Thursday, November 13, 2014

Directly, Thoroughly, Intimately

It is impossible for the individual to reach the larger social conscience by sheer expansion, by a benevolent endeavor to be interested in all men. This leads inevitably to a tenuous filmy consciousness, a loss of grip on the realities of human beings — on the concrete man. It becomes easily a theoretical rather than a practical humanitarianism, and has often been illustrated in the world's history by the wavering and doubting of the philanthropic mind.

We can only be interested in men by knowing them — knowing them directly, thoroughly, intimately; and this knowing leads ever to the greatest of human discoveries,—the recognization [sic] of one's self in the image of one's neighbor; the sudden, startling revelation, "This is another Me, that thinks as I think, feels as I feel, suffers even as I suffer." This is the beginning, and the only true beginning, of the social conscience.

W. E. B. DuBois, "The Individual and Social Conscience". He goes on to emphasize that it is, however, only the beginning.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the post, I am so pleased to now have this reference for future use; in my opinion there is a lot of wishy-washy humanitarianism that comes out in the wash. H. is not impossible. My dissertation is in part about working with the 'best of' (once an openness to 'getting to know you' has been established) as a way forward. I am still thinking through how to best formulate the gist of that idea.


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