My goals as Editor-in-Chief of the Alexander Hamilton Institute’s student-run publication Enquiry are to nurture student authors and to publish exceptional writing on political, economic, and cultural issues from differing voices. I want staff writers and guest writers from “paleo to progressive” to describe the world from a perspective that is uncommon, significant, well reasoned, and profound. Their power will come from their ability to look at important issues cogently and dispassionately, relying not only on current modes of thinking, but also on their unique views. At Enquiry, as our mission statement attests, “you will find no shouting matches, no sloganeering. The goal is to elevate the discussion, not to end it. Here, no debates are over and settled, and no ideas are safe from criticism.” We take all who want to enter the realm of ideas and conversation as welcome guests.
I have been a staff writer and Associate Editor with Enquiry since I was a sophomore. In that time I have not written on politics or economics; that was left to other, more able and knowledgeable writers. Politics and economics have a significant place and space in our pages. But so do articles on culture.
Over the last two years, I have written extensively on culture, and people have asked me why. Politics and economics are, of course, always compelling topics. Human excellence, artistry, conduct and even a society’s survival--depend on a relatively well-functioning political and economic order. But culture is not so dependent on that order as to readily conform to its demands. Culture can speak louder than the contradictions, conflicts, corrosive elements, and irreconcilable differences in politics and economics. That is precisely why I wrote and will continue to write on culture.
In writing on Thomas Merton, Michel de Montaigne, Flannery O’Connor, Giuseppe Verdi, Clara Schumann, Johannes Brahms, Sophocles, Walt Whitman, Marcus Aurelius, Alexander Hamilton, and Simone Weil these last two years, I humbly attempted to glean fundamental truths from their lives and works which speak to the human condition regardless of the political or economic climate.
Of course, there is much to bemoan in modern culture: aggressive materialism, massive digital intrusion, inauthentic action, and a frantic pace of life. But culture, then and now, is also a channel that can convey joy, spiritual renewal, and individual freedom. Artist and writers have a different way of telling the truth and asking the most fundamental questions. Through them, culture can serve an invaluable purpose. It can be a bulwark, or a salvage operation, against political coercion, groupthink, technology’s outsized influence, spiritual malaise, economic fracture, and the existential abyss. Culture can function as memory, in an age of forgetfulness. Art, artists, composers, writers, poets, art historians, and cultural critics have a special autonomous place, apart from politics and economics. Their power comes from their ability to see through the prejudices and passions of the age and not be bound by them. Culture, through artists and writers, is a divining rod – ready to explore the depths of the human mind and heart.
So whether you prefer to write about politics or economics, or follow me in writing about culture, please consider joining the Enquiry staff on a permanent basis or as an occasional guest writer. Our weekly meetings are lively and fun. We publish three articles every Wednesday in the week’s edition, which is both online and printed for distribution at Hamilton. There are only two requirements to join: a willingness to grow as a writer and a desire for good-natured discourse.