Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Professionalization Forces Another Blogger Offline

I might have to let this blog float away into the aether pretty soon; apologies to loyal readers, but trying to write a blog that's accountable in a professional way sort of defeats the point of having a blog at all (for me, at least).

So, look for my future work in obscure academic journals full of platitudinous, eminently safe phrases about revolution and justice and rebellion and progress and "the new left" or whatever.

Years later, if all goes well, look for my Camille-Paglia-like inflammatory post-academia column in the N Y Times (and syndicates).

Thursday, November 8, 2007

A Thinly Disguised Prophecy

Those who do not learn from history are bound to repeat it.
--George Santayana


Remember hearing that when you were young?--it must have been a kind of truism for our grandparents' generation. I think it is time we recognize that we don't believe Santayana anymore, that we are no longer in control of our fate, and that we are currently blindly repeating history. Of course, if we could admit this then we would not be blind; this is the essence of Fate. Admittedly, there is something thrilling about living "out of history." It occurs to me that a civilization in irreversible decline might put its hands over its eyes and simply enjoy the fall.

Occasional Thought: perhaps the central wisdom of all religion is this: that when the current world order ends (when the apocalypse is upon the world), one must understand that all is not lost. Those American citizens who would be prepared to face the fall of the American Republic, for example, are the true believers.

So Necessary the Con of Man

I've been waiting to hear it phrased this way--although, I suppose one might argue that global warming isn't quite the greatest scam in history. Not yet. For the moment, that honor still goes to some guys in sandals bringing down the Roman Empire (or the institutionalizers of the sandal-wearing movement) in the first and second century A.D. Ahem--depending on your perspective, I suppose. But if the global warming (sandal-wearing) advocates continue to gain converts, they just might earn that honor...

Question: Could civilization not be based on a con, a scam, or a lie? Maybe we need one. NBC is pushing the motto "Green is Universal" this week (wow--does nobody remember two years ago when there were "no grand narratives?"). Are we living through an eclipse of unifying ideologies, where "religion" of the old order is being replaced by "religion" of the new order? Roman citizens!--respondez!

Addendum: I'm not the only one who says so. See also. See also. See also.

Postscript: At first I thought to myself, hey, what's the big deal? Then I thought, and who reads this blog anyway? But now I think that blogs are probably being recorded somewhere in the annals of internetography, and I'd like to be on record saying that I do not think this scam is "harmless." Pascal's wager does not apply to the environment. What we have to lose by "going green" may be far greater than what we have to gain. Those who think medieval serf-style hunger and poverty can never happen again in the West have almost no understanding of the real-world data that constitutes economic reality.

Qualified Self-Rejoinder: However, this is not to say we ought not to value Nature. We should. I do very much, and I will happily participate in any voluntary beautification schemes. I like state parks, I dislike chimney stacks, I enjoy frisbee golf, and long walks in the woods, and fishing. I'm certainly not a technophile. I would encourage people to plant trees...

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

An Epigraph is Worth 12,000 Words?

As I'm working on academic papers, I like to write under a few tentative epigraphs--sometimes I leave them in or replace them after I have written the chapter, sometimes I just take them out in the revision process. I'm currently about a dozen pages into the last chapter of my dissertation, which I will very loosely describe as "about Hawthorne's ethics," and these are the four tentative epigraphs at the top of my paper:
  1. "His state/Is kingly: thousands at his bidding speed,/And post o'er land and ocean without rest;/They also serve who only stand and wait." (Milton, "On His Blindness")
  2. "Silence is the only voice of our God." (Melville, Pierre)
  3. "It is when from the innermost depths of our being we need a sound which does mean something--when we cry out for an answer and it is not given us--it is then that we touch the silence of God." (Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace)
  4. "The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls, and whispered in the sounds of silence." (Simon and Garfunkel)

And with epigraphs like these, I'm thinking--who needs a chapter???