Cornel West: The Difference Between Justice and Revenge


Cornell West: Shelley was right when he said
poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world. Yes Percy, we appreciate that. We understand that. We know they published that after you died,
but we got the memo. By poetry he wasn’t talking about versifiers,
he wasn’t talking about folks who write words on a page; he was talking about all human
beings who muster imagination and empathy to conceive of an alternative reality given
the nightmarish catastrophic driven realities most of us have to come to terms with, which
means to live a life of a certain kind is to be a poet, an artist of life, an artist
of living, one who through one’s deeds and actions and witness exemplifies an imagination
and an empathy that is subversive in terms of relating to the past, which has fortitude
and courageous in the present to pass onto the next generation, some wind at their back. If you want to know what hope is just zoom
in on August of 1955 with Emmett Till’s mother when she’s asked to speak before not just
public but the whole world, because the cameras were there from all the various nations and
there’s her baby in the coffin with the coffin open. They tried to make sure they kept the coffin
closed. She said, “No, they’re going to keep it
open. We just fetched this body from the Tallahassee
River in Jim Crow gut-bucket Mississippi, killed by cowardly hateful American terrorists,
white supremacists. We’re going to keep it open. This is my only baby.” What you got to say, Mamie Till, to the world? “I’m not speaking on behalf of myself,”
she says. “I’m not speaking on behalf of black people
or America, I’m speaking on behalf of the best of the human species, which is what? I don’t have a minute to hate; I will pursue
justice for the rest of my life.” That’s being a hope, and it’s an echo. That magnificent moment in Reinhold Niebuhr’s
1932 classic ‘Moral Man and Immoral Society’ where Reinhold says: any justice that’s only
justice soon degenerates into something less than justice. Justice must be rescued by something grander
and deeper than justice, mainly love. Love, justice: not identical, but indivisible. When Martin says, “Justice is what love looks
like in public,” he’s talking about it in the legacy of Jerusalem, not the legacy of
Athens. For Plato justice is a norm to giving and
having one’s due. But in Amos justice is a force. It’s a major force. It’s an answer to the question that Walter
Hawkins in his song ‘What Is This?’: ‘How do I account for this fire I have inside of
me that won’t give me any peace? I’ve got to somehow get it out. And if I don’t do something the rocks are
going to cry out.’ That’s existential. I wouldn’t even call it spiritual because
we know religious folk have no monopoly on it given the history of religious institutions
accommodating themselves to the most vicious forms of bestiality and atrocity. Be it against our Jewish brothers and sisters
in the history of Christianity, it can be against Muslims, it could be against Arabs,
it could be against women and gays and lesbians, black folk, whatever. Thank god for the history of the heretics
and the blasphemers. That’s my crowd. Look at the history of communism, my god:
every self-conscious Marxist find him or herself usually having to leave the Communist Party
in order to be true to the best of Karl Marx. Why? Because of the ossification and petrification
of institutions in that way. Hope is existential. I keep coming back to that point. And the issue of integrity that Du Bois raised
is quintessential. Of course we live in an age—of what? Cupidity: love of money. I didn’t say stupidity. That’s too easy—even though that’s part
of the problem—but it’s cupidity. Because there wouldn’t be a Donald Trump if
it wasn’t for Wall Street, corporate elites and a Republican Party that was so complicitous
and willing to adjust themselves to it, or even a Democratic Party that’s too milquetoast
and acts like they want to be part of the resistance but usually have to be brought
in kicking and screaming. Because the demos wake up and just hit the
streets the way the sisters did the day after the inauguration, hit the airports the way
our precious brothers and sisters in solidarity with and following so-called undocumented
brothers and sisters. Those are the ones who have been in the Vanguard. Those are the poets, the artists, the vanguard
of the species. Integrity over against cupidity and venality. And the saddest feature of our present moment,
and that’s why you all are so visionary, because you all came up with this during the age of
Obama. See for a lot of people they didn’t need to
talk about hope under Obama because Obama was already providing the hope. Of course I didn’t get that memo, but that’s
another lecture. That’s another lecture. We’re not going to get into that tonight. No. No. Uh-huh. I’m suspicious of anybody tied to Wall Street
military industrial complex, assassinating American citizens without accountability. I’m critical of anybody, anybody. The top one percent get 95 percent of the
income growth, and 94 percent of the jobs that you brag about are short-term, temporary,
precarious jobs and somehow you’re going to talk about the low unemployment rate. Why don’t you just take a look at these precious
folk in these communities dealing with these two or three jobs trying to put it all together. Start with the university with adjunct professors. Don’t brag to me about how wonderful the status
quo is and therefore audacity of hope, but that’s another lecture. My point is this. My point is this: that everybody is for sale. Everything is for sale. György Lukács was right: pervasive ubiquitous
commodification tied to militarization in our relations with one another, in relation
to the police and local citizens, relation of CIA and state department and Pentagon to
Yemen and Pakistan and Afghanistan. In relation to undermining democratic regimes
in Honduras. In relation to Libya. In relation to the West Bank under Israeli
occupation. In relation to poor Jewish folk inside of
Israel, given the increasing wealth inequality within Israel itself. Commodification, militarization and then,
of course, niggerization. What is niggerization? The attempt to make sure that those Sly Stone
called “everyday people” are so scared and intimidated and afraid and feeling so
hopeless and helpless that they’ll never straighten their backs up. They’re walking around feeling as if they
can’t make a difference. Their voices don’t matter. You can hear brother Martin Luther King saying
from the grave: “Anytime ordinary people straighten their backs up they’re going somewhere,
because folk can’t ride your back unless it’s bent.” And that’s an echo of Thoreau and Walden when
he talks about the sleepwalkers, and as they sleep the folk are walking on their backs
and when they wake up and stay woke—and not just stay woke the way our precious young
folk talk about Black Lives Matter—but stay fortified as you are woke. Then the folk who are walking on your back
find themselves in precarious situations. That’s called revolution. Revolution in mind, revolution in values,
revolution in priority. It’s a transformation of self and community
and society, and there is no transformation without—positive transformation—without
this dialectical interplay of love as a form of death, from which hope emerges in the form
of action.

100 comments

  1. Look – total disclosure. West is a guy politically I feel like I disagree with on a lot of fronts. Some through reason, some of it through just pure emotion. I'll admit it.

    But this dude's vibe. His love for humans. Please give me a 30 rack, a shitty bar and two hours with this guy. He's as wise, friendly, fun and insightful a human as you can find. And above all else – genuine. He's too left wing for my tastes and the left wing tidal wave on college campuses admittedly bothers me.

    But this guy is a fucking treasure of acadamia and humanity. Look past your own politics and strive to interact with great humans who can expand your mind, that's all.

  2. Love love love this man. This is a true progressive… few and far between in the so-called "United" States of Amerigone.

  3. I love cornel west but his posture throughout this speech bothered me. It felt like he was literally talking down to the audience. I love the speech don't get me wrong. It's just the visual posture.

  4. This theatrics is a classic example of verbal garbage from the so called "intellectuals" that feel entitled to ride the high horse over ordinary folks but are devoid of any iota of wisdom!! Even worse is the title of this clip which is grossly misleading and has nothing to do with whatever garbage is being spewed here. However, to find any semblance of common sense jump directly to 7:56 and save your precious time.

  5. he's good at philosophy..as in saying a lot about the condition of man and society..but it's for the most part meaningless..it lacks intellectual honesty and truth of logic

  6. This is way too good for a simple thumbs up button. Where’s the hallelujah love button? Thank you for your words as medicine Dr West

  7. Dr. West stand up straight… You're making my back hurt just watching you 😂… Loved this!!! Heretic here!!!

  8. pY weST [] i was eaTing sushi about ten yeaRs agO [ in the window of a little restaurant] and you passed and waVEd aT me [ u saW me ] u looked a me with such deep recognition and u had never seen me before

  9. So the government takes action it's justice but of a person who actually was affected its revenge okay so it's the gist of sugar quit revenge in this guy is just a poet who hadn't really really have any real knowledge about this

  10. Person gets affected by a person killing their family member they kill them crime person kills person government kills them Justice no difference

  11. Actually government Justice is really worse than revenge cuz they're killing someone who didn't directly affect their life

  12. He's ideology is ridiculous. Democratic Socialism never works. White supremacist are Democrats using black life matter as black face.

  13. Interesting the evoking of Obama.
    He wasn't nearly as effective as people wish to believe; in fact, he was so moderate he wouldn't even be electable in today's climate.
    Talk about 'milk toast'.

  14. Wow, what a bigot. Blame straight white men all you wsnt. As a libertarded socialist nazi, you don't exactly stand or speak from any moral ground. Cuckhold.

  15. If your god kills children, your god is evil. If your god tells his followers to kill every man and boy in Midian, and take the women and girls as sex slaves, your god is evil. YOUR GOD IS EVIL.

  16. 2:35 — " Justice is what love looks like in public " …. brilliant. Does Cornell say this is a quote by Martin, as in Martin Luther King? When I Google that phrase it comes up as being by himself.

    “Justice is what love looks like in public, just like tenderness is what love feels like in private,” said Dr. Cornel West

  17. "Look at the history of communism, my God! Every self-conscious Marxist found him or herself usually having to leave the Communist Party in order to be true to the best of Karl Marx." Cornel West — around 4 minutes into this video.

    So true — not just of Communism, or Christianity, or whatever, but of any institution.

    And then he zooms out a bit, summarizing this phenomena: "Why? Because of the ossification and petrification of institutions in that way."

    God — this is perfect! (Smile)

  18. Bernie has enough of an uphill job promoting the programs the USA needs that will also have a global impact,, not only because of the Corporate opposition attempting to protect their interests, but because we don't understand Macroeconomics & have accepted the Neoclassical narrative of the Austrian & Chicago School Economists, who the Koch Bros & their ilk work to place in our Universities, are teaching economic drivel, as far as it extends Macroeconomically. They are fine at explaining Microeconomics, the economic capacity of Currency USERS, which includes individuals, businesses, states, & local municipalities. ONLY the Federal Government, the Monopoly owner & creator of our currency, is Currency ISSUER & thus have MACROECONOMIC abilities & a much more spacious capacity that we & countries that aren't Monetary Sovereign Nations, like the EU & many developing countries DON'T have! @! @ @ @ @ @ @ @

  19. i can't take that guy seriously, he feel like a rambling baboom to me, with his ridiculous beard and spaced teeth, i guess none is perfect, sorry, peace.

  20. Cornell West is inherently positive, even when he is speaking about negative things.

    Also just because he calls someone a “Blessed Brother or Sister…”, be careful, because he just might tell the truth about them.

  21. Eva Kohley. I would respond directly to your comment, but your using a fake account. So that a direct reply can not be linked to your comment or your page, so it is not possible. First, I can't remember exactly which law it falls under. Forgery, I think. But using fake information to create accounts online, is a crime. For some dumb reason. Look up, 10 laws almost everyone breaks, on the internet, every day. Its stupid, but its for real. Now, to answer your posed question. If you are on youtube commenting on videos. It is amazingly ignorant to say, "only six major sources". This is both technically wrong, as well as directly wrong. There are six major stations, I'm which to watch news in general. But sources, as you say, they are not. They are only the platform, on which, the news is aired. This is why you are technically wrong, on the amount of sources. (Television sources). Since each of these channels. Have numerous journalists, each with their own shows. Making each of these journalists, their own individual source of info. Unless they are plagerizing other journalists. (Which is why all the fake news channels. Read the same things, word for word. (Verbatum). Making them obvious hacks. At least as far, as journalistic integrity is concerned. That is how you are technically wrong. You are directly wrong, as you are literally surrounded by countless sources, on you tube alone. Hundreds, nay, thousands of sources or more. The way to watch all these sources and piece together facts. I learned from a video made in the 90's, prior to Frank Zappas death. (Video title: What Frank Zappa Wants Us To Know About The News Media). As he says. You have to watch, read, and absord as many different sources. Speaking on a single issue. Then you take all the parts which were shared throughout them, universally. These shared parts, are the only facts we will know about. To go one step further though. As people forget the simplest things. Even hearing an untrustworthy neighbor saying something. Is a source, from that point in time, for the taking. Sources are not limited to what appears on a screen or a piece of paper. Sources, by definitional restraints, is anything that, "PROVIDES". By this reply, I become a source. By your original questioning of what I said, you became a source. (By asking a real question. You also became more of a journalist, than most, which have the work title of journalists). Did this answer your question, well enough? It was a very legit question. And I always give props where, and when I feel it's something deserved. In this regard, your now in a group of 4. Which I don't necessarily agree with the opinions of. But that have some kind of intelligence showing through.

  22. I didn't even have to hear his name.
    Hearing what had happened, i knew this was about Emmett Till…
    There aren't enough words to express this horror. His Mother, a brave, strong Woman ♡♡

  23. Brother West is a gift from God to humanity. Few were created like him. Such intellect yet humble.He speaks from the Heart .Rock on brother west.

  24. There are few people in the world I would stay in line for a chance to shake their hand, Cornel West is one of them!

  25. "Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world."
    He's right, the Democratic party leadership better wake the fuck up, they're allowing this to happen far too easily…

  26. "We not going to talk about that:
    (Proceeds immediately to talk about it)
    I'm critical of ANYBODY tied to the military industrial complex…!" 😉

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