Sunday, September 8, 2013
Dr. Nathan Hare on Marvin X, Back from the Dead; On Memory and Consciousness in the Butler
Dr. M, Dr. Julia Hare, Dr. Nathan Hare, Attorney Amira Jackmon
Good morning, Dr. M.
Our recent astonishment soon caused us to question what had seemed a most credible report of your demise, until we were able to verify that news of your demise was somewhat premature, that like myself you still have promises to keep, and miles to go before you sleep.
Thanks for your paraphrase of my thoughts on memory here. As you know, in 1969, we came to a fork in the road and faced the challenge and the task of prolonged struggle on the right and the reclamation leading left to our lost antiquity. We took the road leading left, so that for forty years from 1969 to 2009, we pursued a lost African antiquity; so that action and combat with our oppression took second place to knowing about and reclaiming a past that had gone forever. The more a black intellectual knew about Africa, especially its bygone past, the heavier you were as a black revolutionary in the public mind. White Africanists were shunted to the side so that they need not apply, as we rehashed and reinterpreted their archeological findings and other “Africana” – the museum approach to black studies that took the stage in place of community involvement. We neglected our immediate or most recent past and recent generations. The youth, having little or no direction in the present, turned away from us and our ideas, rejected them and sought to reinvent the wheel, including our celebrated musical esthetics, style and dance, if not a primitive and predatory model of manhood itself. We were “hipped” or “hip,” so they became “hip hop.“
We forgot that there is a difference in the consequences for discourse of long-term and short-term memory, that it is short-term memory that most stymies the social adaptability of the demented mind. You can forget the first woman you kissed but not the one or the reason you are in bed with for the moment, or where you have laid your hat when her old man returns. You don’t have to know what love is but you have to know what turn or twist to take in the moment. By focusing on the faraway and the long ago, we extended our collective memory far into the past and antiquity, but on top of the loss and neglect of short-term historical memory, our memory became longer than our understanding.
Glad you’re back. Keep on trucking. As Mrs. DuBois used to like to say, we still got a long old row to hoe