Monthly Archives: July 2007

Boiling Down

I have been cleaning out my books and files. They are excellent, if I do say so myself, and I need to spend much more time with them. Looking at them makes me realize how much more I need to read, but also how much I know. And now that I have almost extirpated Reeducation entirely, I should be able to read them without interference.

As may be well known by now, my primary objection to Reeducation was its invalidation of my being in general, my scholarly being in particular, and my research field most specifically. That is why it was impossible to coexist with Reeducation, although I really tried to do this; ultimately, it was also necessary to extirpate all of its residue.

For many years I felt that the extirpation of Reeducation was complicated, but in reality it is simple. All I had to do was decide I was simply not guilty of the things Reeducation thought I was. To decide that, of course, was to break Reeducation’s most important rule – the rule against rejecting its propositions – but of course, if all of Reeducation’s residue is to go, that rule has to go, too. This does not mean, of course, that we cannot consider individual propositions from Reeducation. It only means we are no longer required to do so.

I have been aware that I had a psychological problem since I was about five. The problem was not knowing how to handle overbearing people and bullies, although it took me at least four more decades to be able to put it in those terms. At about age eight, I learned that there was treatment for psychological problems, and decided to seek treatment for mine as soon as I could afford it. At 34, I finally could, and that was when my saga with Reeducation began.

I dislike Reeducation because it said I could not know who I was or what I wanted. Only it could know. One thing it was sure it knew was that my being a scholar was a very bad thing. Another was that my choice of research field was proof that I “should have been disabled for life” (and I quote textually). I disagreed with these assessments, of course, but as even my more casual readers surely know by now, disagreement was never legitimate – it was “denial.”

This is of course ironic because as we know, I had gone to Reeducation to learn how to deal with overpowering individuals and bullies. In Reeducation as I experienced it, it was assumed that everyone had far worse, and far more Gothic problems than they were willing to admit, and any form of disagreement was suspect. Still I find it hard to believe that any legitimate Reeducator, of any stripe, would actually try this circular number on people. Indeed, I found it hard to believe at the time: This cannot be happening. They cannot possibly mean this. I must have misunderstood. And so I stayed. And when I left, it stayed in me. But now, it is almost gone.

Axé.

Leave a comment

Filed under Banes, Da Whiteman, Theories

On Self-Respect

As we know, authoritarianism is a Bane. Masked authoritarianism is a particularly insidious type of Bane. I have made progress in the construction of my diaphanous screen, but the reason I have become so allergic to academia is that many people in it are primarily interested in destroying the self-respect of others and being supercilious to them. This is why one I do not trust people who say they “love teaching.” Too often, what that means is only that they love holding authority. In the worst cases, it means they are sadistic and have found a socially acceptable outlet for this.

Although academia seroconverted into a space of pain for me the first week of my first job, my excellent general health and and strong antiviral defenses permitted me to convert it back. All too soon, however, I began laboring under the burden of Reeducation. It too was an attack by supposedly benevolent authorities on the integrity and self-respect of everyone else, cleverly presented as a health-enhancing measure.

EDUCATION

One of my department parties for the beginning of this semester, a pot luck which will take place in our building on an afternoon – when there is no air conditioning – on one of the hottest days of the year, involves a “free store.” We, the faculty, are to bring for the graduate students the items we would normally sell in garage sales, toss out, or give to the Good Will.

I did not come up with this scheme and I was horrified to hear about it. I am embarrassed, or would be, to be associated with it. Do the graduate students really want our old stuff? Do we want to be involved with each other that way? Most of all, must we treat them like charity cases or serfs? I mean, one of them, who moved here from abroad with four very small children, did in fact put up a sign when he first arrived seeking cradles and cribs. But he asked.

I do not want to go and in fact I hope I am in Florida, or something, that evening. I do not want to be rude to my department, however, so I called my mother to see what she thought of this matter. When she heard of the “free store” concept, she wrinkled her verbal brow and said emphatically, that is so condescending! If the students take anything, are they going to have to say, “Thank you, Massa!”?

She also had a very entertaining story about her CR group forty years ago. Apparently the white women in charge decided they should go down to the barrio and ask the Mexican women what they could do to help improve their lives. My mother said, you cannot in good conscience condescend in that way.
And condescension masked as solidarity is a bane of both academia and of liberalism.

REEDUCATION

A principal tenet of Reeducation was that self-respect was a sin. An overblown sense of humility was the order of the day. We the students were necessarily lying, irresponsible, unaware people. If we stood up for ourselves, that was further proof of our guilt.

I, in particular, was continually told that I was not feeling enough pain. I needed to find ways to open myself to that. I must prove my humanity and vulnerability by allowing small things to get to me more. I was handling life all too well. This was a very serious failing on my part, for it was, as we know, a symptom of “denial.”

I, of course, told Reeducation that this was very poor reasoning. This mention of reason only furnished further proof that I was alienated from the “true feelings” I ought to have. Naturally, Reeducation knew what these were, and I did not.

Reeducation meant the complete erosion of self-respect. It principal rules were, you cannot know what you feel, and you may not take authority in your own life. This was a common technique of manipulation and oppression, and the same sort of paternalism exists in academia.

Reeducation mistook self-respect on the part of us Reeducands for grandiosity. We were assumed to consider ourselves inappropriately powerful – godlike, even. We were constantly exhorted to doubt ourselves, and to become more humble. The actually grandiose beings, however, were the Reeducators themselves, who said: “You cannot be who you are, because I have decided, based on a small piece of information you have given me, that you cannot know who you are. You must necessarily be someone other than the one you believe yourself to be.”

For this year, however, I have expelled Reeducation from my system almost entirely, and I am constructing a diaphanous screen.

Axé.

10 Comments

Filed under Banes, What Is A Scholar?

Declarations of Whiteness

Cross-posted at my other blog, Seminario Permanente de Teoría y Crítica:

In her Declarations of Whiteness: The Non-Performativity of Anti-Racism, Sara Ahmed argues that while race may be performative (being an effect of racialization), anti-racism may not be. That is, saying in the case of anti-racism may not be equivalent to doing.

I am glad to hear this for my own reasons, namely, that I am tired of hearing white people beat their breasts about how anti-racist they are, and then wincing as I watch them act. Sometimes it even seems to me that they have honed their anti-racist rhetoric primarily so as to compete in debates with other white people. I am actually more comfortable with the mirror image of this situation: seeing people behave decently, even when I know their ideas are not one hundred percent advanced.

There is a great deal more to the article, however, and it is worth reading.

Axé.

4 Comments

Filed under Bibliography

Executive Order

Opposition to the war in Iraq is now illegal, and my assets, such as they are, can be seized. If they are, the lawsuit I will file and the fight which will ensue will be quite interesting.

These executive orders smack of dictatorship and I wonder, can Presidents now sign executive orders in violation of the Constitution and still make them stick? In Latin America they usually void the Constitution first, if I understand things right. Is this an especially sophisticated technique we have come up with here, or is it an especially inept one which can or will be struck down in court?

But my questions, I fear, are too innocent, as it seems there is no government left to protect us now. Do not forget that the military has drawn up plans for combating civil insurrections here. Apparently the Pentagon believes these are likely if the President stays his course in the Iraq war. There is a concentration camp ready and waiting near you.

AROOO, meanwhile, leads us to Günter Grass’ narrative How I Spent the War and it is riveting. An IRL friend suggests that everyone read realistic war stories, and do it often, so that we know full well what we are doing when we start or enter into wars. This would work if the people who started the wars did not know what they were like. My concern is that they may know, and not care.

Axé.

2 Comments

Filed under Arts, News

Julio Jaramillo

It is the weekend, so we must sing! Here is Julio Jaramillo, the Nightingale of America.

Listen to his voice, and to the lyrics of this amusing song. “This is just another record – or yet another record – of mine that you will listen to, and remember our wild and beautiful romance.”

Axé.

Leave a comment

Filed under Songs

In a Nutshell

I

I have been ranting and raving against Reeducation in a comments thread for two days now. I have had a couple of small illuminations. I have said virtually everything I have to say. I am tired of the topic. After this recapitulation, I am dropping it, although I do not promise never to mention it.

Reeducation took my academic self, which is the strongest and most longstanding piece of me, and smashed it against the wall, again and again, until I was so bloody I could not walk. I then had to use every ounce of intellectual and soul power I could muster up to begin to face the world and walk again. I understand rape and torture victims more deeply than would otherwise be possible because of this. I did not die, fortunately, but convalescence took years, and I resent the theft of my time.

If I had a horse and a lance, I would gladly meet Reeducation in mortal combat. But really, I do not wish to engage the matter again. Life is so much larger, and the world, so wide. There is so much pleasure and joy about and ahead. I understand trading in luxe, calme, et volupté for the sake of illuminating ascetic practices, or in service of humanity and the Revolution. I do not understand trading these in for anything else.

Reeducation was a walk on the dark side. This is Friday, Oxalá‘s day. Look to the light. The best of the Reeducated also do that. I do not know how Reeducation led them to this, but I have seen it; perhaps they are very new souls and needed the information, or perhaps they brought very old souls to it and were able to see beyond the negativity. I am on my own mountain path, where the sages sit and birds rustle in the underbrush.

II

I apologize to any supporters of Al-Anon who have read my anti-Al-Anon posts, or the comments thread after Nickel Bag, and not enjoyed the experience. It is not my intention to criticize you or the program which gave you peace. This blog is not against you, but it is definitely for me. These are my experiences and opinions only.

My father is an alcoholic and Al-Anon would not believe I did not have all of the problems they felt I should: road rage, a drinking problem of my own, a desire for drama, and so on. I was in denial not to have all those problems: I must only be hiding them. Alternatively, it was arrogance and class privilege which had enabled me to sidestep them. This was cruelty to others on my part. I was refusing to be equal. Everyone with my background has these problems. Who was I to say that, rather than scrape the barrel for problems I had never had, I ought to focus on the ones I actually did? I needed to “get more humble.”

This last in particular was one of the things my father had most screamed at me when drunk. Indeed, there was altogether too much in Al-Anon which replicated life in an alcoholic family and then called this health. You had to toe the family line, and repeat the party line. You were encouraged to drop your old friends, make new friends in Al-Anon, and keep the family secrets, as it were, within the family.

I went to Al-Anon because a therapist I had engaged to learn about and deal with verbal and emotional abuse said I should. What I found there was an alcoholic atmosphere laced with yet more verbal and emotional abuse, and masquerading as a cure and a program for life. The problematic nature of this was exacerbated because the therapist agreed with Al-Anon’s assessment of me. Under my own steam, I would have merely thought it odd and left. I understand that Al-Anon may have saved lives but it almost lost me mine, and I think that for people who are considering going into it, that is just as important to know.

III

More than ten years later I visited Al-Anon a second time, for different and, I think, more appropriate reasons. The people I found then were quite different, and had a far healthier and less competitive outlook on life than my original group or my therapist. I will give Al-Anon that. I certainly see why a person in crisis who came to a group like that one would be grateful for Al-Anon.

I still have strong disagreements with the 12 step paradigm. From early childhood I have been taught to identify my defects – defects which, although I did not know it at the time, were often not real and not my own – apologize and make amends for them – ask for forgiveness – and hope that they would be removed. In those days I realized I had absolutely no power over anything, and I sat quietly, waiting to see what the people who had power might do.

Outside the house, life was different and more innocent, and I looked to that. When I left the house, I learned to live more happily and innocently, as the vibrant people I had seen were doing. Initially I was concerned that I might not be allowed to do this, an invisible wall might come down and bar me from it, but I met no resistance. It does me no good to return to the old days.

IV

Of course, if I had actually been as arrogant as Al-Anon thought when I first went, I would not have given them the first chance at me. I really did take them seriously as persons, but they called me “arrogant” because I had already moved on from the bad old days. They could not conceive of anyone doing this without them. Like the Yahweh who I can tell from the way they discuss him is their real G-d, they were jealous.

At the same time my therapist thought I was arrogant because I was better educated and more independent than is appropriate in a woman. He had a number of destructive things of his own to say under that rubric. Everything, however, was cloaked in that (I think – it is where I first heard it, anyway) Al-Anon term, denial. All my life I had heard that little successes and joy and happiness were signs of health, but now I learned that they were symptoms of denial, if you had not come from a perfect background – unless, of course, you had begun to exhibit them after spending time in Al-Anon.

V

Obviously, the fact that I fell victim to verbal and emotional abuse in this way shows that I was right all along: it was that vulnerability I needed help with. I did not need to learn that my happiness was denial and my successes were failures. That was, however, what I learned from Reeducation, and it is what I am unlearning now.

VI

Al-Anon said: because you have X in your past, we know exactly what you are. Any disagreement with what we say, only proves us right. To find that illogical is but a further confirmation of your illness. These rhetorical pirouettes are Guantánamo Bay interrogation techniques. I will never call them good.

VII

Al-Anon people often claim to have been very overbearing in the past, and to have given that up. Many are really nice as individuals and I find it hard to imagine they have ever been that self-righteous or that pushy. I do notice, though, that many who enjoy being sponsors are quite authoritarian, and that the group as a whole can be very overbearing as it cites its ideology and stifles qualification and dissent.

Axé.

21 Comments

Filed under Banes, Theories

Mantra

Life is so fresh and bright, so present and immediate, when one stands on one’s own authority and lays one’s artificial burdens down. It is easy, like a summer brook. Soon I will again be as I had become before I entered Reeducation. I will be free and innocent like the flowers.

This blog is opposed to Reeducation. There we were to carry the least necessary burdens of the ages, but eschew our responsibilities. We paid fines for smiling and dimmed our eyes. We gave up immediacy and took on a filter. We no longer saw the world face to face. The exacerbation of pain was the road to health.

When one leaves the rigidity and self-criticism of Reeducation behind, life is like swimming, or walking through soft fields. There is room in it for so many things. Soon I will again be the one I had become before I entered Reeducation. Its Ring will no longer pull on me. I will be free and innocent like the flowers.

Axé.

4 Comments

Filed under Banes, News, Theories

Diaphanous Screen

I expected the first day of graduate school to be like any other school day, since I was beginning the Ph.D. program in the same department from which I had just graduated. But as I entered the building to go teach my class – this having been my first act in graduate school – I realized it was not the same. I was a member of the establishment now.

I do not remember which of bell hooks’ essays discusses her depression upon making tenure. This is something which happens to many people. I always thought it was because they could let themselves feel their exhaustion now, and more fundamentally because getting tenure can mean you are stuck where you are: this is your life.

I did not have that last feeling upon making tenure because I experienced my own horrifying “this is your life” moment when I apprehended the values, beliefs and goals of my colleagues at my first academic job. Tenure entrenches you in the establishment, but I liked that because people suddenly started listening seriously to what I said because I was saying it. This was very novel, and fun.

There is, however, something I stopped doing when I got tenure, which I am going to begin doing again: protecting myself against the environment. For years I went to work with a sort of mask on, and a kind of invisible body armor. I dropped this after tenure and in retrospect, it may have been a poor idea.

Dropping body armor meant, among other things, no longer safeguarding a demon-free space. This year I will have light body armor again, a diaphanous screen, a white light.

Axé.

9 Comments

Filed under Banes, Da Whiteman, Resources, Theories, What Is A Scholar?

Tiger Rag

Here is Louis Armstrong and his orchestra on the Tiger Rag, which, although I have never been to a football game, is the LSU fight song from what I understand. (The school mascot is a real Bengal tiger, now housed in a better cage than formerly due to public outcry. The current tiger died recently and a new one is expected any time. The tiger is always named Mike. The opposing football team files into the stadium through an opening known as Death Valley, where Mike the Tiger roars as the band plays the Tiger Rag.)

When Armstrong was filmed playing this version of the Tiger Rag in 1933, sound film had only existed for three years. That is very interesting right there. Yet more interesting is that Armstrong refers to this song as “one of the good old slave numbers.” The plot thickens.

Axé.

11 Comments

Filed under Songs

How They Live

I have just discovered that I do not have enough clothes. This is based on a list intended to guide people in cutting back, but it indicates I should go shopping. I didn’t know. The basic wardrobe for a woman should contain all of the following:

Two One heavy white t-shirts/knit tops, a short-sleeve white blouse, a long-sleeve white dress shirt, and a white cardigan sweater set.
A black cardigan sweater set and a black lace-weight shawl.
• A complete black suit with every piece made out of the same four-season wool fabric. A complete suit for a woman in a corporate office should include an ankle length skirt, knee length skirt, tea length pencil skirt, knee length tank dress, two slacks in different waistband styles, and two suit coats in different styles. A complete suit for a woman who works in a casual environment or from home should include one skirt, one pair of slacks, and one suit coat.
• A black dress that works well with the black suit coat, but can be worn on its own to a cocktail party or an evening wedding.
• A summer suit in a light color. Women in corporate and casual offices, as well as women who don’t work outside the home, should have a summer suit with a skirt, slacks, and suit coat.
Two One solid color shells to wear in combination with both the black suit and the summer suit. Slate blue usually fills one of these niches.
• One pair of dress khakis and one pair of khaki shorts, a tea length khaki skirt, or a pair of khaki capris.
• A neutral, solid color sports coat that wears well with jeans, khakis, and your black suit slacks.

• Two/four pair of jeans as described in my fewer clothes post.
• One formal ankle-length gown in black.
• One colorful dress that is appropriate to wear to a cousin’s day wedding your mother will be attending.
• A heavy sweater in a solid color.
• A pair of yoga pants and a t-shirt you wouldn’t mind if paint were spilled on it.
• A nightgown or pajama set.
• A swimsuit.
• Fourteen pair of underwear, seven bras, one strapless bra, one camisole that matches your skin color, one short slip, and one tea length slip.

I do not really need all of the things on this list, but I could use (and cannot find) some shoes.

Axé.

4 Comments

Filed under Juegos, News