West and Coates: Self-transcendence and Obligation to the Truth

Agnostic or atheist viewpoint is not the issue. Identity is. Identity is politics. Politics as in: how individuals choose to govern themselves. Identity as in: Self who is morally, ethically, and culturally, intentional, responsible, and accountable to themselves, Others, and the larger society; to find just, equitable and compassionate means for allocating resources amongst the peoples on planet Earth. Identifying as Self and Self as Other is one of the most meaningful, purposeful acts of being human.

So what’s the beef between these two individuals, Dr. Cornel West and Ta-Nehisi Coates? There is none. Each writer is expressing an aspect of the whole. Just as visible light enters a prism and exits into arrays of color, so too have these commentaries. So what are we to make of these two perspectives? We can reflect back on the totality that is the larger truth. For example, race and class are inter-related and indivisible. That is to say, you cannot talk about one without acknowledging the affect and effects of the other. They are inextricably bound together. So what is the conversation? For me, a budding ClassCrits scholar, it is about human identity. How is it that some humans transcend perceived differences that serve to divide and create hierarchies? How did Gandhi become Gandhi, or King become King, or Hamer become Hamer, or any of the women and men of praiseworthiness determine in their minds to identify with the totality, the larger truth?

Through my research and multi-disciplinary study, I’ve come to understand that many people will achieve self-actualization, yet only a few perhaps reach self-transcendence, where pursuit of equity and access to those known conditions necessary to achieve human potentiality is the expression of their authentic Self. And, that any human-made politic that seeks to deny or hinder the flourishing of full human potentiality for everyone must be denied.

What does this mean? Well, to start, take Dr. West’s position of criticizing (and, he does also occasionally provide positive critique) elected leaders. It is the intentional exercise of responsible holding-of-account of elected leaders. Dr. West, for me, informs his audience of where improvement can and must be made. These admonitions illuminate, up-close, where humanity can and must do better. In this way, current and future leaders can increasingly make judgments reduced of bias and heuristics, thereby reducing errors in decision-making on critical policies that form the culture and society.

It appears that Mr. Coates is seeking a similar end, in that one characteristic of journalism is obligation to the truth. Yet I do not know, from his writings, if Mr. Coates is seeking, for himself, his community, or the larger culture/society, the psychological well-being found in recognizing and accepting the unknowable/unknown (aka this cosmic, grand wondrous, and awesome thing called existence), and accepting the unifying truth behind it: a commitment to unitive values; and the realization that in the moment of decision-making there appear to be dualities, yet the way through the tension is to seeking and realize collectivist values (goals, interests, and motivations). These concepts may sound funny to the ear, yet are scientifically sound. The concepts are gaining broader understanding outside academia and research laboratories.   As so many wise humans have said before, are saying now, and will continue to say, “Love is the answer, peace is the way.”

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