Category Archives: Movement

S o c o r r o, or, I shall be free

If you know who I am and you are willing, send me mail at my regular address and I will send you an address. One of my high school friends is homeless in Stockton, CA and I am soliciting direct donations to her, yes.

When we were in high school one of my friends’ fathers abandoned her family. My father paid her family’s mortgage that month. That friend is not contributing to this friend now, nor is anyone else, but my father is.

The fact that he is has brought it home to me: is it not normal that none of the others are contributing.

Some would say that if I were good I would be magnanimous and realize that these people simply cannot face it but I am not good and I think charity toward the ungenerous is just a mechanism designed to save them face. And of course the degree of my surprise is the degree of my (erroneous) belief in people.

Axé.

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The MLA, and a diagnosis, and some fascinating questions

The theme of the 2016 MLA convention is Literature and Its Publics: Past, Present, and Future.

In the meantime, I am told there are two types of academic worker: intellectual knowledge workers and educational service workers. This is my problem: I am supposed to be the former, but pressed to be the latter. It is all well and good to say teaching and research go together. They do: for my McNair student, for instance. But when there are these two tiers of workers, and when the structure of the industrial complex is such that they pull against one another, and when one is both at once, one has a fraught situation to say the least.

In other news, my Russian family appears to have arrived in the United States in exactly 1865. Our ancestor was born in 1816 or 1817, and was living in Michigan at the time of the 1870 census. My great-grandfather was born in 1855, in St. Petersburg like his father the head immigrant, and studied at the University of Chicago; his wife, my great-grandmother, was Helen Beecher (yes, of those Beechers). My grandfather was born in Cook County, Illinois.

There are two points of interest on this today. One is these books: is the author our man (who did have a German PhD and corresponded with Marx, and was an intellectual)? Was it he who also knew Humboldt? (Why is my German not better, so I could find out more easily what his ideas were?) The other point is that there is a record I found and then lost, of a daughter born in St. Petersburg in the 1850s, after my great-grandfather, but baptized in Germany. That means that the sentence to Siberia and the flight toward Switzerland must have started then; I must write my cousin.

Family stories say that it was under Nicholas I that we were persecuted, and this is surely true, but it has to have been from Alexander II’s Russia that we flew.

#OccupyHE

Axé.

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How the CIA made Google

We must study this.

Axé.

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Revista Iberoamericana, o, hoy estoy mucho mejor

Dame Eleanor Hull has returned, and it is great.

Meanwhile, here is an interesting table of contents which shows what the world was like when I undertook my first serious research project. Had I read this issue of this journal more closely then, I would be yet more intelligent now, but I was reading older things. I was not to do read anything too recent because it would be too difficult for me and being new, could be wrong in unknown ways. It could thus lead me in a bad direction, it was said.

Life, it seemed, was a series of lessons in how to limit oneself. Nowadays this is chic: learning to accept limits, realizing you have limits, becoming disabled. Earlier on, though, it had been known that those lessons in how to limit oneself were a[n antifeminist] tool of oppression. Think of Joanna Russ.

My mother was raised with expectations which she felt were oppressive, and raised me with anti-expectations. Amateurism or doing just enough to get by were the goals. This was intended kindly, at least at the beginning, but soon I was deeply disappointing or at least incomprehensible because I was serious, or at least took an interest in things and wanted to get them done. These things are a large part of why I cannot abide the “good-enough” or the “bad first draft” cant. Other people may be perfectionists and need to tone it down, but what I always wanted in life was to work above the bare minimum, live above bare subsistence, aspire.

It is still not clear to me what is so wrong with this. When will we be allowed to do our best work?

Dulcis et decorum est per superficialitatem mori, I suppose the moral would be. You must work quickly and not challenge anything, and you are acceptable then; this exactly what I do not like.

I have also had an illumination about sleeping (you know I do not sleep, because I was taught I must feel pain and sleep deprivation is the way I achieve this). I think I am rebelling against conventionality, taking time for myself and so on, because only late at night am I completely sure I will not have to deal with people and thus will not have to be trampled upon or pulled one way and the next. But I am also participating in a  strategy of impairment, so that I will not want more than the minimum out of life; and most fundamentally it is submission to Reeducation which wanted me to find a way to feel more pain.

Perhaps if I remember that, it will be easier to renounce this practice which really feels like anorexia or an addiction.

Axé.

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Trois jours de santé

For the next three days I will work on this project and remain rational in it, no matter who I talk to or how scary that is. I will put myself first — and putting this first IS putting myself first.

For my present purposes anyone else’s irrationality is irrationality of my own that they are mirroring, and that I can talk to. I may need to talk about some difficulties I am having, without fear.

Footnote: I think Reeducation was designed for people in crisis, who were paralyzed and had nothing to do. That is why it had so many homework assignments. I do not think I actually needed them. Also: even for criminals I am not sure the daily examination of faults is quite the answer.

In any case, rejecting these ideas in ever more definitive ways is one of the things I must do to regain enough confidence to finish longer projects. There is so much I leave halfway through, not because of “poor time management” or anything mundane like that but because something new comes to shake my foundation.

This is why I am sure those people who say in their prologues that without backing and kind support, their project would never have been finished, speak truthfully.

For the next three days I will work on this project and remain rational in it, no matter who I talk to or how scary that is. I will put myself first — and putting this first IS putting myself first.

 

Axé.

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On teaching, and on how one is seen

I have become faculty advisor for the secular students’ alliance, an important organization because it creates a space in which secular students can be secular. It is not so easy here because they face ostracism from family and friends and some are not in a position to come out of the closet, so they need the group. I have decided supporting them is an important teaching activity.

I was chosen mostly because it was considered I was one of the few faculty members daring enough to be out to the university as a secularist. I was also informed that I have strong opinions and am able and also willing to defend them in an articulate manner; and that I see through manipulations and lies, and call people on these fearlessly.

I thought it was all quite interesting since on this weblog I present myself as one who does not stand up for themself and who fears speaking up. (The students do not know, of course, that after I make my brilliant public speeches I have private crises — but still.) All of this was very instructive, as was another research related love note I received today.

I do note, nonetheless, that in much of academia, what one must actually do is hide one’s views. Practicing this most of the time — despite the days on which I make my impassioned speeches — is detrimental to research and writing, I find. I have been told that one should channel all one’s actual views into what one publishes, and hide these otherwise, and I think many people are trained to compartmentalize things in this fashion, but I am not.

#OccupyHE

Axé.

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Katrina 9

Incredibly, Friday is the ninth anniversary of the storm. Rising Tide, the bloggers’ conference that grew out of this, is on September 13 this year, which means I may be able to go. Will you be there too? I have to be back in Maringouin by evening, because I like Maringouin now and have something to do here, but I might go down the day before.

Axé.

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