I Can’t Breathe

As Zachariah Mampilly also noted in the latest edition of Foreign Affairs magazine, the career and thoughts of W.E.B. DuBois demonstrate that a deep, systematic, and thorough exploration of Western foreign policy and Western international relations ultimately prompts a leftward shift in one’s philosophy and thought system. And for DuBois, the American system ended up persisting so horrifically and relentlessly in aiming their white supremacist dispositions and outlook towards DuBois in order to censor and suppress his intellectual activities to the point where DuBois left America and moved to Ghana in order to breathe freely.

Part of the reason for why certain intellectuals like DuBois have been censored and suppressed in the past and why some intellectuals are subject to censorship and suppression in this day and age in the West is because certain intellectuals play the vital role of demonstrating “public reasoning” and in turn, the demonstration of “public reasoning” assumes a central role in the dispensation of social justice, to borrow from Amartya Sen. It follows that in the broadest sense, the demonstration of “public reasoning” and thus social justice translates into the fostering of a more participatory form of government and a more inclusive system. However, a more participatory form of government and a more inclusive system directly contradicts the class-based and feudal system that is at the very core and heart of Western culture and Western history.

Thus, the monopolization of democratic discourse by the West, or the notion that democracy is somehow the specialty of the West and that democracy is supposed to be promoted by the West towards other countries is simply erroneous and false, as demonstrated not just by the life of DuBois, but by the very basic essence and nature of Western culture and Western history. As Amartya Sen noted, democratic cultures and democratic systems have predated the so-called liberal democracies of the West, one of which is India. But one can go even further than the point about participation in government and the inclusiveness of a system, in the sense that the censorship and suppression of the ‘public reasoning’ and the intellectual activity of certain individuals actually amounts not only to the denial of a basic political and social right, but it also amounts to the denial of that person’s basic humanity.

As a result, the Freudian slip of a British conservative commentator and his use of the terms “thoroughly undermined” has a broader historical and social context in Anglo-America that goes beyond just one single figure or one single intellectual. Having my existence completely erased from Google, for instance, and the bits and pieces of evidence of my existence which have been left on Google in order to foster an inaccurate picture of me, are all part of a broader historical and social context that is intrinsic to the ‘lifeworld’ of the West. Moreover, there is mutual interaction and a reciprocal effect between the censored and suppressed intellectual and his or her broader historical and social setting, in the sense that while the censored and suppressed intellectual seeks to interpret and understand his or her historical and social setting over the course of time, the historical and social setting in turn seeks to interpret and understand the intellectual. Hence, the suggestion by one American official that “the situation is being monitored 24/7” and so forth, a suggestion which certain media archives and media producers would be able to understand.

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