Rowan and Henry drawing together.

Baseball Cards

Against Deresiewicz and his liberal humanist baseball cards, I would assert that the need for validation is not new—even if since Socrates the need for validation has been castigated as weakness. What is new are the tools and sources for validation. What to the liberal humanist will always appear as narcissism and exhibitionism, I offer as a manifestation of social uncertainty and the need for others, in the face of such uncertainty, to confirm our existence. I understand my own experiences with cancer as an intensification of the 21st century condition, in which the legitimation crisis has spread from social institutions to the members of society. Such an amplification should not be described either euphorically or fatalistically (and I recognize that I often border on euphoria; I read, listen, and face people such as Deresiewicz, Carr, Golumbia, Thacker and Galloway precisely in an effort to temper my enthusiasm). I would encourage eschewing dramatic optimism or pessimism. It is transformative. It is change. It is disorienting. It calls for a rhetoric of cooperation, one that aims to change the self and help the other (rather than helping the self by changing the other).

A rhetoric of cooperation is predicated on the necessity, for each subject, of rhetorical support. This is not mourning a loss of autonomy as much as an encouraging of togetherness. My theory: We tend to be more cooperative once we recognize that we need support.