These notes are unpolished collections of thoughts, unfinished ideas, and things I want to remember later. In the spirit of learning in public, I'm sharing them here. Have fun exploring, if you want!

The Hidden Wound

Wendell Berry

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the profound moral discomfort potential in a society ostensibly Christian and democratic and genteel, but based upon the institutionalized violence of slavery. LOCATION: 184

Thus the moral obligation was cleanly excerpted from the religion. The question of how best to live on the earth, among one’s fellow creatures, was permitted to atrophy, and the churches devoted themselves exclusively and obsessively with the question of salvation. LOCATION: 243

How do you get to heaven? LOCATION: 245

Well, I have quoted some passages, and there are many others, that say you get there by obeying the moral imperatives of the Scripture, by loving one another “in deed and in truth.” But the churches, with their strong ties to the pocketbooks of racists, felt obliged to see it another way: the way to heaven was faith; one got there by believing. LOCATION: 245

And to this day that continues to be the emphasis of such denominations as the Southern Baptist: to be saved, believe! LOCATION: 248

The great moral tasks of honesty and peace and neighborliness and brotherhood and the care of the earth have been left to be taken up on the streets by the “alienated” youth of the 1960s and 1970s. LOCATION: 260

Detached from real issues and real evils, the language of religion became abstract, intensely (desperately?) pious, rhetorical, inflated with phony mysticism and joyless passion. The religious institutions became comfort stations for scribes and publicans and pharisees. Far from curing the wound of racism, the white man’s Christianity has been its soothing bandage—a bandage masquerading as Sunday clothes, for the wearing of which one expects a certain moral credit. LOCATION: 262

A man cannot be immortal except by saving his soul, and he cannot save his soul except by freeing his body and mind from the destructive forces in his history. LOCATION: 675

To me, the great power that children possess is candor; they see the world clear eyed, without prejudice; honesty is not immediately conceived by them as an uncomfortable alternative to lying. LOCATION: 799

The puritan fears that it would bring about an awareness and a celebration of life in this world, the life of the senses, which would break the hold of the priesthood on the consciences and the purse strings of the populace. The racist fears that a child’s honesty empowered by sex might turn in real and open affection toward members of the oppressed race, and so destroy the myth of that race’s inferiority. This is perhaps why racism and puritanism have meshed so perfectly in the United States. LOCATION: 809

And so I have not written at such length out of my memory of Nick and Aunt Georgie in order to give a case history or an example of race relations, nor have I done it in order to confess something of the extent of my involvement in a destructive mental condition. I have written about them in order to reexamine and to clarify what I know to be a moral resource, a part of the vital and formative legacy of my childhood. LOCATION: 837

There is, I am sure, such a thing as a sense of guilt about historical wrongs, but I have the strongest doubts about the usefulness of a guilty conscience as a motivation; a man, I think, can be much more dependably motivated by a sense of what would be desirable than by a sense of what has been deplorable. LOCATION: 855

there has been a regrettable tendency to deal with the black man’s past almost exclusively in terms of what I take to be a political oversimplification, which has it that from 1619 to the present the black people in America have been miserable. And this is usually accompanied by the implication that by making black people miserable the white people have made themselves happy. LOCATION: 863

They have endured and survived the worst, and in the course of their long ordeal they have developed—as most of white society has not—the understanding and the means both of small private pleasures and of communal grief and celebration and joy. LOCATION: 873

Happiness was conceived as success. The pragmatization of feeling was a fairly explicit social goal. If it won’t get you ahead, if you can’t sell it, forget it, cover it up, speak as if it did not exist. Such humanizing emotions as pleasure in small profitless things, joy, wonder, ecstasy were removed as by an operation on the brain. The only people I ever saw dancing publicly in the town where I grew up were black. LOCATION: 892

The church saving the souls of pagans of other continents in the gleeful imperialism of self-righteousness, functioned locally as a fashion show, moral painkiller, women’s club, soporific. I recall the general panic in a certain central Kentucky Baptist church when two black Africans, converts of the foreign missions program, turned up on the home ground and applied for membership. LOCATION: 906

This much is clear to me: insofar as I am capable of feeling such pleasures as I believe Nick felt, I am strong; insofar as I am dependent on the pleasures made available by my salary and the things I own, I am weak. LOCATION: 1044

As Thoreau so well knew, and so painstakingly tried to show us, what a man most needs is not a knowledge of how to get more, but a knowledge of the most he can do without, and of how to get along without it. LOCATION: 1048

There is an enormous difference between working to get some place, for the big payoff that will come later, as the white man does, and working with some serenity and pleasure at the work that is necessary and present, as the black man does, or anyhow as he did. It is the difference between practicality, so-called, and wisdom. LOCATION: 1120

Malcolm X, it seems to me, was a heroic figure not so much because of what he did, but because of the thorough involvement of a powerful intelligence in all that he did. He had preeminently, as his book shows, the power to assimilate new evidence and new experience, and to change accordingly. He was not, as we were so eager to believe, simply a man of fury; he was a man of intelligent fury. LOCATION: 1173

a man, I thought, must be judged by how willingly and meaningfully he can be present where he is, by how fully he can make himself at home in his part of the world. I began to want desperately to learn to belong to my place. The test, it seemed to me, would be how content I could become to remain in it, how independent I could be, there, of other places. LOCATION: 1197

And I began to understand how the racism of my people has been a barrier not just between us and our land but between us and our exemplary predecessors. LOCATION: 1215

Our politics and science have never mastered the fact that people need more than to understand their obligation to one another and to the earth; they need also the feeling of such obligation, and the feeling can come only within the patterns of familiarity. LOCATION: 1223

It has made divisions not only between white people and black people, but between black men and black women, white men and white women; it has come between white people and their work, and between white people and their land. It has fragmented both our society and our minds. LOCATION: 1257

My feeling is that in the people of each race there is a longing, either conscious or unconscious, to be accepted and liked by people of the other race; there is the intuition that such a liking of people for each other would tear away the centuries of hypocrisy and lies, and enfranchise our best hopes. LOCATION: 1262

The blacks know harsher truths about the whites than the whites have ever admitted to themselves—and the whites know it. LOCATION: 1266

They testify in one way or another to the value of what might be called the underview, the ground-level perspective of those at the bottom of the social structure. Those who are higher up are not only dependent on those below them but, cut off from them by social convention, are denied the elemental experience and the elemental wisdom available only to those in immediate free contact with the earth. LOCATION: 1449

And perhaps most important of all, these four encounters testify that the real healings and renewals in human life occur in individual lives, not in the process of adjusting or changing their abstractions or their institutions. LOCATION: 1459

They are not interested in the superficial revolutions by which men change their politics; they are interested in the profound metamorphoses that occur when men “rectify their hearts.” LOCATION: 1462

believe that the experience of all honest men stands, like these books, against the political fantasy that deep human problems can be satisfactorily solved by legislation. On the contrary, it is likely that the best and least oppressive laws come as the result or the reflection of honest solutions that men have already made in their own lives. LOCATION: 1465

The widespread assumption that men can be set free or dignified or improved by monkeying with some mere aspect or manifestation of their lives—politics promises no solution, but only an unlimited growth of the public apparatus. LOCATION: 1469

No man will ever be whole and dignified and free except in the knowledge that the men around him are whole and dignified and free, and that the world itself is free of contempt and misuse. LOCATION: 1470

It is, then, not simply a question of black power or white power, but of how meaningfully to reenfranchise human power. LOCATION: 1509

Though I was not a racist, I was fully aware that I belonged to the history of racism and had the influence of it in me. NOTE: Cf racism is an action LOCATION: 1536

the widening rift between rich and poor, the decline in the ownership of useful property, the cost and influence of public and private debt, the rising costs to individuals and to our society and country of the present versions of scientific and economic “progress,” the implications of nuclear power for war or peace, the decline of public education into baby sitting, job training, or incarceration. LOCATION: 1563

believed then, and I believe more strongly now, that the root of our racial problem in America is not racism. The root is in our inordinate desire to be superior—not to some inferior or subject people, though this desire leads to the subjection of people—but to our condition. We wish to rise above the sweat and bother of taking care of anything—of ourselves, of each other, or of our country. LOCATION: 1570

It seems likely, then, that what we now call racism came about as a justification of slavery after the fact, not as its cause. NOTE: This is what kendi argues LOCATION: 1575

The problem of race, nevertheless, is generally treated as if it could be solved merely by recruiting more blacks and other racial minorities into colleges and then into high-paying jobs. This is to assume, simply, that we can solve the problems of racial minorities by elevating them to full partnership in the problems of the racial majority. We assume that when a young black person acquires a degree, puts on a suit, and achieves a sit-down job with a corporation, the problem is to that extent solved. LOCATION: 1597

It only assumes that American blacks will be made better or more useful or more secure by becoming as greedy, selfish, wasteful, and thoughtless as affluent American whites. LOCATION: 1604

The problems associated with racism, as I have already suggested, are deeply involved in our national character, and they will not be solved by a racially equitable distribution of college degrees and professional salaries. NOTE: I think this is where kendi disagrees. LOCATION: 1607

The first problem is the displacement of the racial problem itself from the country to the cities. The story of the black race in America began and went on for more than three hundred years as a story that was mainly rural and agricultural. LOCATION: 1613

One of the costs is dispossession, which is the second problem. In 1920 black American farmers owned 916,000 farms, totaling fifteen million acres. By 1988, according to the New York Times News Service, the number of farms owned by blacks had fallen to 30,000, totaling about three million acres. LOCATION: 1637

The transition from slave to citizen is good. But the transition from useful and therefore valuable slave to useless and therefore costly economic dependent is a bewilderment. LOCATION: 1671

There are two ways by which individual success and security can be made(within mortal limits) successful and secure: they must rest on a sound understanding and practice of economic justice; and they must involve and be involved in the success and security of the community. The competitive principle excludes both of these ways. We might LOCATION: 1739

In such a society, also, our private economies will depend less and less upon the private ownership of real, usable property, and more and more upon property that is institutional and abstract, beyond individual control, such as money, insurance policies, certificates of deposit, stocks, and shares. LOCATION: 1779

people decided to be self-employed? The great enemy of freedom is the alignment of political power with wealth. LOCATION: 1789

The danger is that there is no safety, no dependable safety, in privilege that is founded on greed, ignorance, and waste. LOCATION: 1809

want and oppression, we will find it only in our neighbors’ prosperity and goodwill and, beyond that, in the good health of our worldly places, our homelands. LOCATION: 1814

We would be looking too for another kind of freedom. Our present idea of freedom is only the freedom to do as we please: to sell ourselves for a high salary, a home in the suburbs, and idle weekends. But that is a freedom dependent upon affluence, which is in turn dependent upon the rapid consumption of exhaustible supplies. LOCATION: 1817

The other kind of freedom is the freedom to take care of ourselves and of each other. The freedom of affluence opposes and contradicts the freedom of community life. LOCATION: 1819

Linked references

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