Not Hezbollah now, thank you

What’s all this about liberal education then? Does it have to do with the free discussion of ideas and a more cosmopolitan sense of the world maybe, as opposed to whatever green-and-slimy thing Bill O’Reilly thought he saw under the bed one day? Michael Bérubé offers some thoughts:

I’ve given up on trying to come up with formulations about the goal of liberal education that everyone would agree with, but I think cosmopolitanism beats the alternatives…What I’m offering, simply, is the much broader stroke of opposing cosmopolitanism to parochialism…I look at how it was, from Clifford Geertz onwards, that the idea of “local knowledges” took such hold of us. Why would the local be taken as a good in itself?…[I]t struck me as strange that the fetishization of the local would become so entrenched…[C]osmopolitanism…still gets a bad rap in quarters where it’s understood to entail rootlessness and a lack of grounding or commitment…Not only do I disagree – I think cultivating the idea of “world citizens,” to take Martha Nussbaum’s phrase from Cultivating Humanity, now more than ever beats every alternative I can think of. It offers a rebuke to certain pragmatic nationalisms – and I also think the talk of supersession of the nation-state is running well ahead of the actual facts. Finally, I would much rather be associated with an internationalist left than with a so-called patriotic left, and I think cosmopolitanism works toward that end.

Same here. With considerable emphasis. Cosmopolitanism, internationalism, world citizenship over the parochial, local and patriotic every time. Hand me my tiny patchwork flag, would you? I want to wave it.

The university is perhaps ‘one of the more genuine public spheres, in contrast to the kind of politics that we get on TV,’ the interviewer suggests.

There is always (and often for good reasons) suspicion of anyone launching a critique of Chomsky because he is so iconic; and all criticism is considered apostasy. So this week on the blog I said, let me try to explain what the difference is between the “democratic” and the “anti-imperialist” left, because the anti-imperialist left these days, I think, is leading itself right off the cliff to – well, the phrase this month is “we are all Hezbollah now.” I’m not Hezbollah, thank you, and I’m also not part of the Iraqi resistance…You don’t want to be in the position of saying, well, the repression and the homophobia of such and such a regime—at least they’re at least anti-imperialist, revolutionary homophobia and repression, as opposed to reactionary, imperialist homophobia and repression. In the last ten years or so, I have not only come around, as I argue in Liberal Arts, to a kind of re-appreciation of what the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights was trying to do, but I’ve gotten increasingly impatient with that wing of the left that will cut some slack to whoever is the enemy of my enemy at the moment.


Read the whole thing, as they say.

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