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除了无人机,我们也需要芝麻街、诗歌和哲学

更新时间:2017-4-2 10:54:10 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

President Trump vs. Big Bird
除了无人机,我们也需要芝麻街、诗歌和哲学

So what if President Trump wants to deport Big Bird?

如果特朗普总统想把大鸟(Big Bird,儿童节目《芝麻街》[Sesame Street]中的角色。——译注)驱逐出境怎么办?

We’re struggling with terrorism, refugees, addiction, and grizzlies besieging schools. Isn’t it snobbish to fuss over Trump’s plans to eliminate all funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting?

我们正在艰难地应对恐怖主义、难民和吸毒问题,还有包围学校的灰熊。对于特朗普切断国家艺术基金会(National Endowment for the Arts,简称NEA)、国家人文基金(National Endowment for the Humanities)和公共广播公司(Corporation for Public Broadcasting)资金的计划,我们这么着急是不是有些太不食人间烟火了。

Let me argue the reverse: Perhaps Trump’s election is actually a reminder that we need the humanities more than ever to counter nationalism and demagoguery.

我要说的恰恰相反:或许特朗普的当选其实是在提醒我们,我们比以往任何时候都更需要用人文学科去抗击民族主义和煽动行为。

Civilization is built not just on microchips, but also on arts, ideas and the humanities. And the arts are a bargain: The N.E.A. budget is $148 million a year, or less than 0.004 percent of the federal budget. The per-capita cost for Americans is roughly the cost of a postage stamp.

建立文明的基础不仅是微芯片,还有艺术、思想和人文学科。并且艺术堪称物美价廉:NEA的预算是一年1.48亿美元,不到联邦预算的0.004%。平摊到美国民众身上的人均费用大致相当于一张邮票的费用。

The humanities may seem squishy and irrelevant. We have a new president who doesn’t read books and who celebrates raw power. It would be easy to interpret Trump as proof of the irrelevance of the humanities.

人文学科可能看上去松散,无关紧要。我们的新总统不看书,崇尚原始的力量。人们很容易把特朗普当成人文学科无关紧要的证据。

Yet the humanities are far more powerful than most people believe. The world has been transformed over the last 250 years by what might be called a revolution of empathy driven by the humanities. Previously, almost everyone (except Quakers) accepted slavery and even genocide. Thomas Jefferson justified the “extermination” of Native Americans; whippings continued in American prisons in the 20th century; and at least 15,000 people turned up to watch the last public hanging in the United States, in 1936.

但人文学科的力量远比大部分人所认为的更强大。我们或许可以把过去250年里,导致世界发生巨变的力量叫作由人文学科推动的同理心革命。以前,几乎所有人(贵格会教徒除外)都接受奴隶制甚至种族灭绝。托马斯·杰斐逊(Thomas Jefferson)为“消灭”美洲原住民辩解;鞭打行为继续出现在20世纪的美国监狱里;1936年,至少1.5万人观看了美国最后一次公开执行的绞刑。

What tamed us was, in part, books. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” famously contributed to the abolitionist movement, and “Black Beauty” helped change the way we treat animals. Steven Pinker of Harvard argues that a surge of literacy and an explosion of reading — novels in particular — “contributed to the humanitarian revolution,” by helping people see other viewpoints. There is also modern experimental evidence that reading literary fiction promotes empathy.

驯服我们的,在一定程度上是书籍。众所周知,哈丽特·比彻·斯托(Harriet Beecher Stowe)的《汤姆叔叔的小屋》(Uncle Tom’s Cabin)是废奴运动兴起的原因之一。《黑美人》(Black Beauty)帮助改变了我们对待动物的方式。哈佛大学的史蒂文·平克(Steven Pinker)认为,读写能力的迅速提升和读物的激增——尤其是小说——帮助人们看到了另外的观点,“是人道主义革命兴起的原因之一。”也有现代实验证据表明,阅读文学作品能够增强同理心。

The humanities have even reshaped our diet. In 1971, a few philosophy students, including an Australian named Peter Singer, gathered on a street in Oxford, England, to protest the sale of eggs from hens raised in small cages. This was an unknown issue back then, and passers-by smiled at the students’ idealism but told them they’d never change the food industry.

人文学科甚至重塑了我们的饮食。1971年,几个哲学专业的学生,包括一个叫彼得·辛格(Peter Singer)的澳大利亚人,聚集在英格兰牛津的一条街道上,抗议售卖在小鸡笼里饲养的母鸡下的蛋。当时,这件事并不出名。路人微笑面对这些学生的理想主义,但却对他们说,他们永远都改变不了食品行业。

Looking back, who was naïve? Today, keeping hens in small cages is illegal in Britain, in the rest of the European Union and in parts of the United States. McDonald’s, Burger King, General Mills and Walmart are all moving toward exclusively cage-free eggs, because consumers demanded it.

回过头去看,谁才是幼稚?如今,在英国、欧盟其他国家和美国部分地区,小笼养鸡属于非法。麦当劳(McDonald’s)、汉堡王(Burger King)、通用磨坊(General Mills)和沃尔玛(Walmart)都在向只使用非笼养鸡蛋发展,因为这是消费者的要求。

Singer, now a Princeton University professor, is a wisp of a man who defeated an agribusiness army with the power of his ideas and the muscle of the humanities. (Singer has a terrific recent book, “Ethics in the Real World,” that wrestles with how much we should donate to charity, and whether wearing a $10,000 watch is a sign of good taste, or of shallow narcissism.)

现已是普林斯顿大学教授的辛格,是一个用自己的思想和人文学科的力量打败了一支企业化农业军队的人。(辛格最近写了一本很棒的书,叫《真实世界中的伦理学》[Ethics in the Real World],探讨我们应该给慈善事业捐多少钱,以及戴一块一万美元的手表是好品味还是肤浅自恋的标志。)

In short, the humanities encourage us to reflect on what is important, to set priorities. For example, do we get more value as taxpayers from Big Bird and art or music programs, or from the roughly $30 million Trump’s trips to his Mar-a-Lago golf resort will cost us when he’s tallied nine visits in office (he’s already more than halfway there)? That’s also more than the cost of salaries and expenses to run the National Endowment for the Humanities, not including the grants it hands out.

简而言之,人文学科鼓励我们认真思考什么才是重要的,决定轻重缓急。比如,我们作为纳税人是从大鸟和艺术或音乐节目中收获的好处多,还是从我们将为特朗普去马阿拉歌庄园高尔夫球场支付的大约3000万美元中获得的好处多?上任以来他已经去了九次(3000万已经用了超过一半),这笔钱超过了管理国家人文基金所需的薪资和开销,不包括它划拨出去的经费。

Do we get more value from billions of dollars spent on deportations? Or from tiny sums to support art therapy for wounded veterans?

我们是从用于驱逐出境的数以十亿计的美元,还是从支持受伤老兵的艺术疗法的小额款项中得到的好处多?

Then there’s our favorite bird. The Onion humor website reported: “Gaunt, Hollow-Eyed Big Bird Enters Sixth Day Of Hunger Strike Against Proposed Trump Budget.” In fact, Big Bird will survive, but some local public television stations will close without federal support — meaning that children in some parts of the country may not be able to see “Sesame Street” on their local channel.

还有我们最喜欢的大鸟。幽默网站洋葱网报道:“憔悴,眼窝凹陷的大鸟为反对特朗普的预算方案进行的绝食抗议进入第六天。”实际上,大鸟会活下来,但失去联邦政府的支持后,一些地方公共电视台会关闭。这意味着我国部分地区的孩子可能无法在当地的电视频道上看《芝麻街》。

In 2017, with the world a mess, I’d say we need not only drones but also Big Bird, and poetry and philosophy. Indeed, our new defense secretary, Jim Mattis, apparently shares that view: He carried Marcus Aurelius’s “Meditations” to Iraq with him.

2017年,在世界一片混乱的情况下,我想说,我们不仅需要无人机,也需要大鸟、诗歌和哲学。实际上,我们新上任的国防部长吉姆·马蒂斯(Jim Mattis)似乎也认同这个观点:他去伊拉克时随身带着一本马可·奥勒留的《沉思录》。

It’d be nice to see Mattis drop off “Meditations” for the new commander in chief. And maybe present the first lady a copy of “Lysistrata.”

如果能看到马蒂斯把《沉思录》给新一任三军总司令就太好了。或许还可以送给第一夫人一本《利西翠妲》(Lysistrata)。

The humanities do not immunize a society from cruelty and overreaction; early-20th-century Germany proves that. But on balance, the arts humanize us and promote empathy. We need that now more than ever.

人文学科无法让社会免于暴行和过激反应,20世纪初的德国证明了这一点。但总的来说,艺术让我们变得通人情,并能增强同理心。我们现在比以往任何时候都更需要同理心。

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