Saturday, October 31, 2009

Not a Footnote In History: NYU student on Raymond Lotta

Before I came to NYU, I had some dim, vaguely formed ethical qualms with the world around me. As materially comfortable people in the undisputed superpower of the world, it’s sensible to assume us Americans, particularly those of us fortunate enough to be economically and physically comfortable would be a contented lot, however this is not the case. We seem to exist in a baseline state of vague, disaffected malaise, moving through our lives and approaching our respective educations with only the bare minimum of effort and enthusiasm. Abroad, our collectively unenthusiastic, consumerist lifestyle has placed billions of people in squalor, poverty, and financial enslavement.

What I was feeling particularly guilty about was my inability to work towards any kind of solution to these problems. Their magnitude is staggering, and I felt I could never possibly effect change for the better. This was when I met the Revolutionary Communists.

The reaction most people, myself included, have when they discover Communism is still being advocated is a sort of befuddled disbelief. Isn’t Communism a relic of the past, a disproven failure? According to some, yes. Others, including Revolutionary Communist Raymond Lotta disagree. Incidentally Lotta will be holding a conversation at the Cantor Film Center on October 26th.

I am uncertain about Communism as a viable form of social organization. Most of my present knowledge seems to say that it is not. This knowledge however, was taught to me by an education system with a vested interest in ensuring that students become contributors to the present economic system, which is increasingly evident is not in the best interest for most of us. In the wake of economic collapse there is much thought about how to amend and fix our system, but very little on whether it is a success which deserves to exist. I believe this question deserves to be re-examined, and Lotta is one of only a few people doing so.

As I said, there is much in Communism which I doubt, or at least need convincing of, which is why I plan on attending the conversation. We are in higher education first and foremost to learn, and I want to learn about Communism from those who consider it a topic worth consideration and serious examination, rather than from educators who consider it a footnote of history.

So what should we do? If the dismal results of the pop quiz on basic, well-documented facts about the history of Communism taken by hundreds of randomly polled NYU students is any indication, we need to learn more, and from different sources than we got our ‘common knowledge’ on the subject. (Over the past two weeks, over 300 people took a simple, multiple choice quiz on the history of the communist revolutions of the 20th century. On average correct answers were given only 53% of the time.)

If you feel as I do, that there can be a better world than this one, or if you believe Communism is a broken system, you should be at this conversation, to contribute to the creation of knowledge, the whole point of our education.

Ryan Johnson
NYU Class of '13