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September 06, 2005

The Old School is Grey

It seems as if everyone in the 'sphere has read some part or all of Bill Whittle's extended paen to Courage. It is only a hair short of classic, and quite frankly it ought to be taught in high school.

Even though here at Cobb I tend to be particularly analytic and give every angle consideration (especially in the comic), there are a set of core values that I'm not going to slip on. I have found this particular catastrophe more personally devastating than 9/11 for a number of reasons I won't get into right now. And so I'm a lot more likely to ask questions and analyze than try to be right from the perspective of values. And I think a few too many of us have been a bit too quick on the moral pontification. What Whittle brings home and settles down for us is the fact that there is nothing new about character in crisis. And when it comes to facing disaster, no value is more central than Courage.

I think it's very useful then, for me to reiterate the values of the Old School which were born of courage. And it is precisely because of these values that I talk about the Old School as its own kind of tribe rather than assuming that all blackfolks are going to have them. While many Old School values were exemplified in the best of the Black Nationalist, Black Consciousness, Black Arts and Civil Rights Movements, not everybody emerged with the full set intact. It's why we draw the distinction. We recognize that every brotha ain't a brother.

They are right on the homepage of the Conservative Brotherhood:

Old School Core Values:

We are African Americans of all backgrounds and ethnicities. We are proud of our heritage, and respect the lives, triumphs and tribulations of our forebears in this country and beyond. We aim to represent their greatest hopes for us and honor their memory.

The United States of America is our home, not simply by default but by choice. We take our duty to our home seriously and we defend it. We seek to improve it by our work and values and leave it better than we found it.

We are extended families and we put family first. It is the primary organization to which our lives are dedicated. We fight for the proper upbringing of our children. We demand respect and consideration of our elders. We love and support our brothers and sisters.

We work twice as hard and sometimes get half as far, but we work with dignity and we expect and enjoy our rewards. We are not materialistic but we know the value of a dollar. We seek self-improvement through creativity, dedication and effort in our jobs, businesses and partnerships.

We have abiding faith in God and the principles of righteousness. We strive to be true to transcendent values and take the long view of our purpose on Earth. We conduct ourselves as vessels of spirit and we guard our own souls and the souls of others from corruption.

We believe in the rule of law and rights of people to be free and to determine their own fate. We fight tyranny and oppression of all kinds keeping in mind the battles of those who struggled and died that we might be free.

We believe in a tolerant and open society, and we welcome all people to enjoy its benefits and responsibilities.

Each of these values requires sacrifice. You have to be pretty damned sure of yourself in this world if you're going to stand up for things you believe in, with the additional nerve that others ought to be about the same thing. Each of these values requires integrity. You can't be wishy washy about it. Each of these values is hard to stand by, but worth it. And they come from deep within the life lessons learned from a people who didn't get the benefit of the doubt, to say the least.

It's worth saying, from time to time, that you stand for something greater than yourself, and it's worth re-affirming your dedication and commitment. That's all this is, and I thought you should know.

Posted by mbowen at September 6, 2005 06:03 PM

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cobb, really enjoy your writing and perspective. read whittle yesterday and was amazed. my wife even made me print it out. (she's a born-again elephant) good to see he's getting his fair play. JR

Posted by: Jon at September 6, 2005 09:05 PM

I too enjoy reading your perspective. Yes, we need to return to those old school core values our future depends it.

Posted by: Len at September 6, 2005 10:25 PM

Pop it in the VC wiki under "Conservative Brotherhood." This is a nice grab bag of some of the principles and traditions many of us, from many persuasions, grew up with and now practice pretty much instinctively. But I question this coopting of the term, "old school," which you've used to label them. A few things occurred to me:

* I'm under 40, and when I hear the term, "Old School" I still instinctively think of hiphop. The other way I might think of it (outside of a specific context) is in reference to a style of education. Learning by rote, for example could be considered OS.

What I'm getting at is OS is in reference to something. It's Old School hiphop, or an OS way of macking, dressing, walking, teaching, whatever. In other words OS is an adjective/adverb and here there seems to be lacking a noun of some sort. Plenty's implied, but you could still be more explicit.

* OS to me implies an commonly identifiable tradition (or set of traditions). Whether it be in music, art, politricks or whotnot. And usually it's the first identifiable tradition(s) of a particular period of time. In which period do you suppose OS, as you've defined it, held sway?

* You're cherry-picking certain ideas and definining those as OS. You should more properly call it, "The Best of Old School." Cuz there're a number of traditions that come along with any period that are no longer practiced in more enlightened times, and rightly so.

(The best of) Liberalism cherishes the best of older traditions but continues to evolve and progress, adding and morphing to create a new set of best practices as human knowledge and experience grows. This is how we can now reject some "old school" values like women shouldn't work outside the home or that the lighter-hued Blacks are better than the blue-Blacks.

* In this context, what does, "We recognize that every brotha ain't a brother" mean? You're not a brother if you don't believe in Cobb-defined OS values? Just checkin.

* It's kind of comical at times watching some of your CB brethren trying to balance the last themes Liberty, Pluralism, and Piety. It's somewhat ironic that "tolerance" is at the bottom of the list.

Posted by: memer [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 7, 2005 08:53 AM

Yes indeed memer. I've noticed a peculiarity in the language you've used in order to ask what the precise definition of 'Old School' is. Here is what sitcks out the most:

"And usually it's the first identifiable tradition(s) of a particular period of time."


"In which period do you suppose OS, as you've defined it, held sway?"

"period of time"..."holding sway"...?

This is approaching Heideggerian existentialism, and to the extent that I've read Mr. Cobb's comments which include the word "existentials", I find also that I'm left wanting for a more precise defintion of 'Old School' which is not bound by the value positing of a previous period in history.

But the fact is that value ideas are historically relative. In other words, very few "values" are transhistorical in character. What then, is the Best of the Old School, and in what time period did these 'values' dominate the culture?

However, as he stated in an email once, he has yet to define it definitively.

Posted by: Negrorage [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 7, 2005 01:31 PM

I could have merged Old School with that thing which Murray identified as 'The Blues Aesthetic' and someday I might, but when I was thinking of Old School I was thinking of it in the context of grandfathers who had no problem spanking their kids, and also the tradition of 'Old School' pledging in black fraternities.

That hiphop has appropriated terms that are beyond their skill level is nothing new. They're just sampling.

Posted by: Cobb [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 7, 2005 01:32 PM

Negroragesaidwhut?! Kiddin. Yes, NR, we'll sit and wait together. Not holding my breath tho. In the inbetween time I'll call it The-Best-of-1950's-Old-Schoolism. *washes hands*

And Cobbster, the nifty thing about the 'sampling' (and remixing) is that it makes beats relevant for the present age. Your turn.

Posted by: memer [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 7, 2005 02:37 PM

Speaking of old school, my son and some of his friends were admiring a high school yearbook pic of me.

Check the living legend.

They told me that I was OLD SCHOOL becasue of the 'fro and the tight uniform. To me, the dudes three years before me were really old school, because they wore the Original Chuck Taylor Canvas All-Stars, whereas I wore first generation leather Nikes.

Posted by: brotherbrown [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 7, 2005 04:16 PM

Old School means slow dancing, which completely predates all hiphop. Sample that.

Posted by: Cobb [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 7, 2005 07:22 PM

Not to press a point, but slow dancin is nowadays called "bump an grind." It still exists (as as did fast-dancin backinthaday, eg swing/lindyhop, etc)...ugh...this is starting to get all wobbly.

Alright, Cobb, I'll leave it alone now. I know this whole thing is really about you tryina get your elitist swerve on anyway. That's your thing. "I'm not like those people," you huff in the mirror. Okey dokey. I just hope that you and your tribe do extend a hand to those not yet in your rarefied company and not blow up the bridge. You blow up the bridge and that's a two-way isolation, bruh. The filthy masses can't reach you, but know that you can't come back neither.

Posted by: memer [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 8, 2005 02:49 PM


Posted by: hzl at September 11, 2005 08:56 PM