NYU Black Renaissance Noire Volume 18 Issue 1 - Winter 2018 - Page 74

jd : Oh, incredible essay! ep : …in 1976. She’s saying, really, the same exact thing I’m saying. Or that I’m saying James Baldwin is saying in the 50’s and the 60’s, which is you can’t afford to have your passion. You can’t afford to be told that your passion can only be expressed in the privacy of your house! jd : That’s exactly right. Interestingly, because James Baldwin thought passion, love, were incredibly powerful social energies. He wrote about that all over his work but maybe most visibly in, The Fire Next Time. Interestingly, after Baldwin published The Fire Next Time in the New Yorker (titled “Letter From a Region in My Mind” in the magazine) in late 1962, the philosopher Hannah Arendt wrote James Baldwin a letter and said ‘this is incredible work, clearly important, but I want to tell you, passion and love have no place in politics.’ She’s talking about fascism in Europe. ep : And talk about somebody with some skeletons in the closet. (laughs) jd : ep : Yeah, right? (laughs) That was the argument. And James Baldwin, of course, went a different route and proved himself again and again. He was ahead of his time. jd : Well, there’s a couple things here, more than a few, that I want to underline in what you’ve just said. About the political silence, compartmentalized, constrained, segmented within our inner life, and the vehicle of confession as a vehicle of joy, of great risk but of even greater rewards. Part of that political silence that entraps and confines us, I believe, and I’m looking for your thought on this, is part of the market-driven politics of advertising and economic exploitation. James Baldwin knew that through the vehicle of confession and taking that risk and experiencing that joy of what binds us to our body and sharing our body. The desire for affection, gentleness and intimacy also politically freed us from being in the crosshairs of the debilitating forces of advertising and market-driven commodity fetishism. Could you talk to us a little bit about that? It’s interesting, an extraordinary act. And yet he doesn’t really come out and lay it out in terms as I just did now, because he doesn’t have to, because you’re feeling it. It’s pulsing; it’s open; it’s kaleidoscopic, and it frees you. Yes. In the face of a countervailing political discourse that is totally unbelievable and terrible. James Baldwin found that by presenting himself as a full human being, he could achieve an authority that the political world couldn’t match. Miraculously, he found that one could achieve such an authority and didn’t need huge resources to do it. All you needed [were] the energies that were around you and within you in your own life, and if you are willing to play along those lines and be a little bit honest about it, a little bit in touch with it, you and the people around you can free yourselves, as you said, from manipulation by these caricatures that are looming over you. You look at our contemporary political world, go back 30 years, and come up to the present. If you look at the structure of political campaigns and administration, their rhetoric, it’s all absolutely sold to us just like any other commodity, Coca-Cola, whatever it is. They just repeat the same lines over and over again. ep : jd : Cowboys and Indians. Yes, we’ve seen the backdrops behind them where the same phrase repeats 50 times for the camera, so there is that. But also, and just fantastically to me, but also catastrophically, the we, the populace, the citizenry, such as it is, the voters demand the politicians stand before us, as if they [were] caricatures in Victorian novels, bad Victorian novels. They must have one idea; it must be non-contradictory. It’s clearly stated; it’s unchanging. They have no erotic life. They have to be married. And with the whole Clinton thing, his impeachment and all that stuff, basically, the country said: We won’t have a human being in the White House. If we get one sniff of the texture of humanity, of course, what we recognize in our own lives, we will reject you. ep : jd : You know, you really hit the n