How Did We Lose the Language of “We”?

Sept. 12, 2009, D.C. Tea Baggers protest
Sept. 12, 2009, D.C. Tea Baggers protest

Henry Giroux, cultural critic, author, and professor of English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University in Ontario, posted a fantastic article today titled The New Illiteracy in American Life: Democracy and Politics in the Age of the Spectacle.

After Joe Wilson’s outburst at President Obama last week and the Tea Baggers march on Washington on Saturday (see my photo above of a truck parked downtown during the march), civil discourse is all the rage. When did we lose the ability to speak to each other? everyone bemoans. How do we restore civic literacy?

Giroux lays out a cogent analysis of why and how we lost the language of “we.” And the role emotionalism now plays in legitimating a political perspective (as in “I feel this true, therefore it is.”). Here’s an excerpt from his article, but read the whole thing.

Authoritarianism is often abetted by an inability of the public to grasp how questions of power, politics and history and public consciousness are mediated at the interface of private issues and public concerns. The ability to translate private problems into social considerations is fundamental to what it means to reactivate political sensibilities and conceive of ourselves as critical citizens, engaged public intellectuals and social agents. Just as an obsession with the private is at odds with a politics informed by public consciousness, it also burdens politics by stripping it of the kind of political imagination and collective hope necessary for a viable notion of meaning, hope and political agency. Civic literacy is about more than enlarging the realm of critique and affirming the social; it is also about public responsibility, the struggle over democratic public life and the importance of critical education in a Democratic society.

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