance of fragmentation figures prominently in whether efforts to achieve racial social, economic, and educational justice are successful. Late capitalism’s cultural logic leads too many individuals, individuals claiming to work for justice, to quarrel with one another over their petty differences, sacrificing their collective interests and aspirations for their own selfish interests and wishes.

Selfishness and Justice

To overcome this troubling propensity for selfishness, courageous and indefatigable justice activists and leaders must expose the rot, the funk selfishness is. We should never allow our personal agendas and interests to hinder and supercede the collective good, interests, and aspirations. When we do, we equip and permit the elites, the oppressors, the ruling class to erect additional barriers to the work of justice that’s crucial to achieving justice.

Before you disengage with people, especially those who have the same interests and goals as you (just with differing ideas and methods pertaining to those interests and goals), recognize when your words and actions are self-defeating, frustrating the very justice work you profess to hold dear.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Juice Soul and L.T. Terror’s “Let Me Have My Way”: A Critical Review

"Let Me Have My Way" Juice Soul

(Photo Courtesy of Juice Soul)

“Let Me Have My Way,” the second single from the forthcoming album Too Dark to Turn Back, features the ingenious collaboration of R&B and soul artist Juice Soul, rapper L.T. Terror and producer Chevalier Coleman. These gifted independent black male talents are among the best in the music industry. Without question, they will soon be household names. Last summer’s hottest song, “Tasteless,” their brainchild, put music fans in the mood for romance. With “Let Me Have My Way,” the hot, the sexy, the romance returns—just in time for summer love and lovemaking.

Trained in the Department of English and Modern Languages at the renowned Albany State University, Juice Soul masterfully wields compelling storytelling in his new single; this engrossing storytelling is a singular and characteristic element in his oeuvre. Mr. Soul’s euphonious, mellifluous vocals never disappoint, never auto-tuned, always delivering classic and disarming sounds that drive the ladies wild.

Drawing on the power of vivid, evocative storytelling, Juice takes his listeners on a journey, a love journey, one where sexual satisfaction is promised. We, the listeners, witness a cohesive and intriguing narrative, one apposite for an episode of a quality television drama.

A general proclivity in postmodernism, a historical and cultural phenomenon and the historical and cultural epoch in which we reside, as articulated by cultural critic and theorist Fredric Jameson and scholar Elizabeth Atkinson, is to welcome disorder and ambiguity. Resisting this postmodern impulse, Mr. Soul proffers a substantive story that’s logical and perspicuous and that resonates—he does not simply string some words together, as is, unfortunately, increasingly becoming the case for many popular singers and songwriters. Even some of his distinctive lyrical phrasing, where the vocal styling appears to blur or fade words intentionally for musicality purposes, still permits audiences to understand fundamentally what he attempts to convey.

The song anticipates feminist critique: both artists respectfully invite their desired women to share in an intimate experience with them. In Soul’s case, he wants it to last perpetually: “I never wanna let you go.” Sexual intercourse for him is communal, appropriately tasteful and delicate, never sacrificing, though, healthy masculine performance: “I’m going to give it to you so nice/Tell me how you feel about this?” The artist expresses a genuine interest in evaluative feedback—even during the sexual encounter, suggesting a true wish to please his woman. As artist, father, and professional, Juice Soul remains relentlessly authentic.

While L.T. Terror maintains this authenticity in the song, the rapper does it in a divergent way from Juice. The sagacious rapper, disabusing potential critics of arguments about the song being too idyllic, too mawkish (and it’s not), communicates frank intentions about his desires for the sexual experience, one ephemeral by design, yet vowed to delight. A central characteristic of postmodernism is an explicit embracing and engaging in textual fragmentation, that is, intentional textual discontinuities, and Terror’s lyrics, from a first reading, seem to represent radical textual fragmentation, especially when one juxtaposes them with Juice’s. Sex, however, does not have to be an enduring commitment; it can be a “one-time” experience, as Juice Soul intimates.

For L.T. Terror, this “one time” sexual interaction will include psychic stimulation: “My favorite position is in your mind.” Although the artist isn’t looking for a long-term physical commitment (and isn’t willing to give one), he hopes the woman will eternally remember their time together: “trying to find a home inside of your thighs.” Candid as possible, though, the rapper does not want good sex mistaken for love: “Might see love inside of my eyes/But that’s one big disguise/I’m such a horrible guy.” In other words, enjoy this magical moment, but don’t catch any abiding feelings.

Ironically, the divergences between Juice Soul’s lyrics and L.T. Terror’s form a totality, a unified whole, one reflecting real possibilities, diverse interactions and reactions, and nuanced notions of authenticity.

The track can be purchased on iTunes, and one can hear it on all digital streaming platforms, including Spotify, Apple Music, and Tidal.

Let’s make this single go viral by sharing this piece and keeping the song in constant rotation on our favorite listening devices and music platforms.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Postmodern Fashion Resists Tradition

Postmodern Fashion

(Photo Credit: Postmodern Gentleman)

If one desires to stay in harmony with postmodern fashion, then he or she cannot be beholden to traditional matching strategies. In Postmodernism or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, Fredric Jameson (1991) posits that we reside in a historical epoch where fragmentation is celebrated in virtually every area of life. Fashion is not exempt from this celebration of fragmentation. One of the most vivid ways we see this fragmentation in fashion is in how people intentionally pair colors that have traditionally been considered inappropriate. For example, a man may have on a purple shirt, burnt orange jeans and brown shoes. While those colors may seem to compose a disjointed outfit, postmodern fashion finds value in challenging traditional color schemes and aesthetics.

Home décor is a serious dimension of postmodern fashion. Just as it’s common to see a resistance to traditional color schemes in the clothing postmodern people wear, we find this similar phenomenon in home décor. A homeowner can have a dominant color scheme of brown in his or her living room, but can have a stylish red chair in the corner of the room to disrupt the monotony of the central color scheme. People often refer to this as adding a “pop of color.” Postmodern fashion views this fragmented “pop of color” as a beautiful contribution to one’s living room or outfit.

Although the postmodern impulse opposes more conservative color schemes and fashion styles, one should not feel compelled to conform to these schemes and styles. One’s style of dress and home décor can still look appealing and creative without embracing many of the elements of postmodern fashion that can reflect a lack of maturity. Even though postmodern fashion strives to efface the traditional notion of “tacky,” you and your home can still be quite tacky—if you succumb to many of the pressures of postmodernism.

Being self-absorbed is a dominant characteristic of postmodernism, and one of the most crippling results of being self-absorbed is a failure to have a felicitous appreciation for history. While postmodern fashion gurus see themselves as creating “novel fashion,” they’re really not producing anything new at all. Jameson (1991) has asserted that what numerous postmodern artists, including fashion gurus, do is recycle styles, traditions, and art from the past in simplistic and random ways. You should, therefore, embrace only those elements of postmodern fashion that are useful and concatenate them with elements of the past to generate truly productive fashion styles and strategies.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Think Beyond the Present

Life is full of noise.  Although many people can be productive when they are surrounded by noise, and many people enjoy lots of noise, try to find some quiet time for yourself each day to reflect on yourself and your future.  Far too many people situated in the postmodern epoch are not thinking beyond the present.  In Postmodernism or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, Fredric Jameson contends that ephemeral thinking is a dominant characteristic of the postmodern moment.  In The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change, David Harvey agrees with Fredric Jameson that ephemeral thought is a central characteristic of postmodernity.  While one should certainly have solemn concern about what’s going on in his or her life in the present, this should not hinder him or her from thinking about and planning for the future.

Don’t simply let your present conditions and circumstances defeat your vision for where you want to be in the future.  If you have set high aspirations for the future, then you need to find some quiet time each day to reflect on how much progress you’re making toward meeting those goals.  You need to think about solutions to your present conditions and circumstances that are hindering or that could be hindering you from reaching your goals.  Think about the things you’re investing your time in right now and resolve whether the things you’re investing your time in are conducive to moving you closer to meeting your goals.

Even if people begin to wonder why they cannot find and contact you at certain periods of the day, don’t worry about this.  Effectively planning for the future will require you to get away from it all for periods of time.  If you can only find about 15 minutes a day of quiet time, use this time wisely to reflect on yourself and your future.  You will be amazed at how much can be accomplished by just reflecting and focusing on your future for just 15 minutes a day.

During the quiet time that you’re engaged in planning for your future, always have something to write with available.  This can be pen and paper or a laptop.  It’s vital to capture your thoughts in written form.  Too many people do a whole lot of talking about what they want to do and what’s going to happen to them in their future, but they have not developed a thoughtful written plan to help lead them to achieving their aspirations.

If you’re really serious about your dreams and aspirations, you will create a written plan that contains the thought, research, and knowledge necessary to progress you toward making your dreams a reality.  Yes, you must think about aspirations and discuss them with others, but you must inevitably construct a well-thought written plan for those aspirations to be taken seriously and for them to be achieved.

Yes, life is saturated with noise but find ways to escape the noise to plan for your future.  Just because things are not working in your favor right now does not mean that they are going to continue to not work in your favor—unless you just give up on your goals!  You may have to make changes to your goals and the details of your written plan, but you should never give up on your dreams.  Don’t let any person or thing keep you from accomplishing your goals.

References

Harvey, D. (1990). The condition of postmodernity: An enquiry into the origins of cultural change. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Jameson, F. (1991). Postmodernism or, the cultural logic of late capitalism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Don’t Be All Style and Show and Have No Substance

Black Male Fashion

For all who know me well and those who have followed Revolutionary Paideia, you know I really don’t care too much for vain people. Too many people are all about being flashy in appearance and style, but lack true substance emotionally, intellectually, physically, professionally, and socially. It’s all about image for these people.  They are too consumed with the spectacle (see Guy Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle to gain an even better understanding of what I’m saying).  While the spectacle may be entertaining and give you some instant gratification, the entertainment and gratification is ephemeral. Some of you try to act like you are so confident, act like you have it all together, act like you are a trendsetter, act like you are rich, and pretend like you are so attractive. When you are alone, however, you get an opportunity to reflect on just how unhappy you are and the reality of your low self-esteem or self-esteem problems rise to the surface. I constantly advocate for people to be themselves and not fusions of multiple people and identities.

In no way am I saying that having swag is not useful—it’s useful! You just have to know how to have more than just swag. Make sure that your swag is real too and not just a false image you are presenting. If you know that you don’t have the type of clothing in your closet you are claiming you have, then don’t lie about it. If you know you don’t have the money to wear the type of clothes, drive the type of car, live in the type of house, attend the type of school, and eat at the type of restaurants you do or claim, then just be comfortable in your spirit with what is within your means until you are able to afford those things. Don’t commodify and reify yourself. Some people have metaphorically turned themselves into things instead of the human beings they are. Resist embracing the image and favor substance.

When you have substance, you will find that you don’t need all of that attention you are seeking. You will find that attention will just naturally come to you. You will find that you will not have to let people know things about you and what you have—they will just know.

Some people want to be all that but they are not willing to do the work to be all that. If you are not willing to do the work necessary to be all that, then realize that being all that is not for you. Place your values in substance. Substance will fulfill, sustain, empower, comfort, and reward you.

At the end of the day, you simply have to love yourself. Love just being yourself. There’s absolutely no one like you, so you should be happy and fulfilled by this reality. When you realize that being yourself is already swag, style, and show, then you will be able to convert your swag, style, and show into substance. Don’t rob yourself of substance and don’t allow others and society to rob you of substance.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

The Longing for Ideas and Creativity in Inception

On yesterday, I had the great fortune to go watch Inception. Without a doubt, Inception is my second favorite film. My favorite film is A Beautiful Mind. As I reflect on what makes Inception such a great film, I have resolved that I do not have the time and space in this article to explain it to you. This article will not be a plot summary of the film. What I have decided to do in this article is discuss one of the dominant themes that emerge from Inception. This film reveals a serious longing for offering ideas and believing in ideas. In this article, I elect not to focus on the film per se but focus on a discussion of the longing for ideas that the film champions.

It seems that in virtually every space in American life there is a dearth of real ideas being offered. People do not have a willingness to offer ideas that will engender alternatives to the status quo. In Postmodernism or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, Fredric Jameson posits that true scholars and intellectuals offer alternatives to the status quo, even alternatives to our capitalist reality. Although people can talk about how beautifully written Inception is (and I certainly don’t disagree), the power of the film lies in its ability to inform us about what is needed to provide authentic alternatives to the status quo: a hunger for ideas and a value of creativity.

I contend that it is more vital to examine Inception’s critique of our waning value and commitment to ideas and creativity than it is for us to simply look at how beautifully written the film is. There are numerous films that are beautifully written that are harmful to disadvantaged populations, women, racial and ethnic minorities, and members of the LGBT community, so just speaking about how beautifully written it is places the film in the same category with films of this poisonous type.

I would highly recommend that all teachers, administrators, and students watch this film because it is sure to spark in you a renewed commitment to exploration, discovery, ideas, and creativity. This masterpiece, Inception, could not have been birthed without the hunger and thirst for creativity and ideas of those who are responsible for manufacturing it. When the Bush administration was considering immigration reform policy, Inception would have been a nice film for them to have closely engaged with. When the Obama administration was considering healthcare reform, Inception would have called them to explore innovative ways to ameliorate healthcare in America.

The educative value of the film for average Americans is it not only calls them to pursue ideas and creativity, but also gives them special insights into Freudian ideas about the mind, especially the subconscious/unconscious mind. The film is one that is easy enough for the average American to follow if he or she is willing to pay close attention to what’s going on, but it is also sophisticated enough to satisfy the deepest thinkers among us.

Fredric Jameson argues that postmodernism (the historical epoch in which we reside) celebrates fragmentation. A classic postmodern film, therefore, will feature a significant amount of fragmentation without any real purpose. In Inception, the fragmentation has a clear purpose: to let the viewer know that he or she can put all of the pieces together by finding his or her “home,” a home of ideas—where creativity and the generation of ideas is welcomed, encouraged, and supported. Jameson contends that people must engage in “cognitive mapping,” that is, concatenating one fragment with another to produce a totality—a whole that makes sense. This film is quite useful in providing us with an opportunity to engage in a healthy exercise in Jamesonian cognitive mapping.

Again, I encourage people to move beyond simply praising the writing that produced the film and move to more specific aspects about Inception that make it a great film—by doing this, you will really make a contribution to the discourse about the film. We know that the writing is great in the film—this is why the film has been such a success at the theatre, but we need to know specifically why the film is so great. I have heard and read too many praises of the film’s writing. The film is too great to reduce it to simple slaps on the metaphorical butt. Inception is certainly a film that evinces the importance of ideas and creativity.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Facebook Deactivation: People’s Cry for Attention

In Postmodernism or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, Fredric Jameson posits that postmodern people are self-referential; that is, they are people who love making all phenomena about them. Although I very much love Facebook, I am troubled by a phenomenon that is increasingly developing on Facebook: the deactivation of accounts to gain attention that one is “leaving” Facebook—only to shortly “return.” Since you need attention so bad, you will think that this article is all about you. Okay, just to mollify your need for attention, I am going to go ahead and admit that this article is all about you. If you would focus on the substantive, then you might actually gain the attention you desire.

I’m getting tremendously tired of hearing people say that they are deactivating their Facebook accounts because they are not disciplined enough to stay off of Facebook long enough to get their work done. The reality is these people know that people will be wondering why they are off Facebook and this will draw attention to them, especially when they become active on Facebook again. In fact, I have actually seen people announcing “countdowns” to the day that they are going to deactivate their accounts. I can just anticipate the responses to this article now: (1) Why are you so worried about this?; (2) Antonio, are you trying to throw hints at me?; (3) Do you have anything else better to do?, (4) How are you trying to call someone self-referential when you have your own blog?; and (5) Have you run out of stuff to write about? These responses and more are only distractions to keep people from addressing a serious problem: the need to stop trying to gain attention at any cost.

Facebook does not have to consume so much of your time that you need to deactivate your account. If you don’t have enough control and discipline when on Facebook, then just close your account for good. If you are a college student, especially a graduate or professional student, and cannot control and manage your time wisely, then you may not even need a Facebook account in the first place. I have found Facebook to provide me with a nice break from the intensity of my academic work and some of the stress of life. My time spent on Facebook has not hindered my ability to be an effective academic in any way. What’s on Facebook that can cause you to consume too much of your time anyway? Revolutionary Paideia is here to suggest that only a vain person would make a significant event or advertisement out of the deactivation of his or her Facebook account.

I simply would like us to become more substantive people. You do not need to announce that you are deactivating your Facebook account—simply stay off of Facebook during times when you know that you are going to be really busy. For those of you who are in college, especially graduate and professional school, we all know that you are in graduate or professional school and you do not need to remind us. We are not going to give you any added praise just because you are in graduate or professional school—like we did not already know you were in graduate or professional school. Please consider how contradictory you can seem when you say that you are so busy, but people can see that you update your statuses every 30 minutes, stay on Facebook chat, and comment constantly on people’s walls. Revolutionary Paideia is simply asking you to check yourself!

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison