"The Son of a Panther..." Should I follow? Can I?

As I'm flipping through Michael Eric Dyson's Holler If You Hear Me: Searching for Tupac Shakur again, this passage stuck out to me:

Contrary to the caustic criticism he later received, Tupac was not drawn to the Panthers because of their stylized violence, their hypermasculinized images, or their alluring social mystique. His attraction to the Black Panthers was a practical attempt to answer racial oppression. The embrace of black pride was not for compensatory or therapeutic ends. Rather, its purpose was, first, self-respect and, then, respect for others. It was self-regarding morality linked to other-regarding social concern. By embracing education as well, Tupac hit on a key point of liberal reform: that enlightened minds help improve social behavior. His pedagogy of race was equal parts Paulo Freire and John Dewey, based on the belief that morally literate citizens can help transform society. (55)

High-minded idealism often falls prey to the tyrannies of self-interest, narcissism, oppression, violence, greed, fear, personal weakness and betrayal. I admire Shakur from my own oft-lamented standpoint of privilege - his best words inspire me, and his worst don't wound me. I'm not sure if that's all right, the more I meditate on the landscape of ego-driven leadership. But is there any other kind in this society? I mean really? There are leaders who attempt alternative models, and we criticize them for being weak, ineffective, naive... and so on. Can I admire Tupac Shakur? Can I admire Bill Clinton? Or Hillary Clinton, for that matter? There's plenty to find redeeming - and there had better be - we're all cracked, broken and achingly incomplete...

But ADMIRATION. Ahhh... that's a dangerous, perilous tendency. I admire to easily. There are consequences.

Whom do you admire? Does it go beyond admiration? What do you give up - of yourself - in this exchange? Early in my Emerging Church process, I found myself giving a lot of personal allegiance to many charismatic leaders and thinkers who may have deserved praise for their bold ideas and inspiring visions - but not for their inherent character or humanity. People are people. Oh how we love to idealize a leader!! The cult of celebrity is a powerful force - a hard one to resist.

Exploring this, not sure where it's going...

1 comment:

Existential Punk said...

i admire moby and his depth of perception of the human nature.

And, of course, i admire you Peter! :)

Popular Posts