Monthly Archives: March 2008

On Sincerity

Over a year ago I had an argument with a blogger in which he accused me of insincerity. One of his blog friends looked at the exchange and said that actually, I was sincere “to a fault.”

This was very interesting and I have thought about it since from time to time. I was first accused of insincerity as a very small child. Like the main character in Breaking the Waves I thought then at that if I were all sincere, all the time, I might not have to suffer these attacks on my integrity. (I also thought, of course, that if I could make just the right sacrifice, my parents would not have to suffer so much.)

The root problem in Reeducation was that it was an attack on integrity. And now I have theorized that the root problem in bullying in general is that it is an attack on integrity. Now I am theorizing that the way I collude in bullying of myself is by being sincere to a fault.

What is it to be sincere to a fault? I theorize that it is to always assume deep levels of sincerity elsewhere. If one gives this up, then one can stop colluding in one’s own bullying without sacrificing any of one’s own sincerity. By doing so, one would actually increase one’s level of integrity. I believe even Gracian would say that.


Obliquely related is that I have been noticing lately how times have changed, because we have many job candidates. All the women candidates know their rights and assume that these will be respected. This is very different from how things were when I was in graduate school.

In those days the extent of our knowledge was that 1. if married, one should hide it, because one would not be taken seriously. 2. one would have to accomplish twice as much as a man, and one should plan for that. 3. one should expect open misogyny and counter it. Now, women candidates with families actually volunteer this information. They also know that really blatant sexism will not be allowed. And they have been coached in countering and handling more covert forms of discrimination.

The skills I did not learn when young were those some members of racial and ethnic minorities had in first, recognizing and second, maintaining dignity in the face of discrimination. In those days I thought I was weak to even think I needed such skills. How could I, when I was not a member of any of the most heavily targeted groups? thought I. They must be going through more Hell than I could imagine, so I should not think I needed skills like theirs.

Of course this guilt ridden reasoning was muddy, and I did need those skills. My college roommate, a minority woman scientist, says that in school and at work she has always faced much more gender than racial discrimination, although I would guess it has always been both.



Filed under Banes, Da Whiteman, Questions, Resources, Theories

E-mail from da Whiteman

I wrote the post below some time ago. I thought – and think – the student was being manipulative and out of line in general. I still do but I also wonder sometimes in these situations: who is behaving towards her as she is behaving towards me?


WM: I missed my oral presentation last week, because I was sick. Can I make it up?

PZ: No. There is an alternative assignment for people in your situation. The instructions are in the website, at the following address.

Another week passes, and WM still does not come to class. Two days before the alternative assignment is due, he resurfaces by e-mail.

WM: I think it is terribly unfair that I cannot make up my oral presentation. I had created a presentation I really loved and I have not been allowed to give it.

PZ: Yes, these things happen. That is why there was a contingency plan. Had you been in touch before class the day the presentations were given, saying you were ill and asking whether you could reschedule your presentation, we might have been able to make arrangements. But you did not get in touch until almost a week after the presentation day. Now I have not seen you in two weeks, and it was my understanding you were working on the alternative assignment.

WM: It is unfair. I am a hard worker and a sincere person…

PZ (aside): Why is it that in two semesters I have not yet seen evidence of this?

WM: …and your class is already so difficult for me, because I am a visual learner, and yet you expect me also to listen and to speak.

PZ: The alternative assignment is, as you know, a written one.

WM: You are so mean, and so unfair! I pay tuition, you know. Without me, you would have no job!

PZ: And part of my job is to insist on responsibility, and to hold all students to the same standard. I have had you in class for two semesters, and I assure you that if you spent the kind of time studying that you do trying to negotiate on due dates, content of assignments, and grades, you could easily make a B or even an A.



Filed under Banes, What Is A Scholar?

Day of Blogging for Voter Justice

Today I join Tom, among others, in Blogging for Voter Justice. Both of the links given in the last sentence explain how to participate and why you might want to join.

Remember, I do not agree with Barack Obama’s politics. The first time I voted in a Presidential primary I voted for Jesse Jackson, whose politics are closer to my own. This time, I was going to be a Kucinich voter.

In the current panorama I am supporting Obama. If his campaign fails I will be very strongly tempted by that of Cynthia McKinney. And no, it will not be “my fault” if McCain wins.

It will be the fault of the Democrats for running consistently weak campaigns, and for withdrawing support from candidates who offer actual alternatives to Republicanism.



Filed under Movement, News

Open Thread on Tenure

Aside from the talk of abolishing it, tenure remains important for all of the usual reasons (primarily academic freedom), but for others perhaps more important, especially faculty governance.

Without the job security of tenure, the professoriate is reduced to the role of a paid workforce serving at the whim of various bottom lines. More importantly, ending tenure would mean throwing the whole sadistic and ritualistic system into disarray: it means, oddly enough, removing the mystery, and replacing Christ on a Cross with a test tube, or worse, a torn glossy photo of the latest talentless starlet from Vanity Fair.

That guild model upon which tenure is based is dead as a doornail, yet we dwell in its ashes, rubbing them on our faces like barbarians, in the mistaken belief that they still connote magic. We still believe in tenure because it is linked to the mysteries of the profession, and like all dead systems, that faith is much more dangerous in decline, like a drowning swimmer.

Now various people, some, I discern, younger than me, are against the tenure system because it is too destructive. I agree that many things about the academic system are destructive, but I have trouble seeing how the abolition of tenure would do anything except worsen current problems.

I think the abolition of tenure would be an CEO-administrator’s dream. The entire workforce would be contingent, and certain research and development stars could be retained through very high salaries and the elimination, for them, of all but the most specialized teaching and all service except on projects which directly benefit them.

Otherwise, teaching and research would be conducted by casual laborers at the mercy of staff managers, who might not have actual training or experience resembling that of the people they were managing.

What do you think? I am more interested here in the creation of alternative systems, in imagining the model that might replace the tenure model, than in critiques of the tenure system tout court – although these are, of course, also welcome.



Filed under Banes, Questions, Theories


Real food really can be fast if you shop. And when I can, I like to skip the American lunch and escape campus just after three, so I can come home and have lunch at four, like a Mexican. This makes the dusty office day short, and the working evening lovely and long. And you can have coffee with cinnamon in it. But this does not work unless you have most of the food ready ahead of time. For example:

1. It is good to have a pot of black beans ready. These can be vegetarian. You must cook them in enough water. While they are cooking, sauté onions and garlic in olive oil and add these to the pot. Also, pulverize some of the beans once they have grown soft from cooking, and then throw them back into the pot. At the end, add red, yellow, and green peppers, cut lengthwise into elegant strips and sautéed in olive oil.

2. Things to have on hand include eggs from the egg lady, who keeps hens. You will have scallions from your scallion fields and chives from your chive pot. From the Mexican store, you need white cheese – the harder, aged kind – and crema.

Then you make a plate: an omelet with scallions and chives, the black beans with a square of cheese on them, and crema. You can have an avocado, too, but I want a really good one, and you could have tortillas too but I want thick Central American ones and I am not ambitious enough to make them.

I like this meal especially because it reminds me of slow Central American towns where it is the only meal, at once ascetic and opulent.



Filed under Arts

Barack Obama Latest Hits

With a little help from, we present Coco Tea with Barak Obahama, followed by the Mighty Sparrow with Barack the Magnificent.

But I am just waiting to see and hear the Kenyan King of Ohangla Tony Nyadundo whose new album Obama is apparently very popular, and is said to be circulating in the United States. Other Kenyan musicians who have written and performed Obama songs include Benta Nyakoyugi, Lady Maureen, Princess Jully and Ouma Basement.

I hasten to reiterate, of course, that Obama is a corporate candidate and was not my first choice among the Democratic nominees. But I think HRC is at least as patriarchal as he is, and I think he can help address (not leapfrog over) the question of race, which is important. The kind of person I’d really like to have as President cannot win and I vote for the candidates I think will do at least some good or be some kind of improvement.

Sometimes I vote for candidates in an attempt to help them be heard. I would not diminish this action by calling it a “protest vote” or a “throwaway vote” … or a “vote for the Republicans.” That allegation by the Democrats is bullying speech if I have ever heard any. Who do they think I am – their slave? Why do they think that by sneering at me or threatening me they will cause me to find them more attractive?



Filed under Movement, Songs

Une vieille chanson

Our official Easter post is by the Anxious Black Woman. Read it, it is important. Meanwhile I am singing the first laisse of the Song of Roland, which I like.

Carles li reis, nostre emper[er]e magnes
Set anz tuz pleins ad estet en Espaigne:
Tresqu’en la mer cunquist la tere altaigne.
N’i ad castel ki devant lui remaigne;
Mur ne citet n’i est remes a fraindre,
Fors Sarraguce, ki est en une muntaigne.
Li reis Marsilie la tient, ki Deu nen aimet;
Mahumet sert e Apollin recleimet:
Nes poet guarder que mals ne l’i ateignet.

I like it, among other reasons, because Old French is so strange to me, and the medievals, so eccentric. Here is reading support in English.



Filed under Poetry, Songs