Thursday, April 11, 2019

More Universalism

4/11/2019--George Hutchinson is 89 years old and he has written an essential book for this culture: Facing the Abyss. Now I have only read this review by Edward Mendelson in the New York Review. But it will do for now. The point is universalism.

Hutchinson examines the literary culture of the 1940's and discovers that there were writers. Oh, they were black, white, gay straight, male, female. But they were writers about the human condition, despite their differing viewpoints. It was not unusual for Ann Perry, for example, to write about a white family. No concerns about cultural appropriation. Catetorization is the enemy.

Actually, that is not mostly what Hutchinson is getting at. There are cultures of virtue and cultures of penitence. The culture of virtue trumpets itself. That of penitence aims at self-reflection. The 1940's were one. We are the other. (Guess).

The Universal Declaration of Rights proclaimed by the United Nations in 1948 was not an instrument of Western imperialism celebrating personal autonomy. It was derived from Confucianism and Dewey's pragmatism and emphasized mutual relations. A collaboration between Eleanor Roosevelt and Zhang Pengchun.

The 1940's was a time of unspeakable horror. And of many American sins. Hutchinson does not gloss over that and neither did these figures. But it was also a time of some genuine introspection. We could use some of that. Cable news is self-righteousness. So is our politics.

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