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Book Review 
Jane Anna Gordon and Lewis R. Gordon, Of Divine Warning; Reading Disaster in the 
Modern Age (Paradigm Publishers, 2010) 

Book Review by Teodros Kiros

Jane Gordon and Lewis Gordon have produced a masterpiece on reading disasters in
the modern age. The book is at once analytic, historically sensitive and imaginative, feature that we have come to expect from these two committed writers, each time they collaborate and produce books of enduring quality. 

Their primary concern is to illuminate the meanings of disasters when they occur to blacks, which they aptly call, �Black Signification�, as a foundational locus of disasters and their signification. 

Blacks are first put in invisible places. Only, when disasters occur are they made visible, as sources of trouble that bring calamities on themselves, and the world has to be burdened by the lives of these condemned people. Blacks then are signified as the originators and deposits of disasters. Their very
existence as blacks is a warning of disaster-at any time, any place and for a preordained event. 

Their blackness itself is regarded as a sign of doom, a sight where disaster is hatching and monstrous events, such as the American Katrina are born, and blacks in particular are portrayed as looters, as criminals, versus the virtuous white victims, who are finding food, and not stealing it. The blacks
are thus portrayed as evil, and the whites as virtuous and pure. In the middle of tragedy, blacks had time to loot, because they are innately criminal monsters. 

Blacks are simply disastrous beings. (Pp1-3). They are �problem people,� and disasters are the times during which their monstrous composition is nakedly visible. Their blackness itself connotes the absence of values, of ethics. Blackness is presented to the world as a myth of terrifying monsters, which we
can never understand, which is beyond transparency; very much like myth is treated. Blacks are mythological beings. 

Blacks and Afro-Jews are modern monstrous creatures. They have been allowed to speak, but as monsters, whose manners have now been appropriated by popular culture, in which everybody is now a monster. 

The monster, however, refuses to be silent. The black speaks, and fights for the construction of a political space, from which he and she launch a vision of Blacks as new signifiers of freedom, of presence, of communicative rationality, which refuses to be a monster, a creature, a problem. 

The table is now turned against the previous signifiers. The radically new feature of the black monster, now- is action combined with speech and mediated through revolutionary collective self-defense, as Malcolm signified. Martin Luther king signified moral speech, communicated through Ethics, and Malcolm signified violent resistance. 

The mute monster now becomes a political subject, who speaks and is ready to die in defense of dignity. The new black speaks acts and legislates his people�s future. Along with the changed subjects of popular culture, the modern monster is a strategist and a fearless articulator of political truth, most particularly
visible in the sophisticated language of hip-hop, which turns truth inside out. In these ways, popular culture disarms monstrosity, the signifier of the life chances of the condemned. 

The condemned ignore the warnings and seek to change the conditions of their oppression. They are condemned to emerge out of invisibility to the ruin of freedom. The new monsters live out the existential signifier that humans are condemned to freedom. They seek to free their culture from death, fully aware
that we are condemned to live only because we are condemned to die; yet, we have a responsibility to ruin disastrous culture, so that we can create a new future as imaginative beings. 

The future is a new dawn. The Gordons write, �A humanity that refuses to answer encomia to mature is destined to destroy itself in a game of children playing with deadly weapons. In maturation are the necessities of life, of treating mistakes as opportunities from which to learn instead of dreaded signs of imperfection. Efforts at purification foreclose the future by presuming the return of the sanctified origins.� (P, 115) 

We must learn from the monsters, for they might show us the way, as the beings who pray to be beings who question, beings who can turn a new leaf, envision a future, condemned to a radically new future, a function of our natality, as the harbingers of change. 

Each new generation has a responsibility to create a new future, and no one has the right to foreclose this possibility. I agree with Jane Gordon and Lewis Gordon that I hope we have not run out of time, to witness the death of moribund cultures and the birth of new cultures for the human condition. 

The cultures of the future can only come out of the living activities of those whom we have relegated to be bearers of destruction and the absence of ethics.

Teodros Kiros 

Professor of Philosophy and English (Liberal Arts) 

Berklee College of Music