Islamic and Friendship Studies at Oberlin College

Will Jacobsen: Friendship seen in art; Friendship models in society

  1. Lili noir de fumée (Smoky Black Lili) is a painting by Jean Dubuffet, found in the Allen and donated by Enid Bissett. I like it because it is a fun piece, and a different approach to modernist art than those taken by the contemporaries of Dubuffet. It is a painting of his wife, so although it is by no means meant to be a realistic portrayal, it is able to capture emotional gestures and let us see, to an extent, how Dubuffet imagines and feels about his wife, which I really appreciate. The piece is also notable because its acquisition by Bissett, noted on the placard, began a long friendship between the artist and the collector. Dubuffet’s piece beside Smoky Black Lili even says at the top (in French), “dedicated to Enid Bissett.” Smoky Black Lili at once stands for both the friendship between the artist and his wife and the friendship between the artist and Bissett.
  2. We live in a society in which once one goes to prison, even after they are released into the real world they never fully leave the prison (mentally). They are forever stripped of their right to participate in democracy,   they must forever disclose to potential employers their crime and they must (in some cases) routinely check in with government agents. In a state of partial citizenship and constant surveillance, it is easy to see why the recidivism rate in America is so high and why America locks up more of its own citizens per capita. Something must change. I like a model for rehabilitation after prison in which former prisoners regain their right to participate in democracy and instead of a parole officer are granted a friend; someone similar who took a different path in life and who will help former prisoners re-acclimate to life outside of prison. A society in which former prisoners live and value friendship and see the unique opportunities it can give, instead of dealing with an uneasy state of uncertainty and instability, can effectively rehabilitate its citizens (as the name Department of Corrections implies but does not actually achieve).  Our society would perhaps be safer and America would lose its reputation for its insane incarceration rates.
  3. Friendship Resolution: Whereas friendship was once the dominant moral paradigm of the west and we have strayed far from achieving a democratic society with friendship at its core; and

Whereas friendship has the capacity to transcend all borders and identities to unite individuals on the basis of compassion and mutual understanding; and

Whereas the adaptation of friendship as the dominant moral paradigm would see a widespread decrease in the disparities amongst the haves and the have-nots in our society, a widespread decrease in the advantages held by those of majority groups at the expense of minority groups, and a widespread increase in feelings of solidarity and empathy towards all members of society across all groups, regardless of race, gender, class, nationality, location and political or religious affiliation; and

Whereas the adaptation of friendship as the dominant moral paradigm would promote an end to imperialism, as well as a desire to mitigate the damage which it has brought upon current and former colonies over the course of generations; and

Whereas the adaptation of friendship as the dominant moral paradigm would promote a reversal of neoliberal and capitalist expansion which would allow for those who once benefited from these economic systems to begin focusing less on the superficial and temporary sense of content which comes from having access to capital to begin focusing on building a world in which a sense of safety and security arises from having deep and meaningful interpersonal relationships; and

Whereas an elevated importance on friendship would see an ease in all domestic and geopolitical tensions and create a genuine desire for peace everywhere.

Now, therefore, be it resolved that the creation of a national and/or international day of friendship could be the first step in the direction of highlighting the need for friendship in today’s violent and divisive climate, as well as the first step towards implementing friendship in social, political and economic systems everywhere in the hopes of creating a truly democratic world in which everyone is equal and all are friends.

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