In May 2020, George Floyd was murdered. Brutally. Without remorse. Since then this country has shown itself: in the streets, in its writing, etc. An “I am”, an American metaphysics has even emerged: a refusal to be anything else but one who seeks justice. We are living in a concerning but insurrectionary age, an age of popular jeremiads that openly confront those who refuse the majority bread and roses. In such an age, protest is the product of examination, of scrutiny. An unexamined life is not worth living, to quote Dr. Cornel West’s quoting Plato, and this seems to fuel the strength and resolve of insurrections. Examination, despite its use in protest, is both a means and an end, and it will further itself, as we march for a better world. What becomes of me? What becomes of the injustice that I seek to redress? What becomes of examination? Written in the winds to come, the world to be, we have only to express our convictions for love and peace at every crossroad and a version of it will manifest. Or, so it seems. Regardless, we must speak of our examination.
May 68. The students stormed Paris, and the institutions that produced their oppression. They seemed to be a culmination of existentialist thought as much as they were of marxist, anarxist, etc thought. Sartre’s existentialism, born in the cafe settings of the left bank, to the drugs, cigarettes and alcohol intake of its thinkers, (amongst others) seemed to be walking in the streets, setting up barricades. This thought? That first I am. That secondly, I must question and be skeptical of what is. That I can be free, and even from capitalism. Sartre himself was in the streets, along with Michel Foulcault and others whose examination would come to impact the world. Paris after the war in the 40’s and 50’s, a child of Soren Kieerkegard’s thoughts on angst, and existence had taken hold of the streets.
Who are we? It is a question that we two ask ourselves, and have been for some time. The coffeeshops that stood up to the Vietnam War on our side of the atlantic too hosted conversation, and the love of wisdom (philosophy). How did we arrive at the metaphysics that we have seen in the streets provoke and convoke the entirety of the world (that as a human I MUST protest against injustice). This metaphysics can be heard in much of Dr. Martin Luther King’s speeches who spoke of a duty. Beyond a right. Let us not forget that the rights of man (which I have purposely limited to man), that comes of the enlightenment, and that the duty of humans are different, that do not exclude one another but that certainly are not the same. They are each a metaphysics.
In other words, how have Americans become creatures of duty in masse, along with being creatures of right? May 2020 is the exposition of such metaphysics, that duty is central to humanity, a metaphysics that surely will come to inform education and culture, if you know a thing about the insurrectionary nature of American love. The duty in democracy, in solidarity, does not seem to match the degeneration that just about every person can point to about American life: its topography, communication, dance, etc. However, voila. Such is the American: concerned with the other, pulling down monuments, walking to the thumping of both flames and police sirens.
The month of May. A month to sculpt and paint. May 2020. May 1968. Of the twelve daughters of Changxi, May seems to walk to the beat of wisdom, dancing to an examined life toward liberty. May we never forget.