Katrina 10

New Orleans in the Atlantic world, that would be the course for me to give. There is this, but there is also much to say about things Spanish. I suppose I could allow research papers on topics such as “Sidney Bechet in Paris,” and here is Bechet’s complete discography.

There is so much reporting on this tenth anniversary. I do not have time to read everything but I am heartened to see that not all of the reporting is as celebratory of the so-called recovery as was Obama’s speech.

Here is one example, from Aljazeera, and here is another, from Diane Ravitch.

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The news in Oceania

There are large screen televisions everywhere and they report incessantly on the mass shooting of the day. I am reminded of the constant war reporting in 1984.

By electronic mail on the home front, we are warned daily about a black man with an automatic pistol who has attempted an armed robbery at the edge of campus.

The shootings happen daily elsewhere and are reported upon in great detail. The attempted armed robbery always takes place between midnight and dawn and the message about the perpetrator varies slightly but is essentially always the same.

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Vignette

The student said the school mascot was wimpy. “It is not a local symbol, and it is not even an animal, it is just a piece of fruit. What can a piece of fruit intimidate? Nothing.” The university spends money on such things, he went on, “but not on education.” The new sculpture in the quad is “tacky, which together with the expense it surely incurred, embodies everything that is wrong with the university.¨

I said that at my university those statements would become an editorial cartoon in the student newspaper, that would go viral.  He said that could never happen here, as everything is so controlled, and reprisal for disrespect is so certain.

What fascinated me was that at every point he saw things so much more clearly than I. I would not say such trenchant things about the school and its purposes, nor am I as aware and also accepting as he is of the dangers that inhere in expressing such perceptions.

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Cut from my document, but it is so juicy

CHAIR MUST MANAGE AND LIMIT THE POWER OF THOSE INSTRUCTORS WHO WITH ADMINISTRATIVE SUPPORT OR COMPLICITY HAVE:

1. Discouraged students from the major: stop putting them in a position to do so (get them out of 300 and 400 level courses where they have this kind of influence);

2. Worked against the creation and sustenance of extracurricular activities: stop putting them in a position to do so (get them out of 300 and 400 level courses where they have this kind of influence);

3. Sent Spanish Club and Sigma Delta Pi dormant / not had time to do all related paperwork: we must allow someone responsible to revive Sigma Delta Pi and support current leaders in broadening (and making official again) the activities of the Spanish Club.

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For the first day of classes

All last year I had been amazed that this particular student appeared to have become a born-again Christian. Now he has a new name and it is clear that in fact he has converted to Islam.

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Manuela Picq

An important scholar keeps emailing this listserv I am on, questioning Manuela Picq’s statements that she was beaten by police during her arrest and detention last week. He says it is important not to distort facts and that researchers must be objective. I understand that, of course, but do not really understand him, and I am not sure I want to intervene in this debate. However, it appears to me that:

1. The professor suggests that Manuela Picq is not a credible witness, or not a reliable narrator.
2. He appears to imply that beatings are only beatings if they are really bad. (I wonder exactly how bad they would have to be to count. I note that this is a common reaction to police brutality. In the United States it is a current justification of torture, and the minimization of violence against women is of course common.)
3. He seems to believe that even journalists covering a situation should keep a very safe distance from any melée.
4. He seems to be opposed to the combination of research and advocacy and activism. I disagree, of course. (I am assuming he does realize that even non-activist researchers have an analysis, a point of view.)

Qu’est-ce qui arrive ici?

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Hannah Arendt

Hobbes was the true, though never fully recognized, philosopher of the bourgeoisie because he realized that acquisition of wealth conceived as a never-ending process can be guaranteed only by the seizure of political power, for the accumulating process must sooner or later force open all existing territorial limits. He foresaw that a society which had entered the path of never-ending acquisition had to engineer a dynamic political organization capable of a corresponding never-ending process of power generation. He even, through sheer force of imagination, was able to outline the main psychological traits of the new type of man who would fit into such a society and its tyrannical body politic. He foresaw the necessary idolatry of power itself by this new human type, that he would be flattered at being called a power-thirsty animal, although actually society would force him to surrender all his natural forces, his virtues and his vices, and would make him the poor meek little fellow who has not even the right to rise against tyranny, and who, far from striving for power, submits to any existing government and does not stir even when his best friend falls an innocent victim to an incomprehensible raison d’état. For a Commonwealth based on the accumulated and monopolized power of all its individual members necessarily leaves each person powerless, deprived of his natural and human capacities. It leaves him degraded into a cog in the power-accumulating machine, free to console himself with sublime thoughts about the ultimate destiny of this machine, which itself is constructed in such a way that it can devour the globe simply by following its own inherent law.

Here are some additional notes.

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