Part of the popularity with Louis Farrakhan has less to do with the content of his message and more to do with the form that he portrays himself - as being a free, black person who speaks what is on his mind with boldness and fearlessness. Who is willing to pay the consequences.
Hope and optimism are different. Optimism tends to be based on the notion that there's enough evidence out there to believe things are gonna be better, much more rational, deeply secular, whereas hope looks at the evidence and says, "It doesn't look good at all. Doesn't look good at all. Gonna go beyond the evidence to create new possibilities based on visions that become contagious to allow people to engage in heroic actions always against the odds, no guarantee whatsoever." That's hope. I'm a prisoner of hope, though. Gonna die a prisoner of hope.
It's so easy to begin to demonize someone you think is so far removed and as the demonization begins to expand, it ends up being everybody but your friends. After a while everybody else but you. That is a slippery slope that is so easy to slide down, and that's what is dangerous.
If you've got on the one hand death, dogmatism, domination, and on the other you've got desire in the face of death, dialogue in the face of dogmatism, democracy in the face of domination, then philosophy itself becomes a critical disposition of wrestling with desire in the face of death, wrestling with dialogue in the face of dogmatism, and wrestling with democracy, trying to keep alive a very fragile democratic experiment.
Cincinnati like so many other cities, we know that so many of our schools, when it comes to public schools, are still de facto segregated racially. It has to do with residential segregation. It has to do with James Crow, Jr., which is at work, de facto rather than legally so that some of the integration is taking place among more and more well-to-do.
It's true that you might be socially isolated because you're reading in the library, at home and so on, but you're intensely alive. In fact you're much more alive than these folk walking the streets of New York in crowds, with no intellectual interrogation and questioning going at all.
I think markets are mechanisms that determine prices that are necessary for mass heterogenous populations, and markets do generate levels of technological innovation and productivity that is crucial. But when unregulated, they often generate levels of vast inequality and ugly isolation that makes it difficult for people to relate and connect with one another.
There are various forms of weaponry, intellectual weaponry, spiritual weaponry, political weaponry, economic weaponry. Because we are on the battlefield, and there are bullets flying, some symbolic, some literal and the life of the mind is a crucial place where the battle goes on.
And so the question becomes, what you do in the meantime? And you go - if you're forever on the move, especially in the life of the mind; forever reading veraciously, writing, speaking, lecturing, trying to unsettle minds, trying to touch souls, trying to encourage and inspire, on the one hand, but also trying to unhouse and unnerve people, so that they have to reexamine themselves, society and the world on the others. There's tremendous joy in it.
To accept your country without betraying it, you must love it for that which shows what it might become. America -- this monument to the genius of ordinary men and women, this place where hope becomes capacity, this long, halting turn of 'no' into the 'yes' -- needs citizens who love it enough to re-imagine and re-make it.
As a Christian, I got something the world didn't give me, the world can't take away, so I find joy that can never be reduced to anything. So I come into classroom on fire. I'm on fire for learning. I'm on fire for education, a paideia in the deepest sense of paideia, trying to get young people to shift from the superficial to the substantial, the shift from the bling-bling to letting freedom reign in their minds and hearts and souls.
The country is in deep trouble. We've forgotten that a rich life consists fundamentally of serving others, trying to leave the world a little better than you found it. We need the courage to question the powers that be, the courage to be impatient with evil and patient with people, the courage to fight for social justice. In many instances we will be stepping out on nothing, and just hoping to land on something. But that's the struggle. To live is to wrestle with despair, yet never allow despair to have the last word.
For me, music is in no way ornamental or decorative, it's constitutive of who I am. And that's why, when I say I'm a blues man, that's a very serious vocation - to muster the courage to find your own unique voice, to forge your distinctive style in the world, to leave your imprint in the sands of time in such a way that your singularity, your individuality, remains something that people have to come to terms with.