Des fragments de Z

What shall we be when we grow up?

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This is a kaleidoscopic post. It was a narrative post, but now it is kaleidoscopic.

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People have been trying to convince me I am insane for decades.

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In Reeducation, we were taught that there was a choice between being happy and being right. If we renounced faith in our sense of what was right, we could open ourselves to the possibility of happiness.

Is happiness more important than justice, and are they are mutually exclusive?

To be happy, must you decide you are wrong about what is right for you, and submit to someone else’s plan?

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I always thought that the reason to make the right move was so as to move oneself to where there were positive people.

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Reeducation considered that if one was in Reeducation, one should follow its rules and not one’s own instincts, since the instincts of Reeducands were wrong by definition.

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I have exploded this post because I have seen that attempts to unpack irrationality are a trap.

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My college roommate the scientist is so traumatized by the harassment she underwent that she cannot face setting foot on the campus of our alma mater to this day.

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In my time one was raised to defer to everyone but oneself first, and to insanity most of all.

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Once I was stuffed onto a plane to MLA interviews by well intentioned others. My reasons for not going were better informed and more realistic than those of the people who stuffed me onto the plane.

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This post is opposed to the idea that when women know what is happening, it is just a mood.

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People always want me to do something girlish. Their other assumption is that I cannot handle money.

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I could give many examples of good ideas of mine, and demonstrate very clearly how poorly informed were those who claimed they were unworkable.

I could also give many examples of bad ideas of others, which I have had little choice but to carry out to my detriment.

I have become Xuihtecuhtli.

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I am under no obligation to play the piano. Or I should not be, that is.

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I think sexism and sexist educations were very important then. I repeat that my college roommate, the scientist, is so traumatized by the harassment she underwent in college that she cannot face setting foot on the campus of our alma mater to this day.

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Regardless of what others may imagine, I am very well informed about many things.

I do not make rash judgments.

Even things I grasp first at an intuitive level, I can also think through.

Patriarchal people do not realize these things, because they are so irrational themselves.

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I am so tired of having inapplicable platitudes spouted in my vicinity, I would almost be capable of breaking a plate over the head of the next person who tries one on me.

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The idea that one should lobotomize oneself and live as an automaton so as to function “happily” in what appears now to be mainstream U.S. culture was not created in my best interests, nor in yours.

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This post was written before I became Xuihtecuhtli. Now that I am he, I shall not negotiate with these platitude speakers any more.

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Please note that a ritual food of Xuihtecuhtli is the shrimp tamal. You may throw some of these in my direction at any time. My ritual direction is the hearth.

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Axé.


18 thoughts on “Des fragments de Z

  1. What is happiness? It is not (only) pleasure. Pleasure is pleasant, but should not be purchased at the price of justice or conscience. True happiness comes from rightness, integrity, doing the right thing: as one defines rightness for oneself (preferably according to a coherent philosophy of ethics), not as other people define it for one. I’m a Stoic, more or less, as this view no doubt makes clear, and I think many people (or the whole culture) would benefit from taking a more classical view of happiness. And also from allowing for small and harmless pleasures, like fresh raspberries, rather than denying oneself from a feeling of unworthiness.

  2. A friend of mine once said, “I can’t understand why I am not happy.” I replied, “Don’t be silly. You are a woman. You are not supposed to be happy.

  3. Hi, Dame E.H.! – I’m for a more Classical view of happiness, too, and of religion for that matter. Now maybe, since happiness means consumption, and ethics means putting limits on that, the two come into unresolvable conflict?

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    Hattie – yes, and I suppose that’s why I’ve gotten so guilt tripped about it. Happiness is not OK, but resignation is required. One is not supposed to claim actual happiness, it seems, but declare to be happy “making do.”

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    But I think a lot of people really are programmed to choose what is conventional over what makes them happy, and in that way permission to give up what is “right” is really liberating. Maybe that’s what the question “Would you rather be happy or be right?” is meant to address.

  4. This is all very interesting.

    Yesterday I was thinking about my early life and my determination, beginning around age 12, that I would become a professional musician. I experienced the dreaming of this dream, and all the practicing I did in hopes of making it happen, as an extended act of rebellion. But I didn’t think much about why it was so. Now, I think it must have been that I was rebelling against the expectation that I would reject joy and pleasure and embrace suffering, instead. I refused: I rejected suffering and insisted on placing joy in a central place in my life. This made people around me very angry and they called me stupid and impractical and informed me that I would never make any money and therefore that I would suffer anyway.

    Later in my training, at university, I found that in the course of mastering the craft of music I was expected to suffer in other ways: to overwork myself into exhaustion, to be burdened by constant stress about not being good enough, and to reject any opportunity to take joy in anything else besides music (because I was not permitted enough free time to do so). This required suffering made chasing joy impossible, so I rebelled again, and I quit.

    I still don’t know what to be when I grow up, but it strikes me that in everything I have done (that wasn’t focused on mere subsistence and survival) I have been either chasing joy or battling against suffering (mine and others). And that after a time – a year, three years, however long it may be – I become bored and discontented with doing the one thing, and switch to doing the other.

    I have been chasing joy, this past year. Now I feel called to battle against suffering. This would require me to give up my pursuit of joy for now, and perhaps for good. Is it possible to find a way not to be limited to one or the other, but to do both at the same time? I think, as I look back on everything I have done and everything I have loved, that this is the only way I could be happy doing more or less the same thing for the rest of my life — if it could somehow be made to accomplish both goals.

  5. It seems so simple, doesn’t it — and yet the punitive types would say joy is self-indulgent, and battling suffering is grandiose — or so it seems. I’m not sure how US culture got so sadistic but it does seem to be.

  6. Self-indulgent or grandiose, yes! Either way, they want to know who the hell I think I am.

    And it seems I have absorbed this to the extent that I think I must pay for chasing joy by giving it up to battle suffering again. Maybe that is what is going on. It’s so hard to make sense of this.

    1. Yes, although it shouldn’t be. Mainstream US culture seems to promote fun as opposed to joy, and to make fun of joy.

      1. And – the post, like the blog, is a project in teaching myself to stop collaborating in my own destruction.

  7. I really liked this post. There is something very liberating and thought-provoking about this format. It’s a lot less controlled than “regular” blogging, and I love that.

    But I don’t think I would be able to reproduce this kind of writing, which is disappointing.

    1. Haha, yes you can, you just haven’t read enough avant-garde manifestos and looked at enough of their early drafts, which are often a lot more prosaic and discursive than the end product.

      Also, consider how they make a lot of avant-garde poems: take a symbolist one and remove words and explanations.

      I actually think there’s something in Baudelaire’s salons about this. You write out what you have to say, and then take out the circumstantial parts … and you get a more universal text.

      1. Also – it took a long time, and is actually more controlled than regular blogging. The original post was written months ago, and was smart, but corresponded to events of a specific week. It was well thought out but didn’t take as long as this version. I progressively got out of it the anecdotal things that lost relevance, and all the reasoning and feelings that led backward instead of forward.

      2. What do you mean by the “circumstantial” parts? I don’t understand the use of that word here.

  8. Yes, mainstream US culture does make fun of joy. It is not cool. Cynicism and snark are cool. But insisting on joy makes you an impractical head in the clouds stupid dreamer, and insisting on holding yourself to high ethical standards makes you a sanctimonious goody-two-shoes, and the two together are not to be tolerated.

    And battling against suffering – not only our own but that of others – well, to do that is a claim that we can act to change the structure of the world around us, and that, according to mainstream US culture, is hubris.

    Who do we think we are?

    …I’ll be in your area soon. We should talk!!

    1. Circumstantial above — I guess I mean anecdotal, contingent, etc. Relating to specifics of the history of me and why I wrote the post.

      YES we should talk! I here until the 21st, then back August 4-11, then in N.O. August 11-18. I’ve had horrible reentry culture shock here and have just started perking up — will perk up more if I see you! 🙂

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      “Yes, mainstream US culture does make fun of joy. It is not cool. Cynicism and snark are cool. But insisting on joy makes you an impractical head in the clouds stupid dreamer, and insisting on holding yourself to high ethical standards makes you a sanctimonious goody-two-shoes, and the two together are not to be tolerated.

      “And battling against suffering – not only our own but that of others – well, to do that is a claim that we can act to change the structure of the world around us, and that, according to mainstream US culture, is hubris.

      “Who do we think we are?”

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      Yes, that sure does nail it. It’s an attitude I find particularly prevalent both in rural Louisiana and where you are now (Louisiana has all these fundamentalists, and you have all these 12 steppers and Lutherans) but it’s nationwide. Let’s fight it!

  9. Hmm, I hadn’t made that connection – seeing it here, I mean – but then I have been so focused on school that I am not yet very connected with the community outside the university.

    I think it’s more widespread, though, that chasing joy and battling suffering are seen as hubris. Asserting your agency in any way is seen as hubris in more places than just these. I think this because I have noticed that practically the entire American historical profession is engaged with this huge over-arching meta question that seems to be contained in almost everything that is written, currently: the question is, can individual humans act to change the world they live in? If there was a meta-question underlying so much historical writing 20-30 years ago, it was a different one than this, and that is why older historiographical debates are so difficult to understand. The real question they were writing about – the one contained implicitly in all the questions and arguments they actually articulted – was a different one. It didn’t used to be in so much doubt that individual humans can change the world. (At least not white male ones.)

    I have some guesses about why that changed, and why the very existence of human agency went from an assumed reality to an open question. I think there are some reasons particular to the historical profession that can partly explain it, but also, it makes me wonder if it’s a wider cultural change in the US and/or other English-speaking parts of the world (because I haven’t really read any history that’s not printed in English so I cannot generalize about that).

  10. OK, yes, I think you’re really onto something, that explanation makes a lot more sense. *Of course* 20-30 years ago one thought individuals could change the world — there were many examples of them. *Maybe* this counter-idea, that it was impossible, was created along with the idea that it was the war protesters that lost us Viet Nam. The idea that you’re powerless, and things are hopeless, and you just have to have faith that God knows what He is doing, is part of what the Spaniards used to conquer America, for Heaven’s sake. I wouldn’t put it past the government to be putting effort toward propagating these ideas.

    In a related vein, I really think some history or sociology person should do a dissertation on this new phenomenon, INICIATIVA MEXICO. Apparently it is modeled on a similar project in India and is promoted by Televisa, the big TV station (a lot of programs on Univision are really Televisa programs) that isn’t the government but tends to toe its line. It looks like it is asking for interesting project proposals for educational and social services grants (if you look at its website) but it is also promoting this definition of Mexico that, critics say, is really aimed at convincing people to think in a conservative or reactionary manner so that they will then vote that way in 2012.

    The program involves declaring Mexico dysfunctional, sweeping away its terrible past, and taking on “personal responsibility.”

    There’s this professor at UNAM who has a PhD from UCSC (and so speaks English) and who has a blog, and has written about it there and in a newspaper I like, saying it was a totalitarian way of constructing [“reality”] – pointing out that in the terrible past, there were many individuals who made good proposals and got a lot of these instituted. Which, of course, you can really tell when you look around, because there are in fact a lot of really solid, progressive institutions with much tradition. But no, we’re now supposed to say that we were once lost and can only now be found, and so forth and so on, in the right wing!

    P.S. I haven’t really looked into Iniciativa Mexico because I already procrastinate and distract myself enough by reading the news and imagining dissertations in fields other than my own. But a big promoter of Iniciativa Mexico is Javier Aguirre, the Mexico World Cup coach this year!

  11. Yes, politically I think the stuff that happened in the 60s in the US plays a big role. Also, there’s the effect of postmodernist ideas on the field of history, but that doesn’t come close to entirely explaining this.

    That thing in Mexico sounds creepy….

  12. I am convinced this is dissertation or book type material for *somebody* at least!

    It has been said before, re France, that after the 1968 rebellions got put down was when all this neo-formalist theory came into vogue.

    In the US there is a huge right wing propaganda machine and its discourse seeps into a lot of spaces where “common sense” is defined. The idea that individual humans can’t change the world is part of it, I suspect, although it’s held by all kinds of people and not just the right (side note: I learned a new term earlier today, “Rapture Right”!).

    I just flashed on a history major telling me, in the Reaganite 80s, that the 70s-ish wisdom, that you had to change yourself before you changed society, wasn’t dialectical enough. Now it seems the wisdom is you can only change yourself.

    In the current historiographical world, can groups or movements change the world they live in?

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