The despair in double consciousness as it relates to the i
DESPAIR IN DOUBLE CONSCIOUS: THE INVISIBLE MAN
Everyone seeks to be happy in life. However, that is not the usual state of events in reality. There are days or moments you are sad, happy, emotionally disturbed or even highly spirited. When we get in problems and are desperate, we try to look for solace. In the same sense, we need double consciousness to deal with the issue of despair. To be successful in life, we also need to avoid nihilistic ideas and be accommodative in other people’s way of thinking. This paper aims to discuss Soren Kierkegaard’s’ ideas of despair, the idea of double consciousness according to W.E.B and the nihilistic ideas presented by Cornell West.
The writing below is to discuss and illustrate despair in relation to the invisible man (Abbott, 1985).
Kierkegaard explains despair is a condition in which is a “sickness unto death”. According to Kierkegaard, one is in despair when you do not align yourself with God, or God’s plan for your life. This sickness can result of having feelings that everything is wrong, and nothing seems to improve.
The most basic form of despair stems from not knowing that one is in despair, advanced despair comes in when you have the wish of not being in inexistent, the final and the most complex form of despair is when one tries to shun away from despair and not wanting to exist. All the above statement can be proved right because as humans not all of our problems get solved by the means we have at hand or even those that we can acquire elsewhere whether we are aware of them or not. Despair to a certain percentage comes as a result of self-awareness; an increased self-awareness makes someone stronger, the stronger you are, the closer you get to God (Callahan, 2004). However, people might be desperate due to the fact that their desperation comes as a result of not have a deeper insight of themselves, and thus they end up in despair. In the excerpt given above, the narrator is in the state of basic despair, he finds himself in a dilemma, and he is forced to try various forms of injection of lifestyle to find himself – who he really is and what he really needs and wants out of his life.
Looking at the Invisible Man through the lens of Kierkegaard, the Narrator is in a position to see the people around him but those around him neither see nor recognize him. It is not the Narrator’s will that it be this way, instead this is what he is forced to live with.
According to Kierkegaard, an individual is in despair and loses himself if he fails to comply with God’s ways or plans. Further, he continues and gives humans an invisible definition as the tension between that exists between what is considered to be infinite and infinite. The narrator is a being of flesh, liquids and bones. He, however, lives between whatever is referred to as the infinite and the finite. Following qualities align the description of Kierkegaard’s definition of humanity, people like the narrator had to suffer the consequence of despair by failing to oblige to God’s instructions.
The state of despair is to some extent good and to some extent bad (Ellison, 2011). In relation to the above piece of work the narrator notices that something is not right, this displays that the narrator has already known that he lacks something, the desperation in him bursts out when he finally decides to open up the visibility in him – he makes himself visible to the others because he had not taken the step to make them see that just like them he is visible, this comes positive when the narrator finally decides to engage himself in religious activities. In Kierkegaard’s article though despair is portrayed as a bad emotion, he explains that when one is in despair, he will go about seeking God’s face and the more he digs into God, the more he his despair grows, and this finally leads him to sinning against God.
Double Consciousness by W.E.B Dubois
W.E.B Dubois was a popular figure when it comes to presenting ideas among the American people and especially the African Americans. He discusses widely the topic of double consciousness. Double consciousness is the ability is referred to the ability to comprehend both sides of the situation at hand; it gives one the state of standing a better chance to understand yourself through the eyes of others. A two life-altering experience is something that any socially-aware American has had, that is the moment the idea of being black came into existence and presented a problem.
If we consider the context, we can conclude that the blacks as “invisibles” who tend to interfere with the life of the whites, their interference creates bothering situation to the host who can’t help but wonder why they are bothered, they have a common question but they fail to frame it in a manner that sounds friendly, they more often than not skirt around it but at the same time they express it non-verbally, this expression though displays the million dollar question to the Africans Americans: In our context, the same picture pops up when the blond guy decides to create a violent environment for the narrator. The realization that he can cope with the “visible” people, the narrator decides to stay away from them and further goes ahead to forsake all of the activities that he thought would be fulfilling his desires. This shows the answer that some blacks have given the whites; keeping their business within their boundaries (Gottesman, 1971).
Negro is viewed as a sort of “seventh son” who was born with double consciousness and is always trying to glimpse at himself through the eyes of others; despite being a problem to others, Du Bois describes an American Negro as a symbol of struggle who not only attempts to reach a self-conscious manhood but also trying to merge two conflicting identities into ultimately better one. The narrator in Ellison’s novel is subjected such conditions as well, he deserves respect as a self-conscious man, but the stranger will not give it to him, the product of struggle is seen when the two resolve into a fight in which he almost kills the man, in extension, the “invisible” tries to link himself with the rest through going to church, having a romantic connection with a woman and finally by joining a brotherhood. Two conflicting philosophies are depicted when the narrator thinks that life is a personal business and no one should bother the other; he believes that he has influenced his world by choosing to live his life independently but another hand he struggles to mend fences between himself and the others –fences that were naturally broken
The Africans-Americans living within the United States neither live like Africans Americans nor do they live do they live like Americans but as an intersection of the two identities who appear to be immiscible just like the narrator who could not move along with the stranger because he is invisible, they resolve into a fight and since the narrator is not interested in dominating he spares the blonds life.
Cornell West’s View of Nihilism
Cornell West has become an important figure in the discussion of nihilistic ideas. Nihilism is the belief that disagrees with most current ideas, religious and political authority in because of the fact that life is meaningless. West refers to nihilism as the worthlessness that most African-Americans feel based on the exploitation and oppression they experience in the dominant society, their color and the social standard in the United States. In addition, West stresses that nihilism is not something new in America. In his book, Race Matters (1993), West has a philosophical idea about the racism subject and calls on blacks and whites to understand that racism and race have for a long time existed in American history. He suggests that one of the most of convenient ways to eradicate racism is by people understanding that race matters should not be dragged into each and every discussion in matters touching America (Hakutani, 2006).
West divides nihilism in America in two stages: the first stage is that those on the bottom of the social ladder stress structural constraints and this in turn may hinder someone’s ability to achieve anything since everything about them is poor: poor education, poor health facilities, and the likes. The second stage of nihilism is based on those who stress behavioral restrictions.
A major part of the narrator’s feelings can best be related with nihilism, he is invisible to everyone, and this simply clarifies that he is indeed, not by choice, though. This is the same thing that our beloved African-Americans feel, they are viewed as mere things by the whites, they are not only on relative expropriation and powerlessness but also bear a nil political clout, the impact of nihilism has snatched future – the fruit that hope bears away from them. African-American in the same manner as the narrator are left with no choice other than swallowing their worthlessness and “invisibility” and fight for their liberation from the supremacy of the white.
After a long fight against invisibility, the Narrator in Invisible Man finds a short-lived relief through the Brotherhood, who allow him to join their crusade and make him their public speaker. Furthermore, he spearheads a revolutionary movement to find himself, which is an act showing that he is tired of living an invisible life. In being the public speaker, the Narrator stands in the position of a leader who understands and is ready to fight for the rights of his kind. Cornel West stresses something similar in Race Matters. He maintains that the anger blacks feel is a result of the lack of political power, and argues that an African-Americans call for political change would act as a cure to the threat of nihilism in today’s society. West makes the case that people should aim at speaking truth to power so that the way of life for common people is amplified and the dominant society’s supremacy is stripped of its weight and legitimacy. West believes that speaking the truth will liberate people such as the Narrator from their state of invisibility to others.
In his book, Cornel West states that “nihilism is not a doctrine” people tend to live with it since they have had experience in living a meaningless, hopeless and a loveless sort of life. Gone are the days when oppression and exploitation were considered an enemy, it has been confirmed and declared that the major enemy of blacks’ survival in America is nihilism. This is because nihilism has nature to create a loss of hope and meaning of life in the hearts of some blacks.
The threat of nihilism is still existent, but the worst thing about it is that liberation discussions camouflage most basic issues that are currently facing the blacks. The blacks should stand above their invisibility and rejection and fight for what they feel is right for them, something that for a long time has been kept confined away from them, analyzes and arguments must never be a point of consideration in the amendment of the plan. In order to achieve this almost impossible thing in their life, blacks must by all means necessary restore their hope and self-love (Haugen 2012). The only way nihilism is habituated is through love and caring.
In conclusion, in order to achieve one’s true self one must be conscious and aligned with a higher power. Failure in this area bears the risk of despair. In his discussion of double consciousness, W.E.B makes it clear that the real goal is not for African-Americans to dominate whites but rather emancipate themselves from whites supremacy and acquire acceptance in their homeland. When he reaches his final destination, the narrator finds it hard to contend with whatever the other ordinary people do, he gives up, decides to abandon the new lifestyle and returns to his invisibility.
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Hakutani, Y. (2006). Cross-cultural visions in African American Modernism: From spatial narrative to jazz haiku. Columbus: Ohio State University Press.
Haugen, H. (2012). Race in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible man. Detroit: Greenhaven Press.