Monthly Archives: February 2017

On freedom

A key issue may be that “freedom” for many Americans has always meant the freedom of the male settler-colonist to destroy the earth and its people, order his women and slaves around, and impose his religion upon others.

Yet more important is that Trump is trying to destroy the national self-image as progressive. It is of course delusional to believe that the US has not always been a poor idea, yet it is a worse idea to renounce the ideal of justice.

My other insight is that the US depends upon slavery, and that this is why we need the indocumentados as indocumentados. I would like to be on a dissertation committee about this, as there is a great deal to say about it.

This means, of course, that as long as there are no unions all manufacturing and construction jobs here will have to be poorly paid. Indocumentados and convicts will have to do them, probably, and the citizens will have to join the Army. What do you think?

Meanwhile, we have:
◊◊Narcofosas in Jalisco
◊◊The lack of a left in the US
◊◊A really important action item
◊◊Puerto Rican faces deportation to Mexico

…and a great deal more. But please do look at that action item.

Axé.

Leave a comment

Filed under Movement, News

On anxiety

I have it and should pay more serious attention to it. I need shiatsu massage and reasonable control of my schedule and space, regardless of the chaos other people may have in their lives. I am not talking about control over others or rigid defensiveness. I am talking about not being imposed upon, and about having as many rights as others.

I think very regular, serious treatment of the situation, and respect for it, are in order. (Back home, of course, I would never have doubted these things, and would never have allowed, or had to allow the situation to get this bad.)

I am incarcerated in a house, under the control of an irrational person who has legal power over me. I must care for them and do as they say. I must take on a very large professional project that is not the one I want. I am unable to do this under coercion, but not allowed to do anything else.

That is the ur-feeling of it. Bodily I have experienced taquicardia without heart problems, digestive issues, muscle tension and most notably, freezing of the brain. I’ve also seen spots, without having a vision problem. The two most subtle, but clearest indicators of anxiety are:

1/ becoming irritated or feeling defeated over something that can actually be managed with assertiveness;
2/ losing focus, as if one had lost interest or were too tired; inefficiency as a result of this.

People don’t realize I have anxiety because I am still a calm person and still so rational. In addition, I don’t have anxiety without a cause–it is always about being imposed upon, and the imposition is always real. Therefore, focusing on symptoms rather than cause, which the anxiety experts want one to do, only increases the feeling of imposition, incarceration, inattention to the obvious, and manipulation.

It is since November, Thanksgiving evening to be exact, that things have been this way and I have not had the time/space to reflect upon the situation. Had this period also started earlier? What about October, with study abroad? What about September, with the roof? What about the issues with the leaking door and floor? When did I last have any calm time to myself?

I would like less Internet of all types. More reading, in books and journals, not on screens and printouts. In-person work in libraries. Writing, on tables of the right height, looking outdoors in sunlight. Walking, in free air with views.

I should always sleep, and exercise, and drink water, and insist that my space be mine and be a calm space. More deeply, I should believe that my thoughts are valid thoughts. I should believe that I have a right to my life, and that my assessment of things is valid.

Axé.

4 Comments

Filed under Banes

“Me llamo es…”

On the question of Saying Their Name: I have always understood about it for reasons having to do with my ancestors the Lloyds and the Goldsboroughs, and because it is a major South American theme, never again, nunca mais, say their name. But I have learned more about it from these disaster databases which are entirely resolute about it.

There are so many reasons to Say Their Name. To say it, and stand by it.

Axé.

Leave a comment

Filed under Movement, News

Domingo

⇒ The best political action we can take right now is to work against voter suppression. (Z)

⇒ The roundups of indocumentados are a beginning, and we should pay attention. (Z)

⇒ The use of indocumentados is a form of slavery. Capitalism requires slavery, and slaves must be foreign. (Z)

⇒Racist imperatives fuel the militarization of the border. (Nicky)

⇒Poetry is only a havoc that restores. It dissipates the false pretenses of an ordered world. (Bataille 1943)

Today in culture:

Let’s look at a timeless Vermeer. And another. And more.
An interesting translation magazine: Palabras errantes.
Cinema tropical.
Huizache.

Fifteen Afro-Latin films everyone should see.
I am not your negro is playing now and must be seen.
On Netflix, we must see 13th.
We will see Ixcanul on Netflix as well, and Herzog’s Into the inferno.

Sidney Blumenthal has a smart history of the Trump family in the London Review of Books.
Jonathan Mayhew has good advice on how to learn foreign languages.
Rosie Gray discusses Bannon and the white supremacy movement in The Atlantic.
Nikil Saval writes about Gareth Dale writing about Karl Polanyi, and I would have liked to converse with this man; he is important.

Activism:

I have heard there is a number you can text to your phone, that will program in the numbers of your senators and representatives. You can do this, too.

Work:

I was going to make an announcement about, and a commitment to archiving bibliography in Zotero and/or JabRef, and not an Amazon wishlist or even Evernote. Instead, I simply started.

Axé.

1 Comment

Filed under Cinearte, Movement, Poetry, Teaching, Working

Disenfranchised grief

…and hidden sorrow: these are things studied, and terms that can be searched.

Axé.

Leave a comment

Filed under News

Ich arbeite

I am working on things related to this post, and it is taking up time formerly devoted to blogging. Keywords here are Benjamin Matveevich Bary and Matvee Bary.

Benjamin was “a hot opponent of Talmudism,” as it was said by one Russian official who turned him down for a job as a kind of commissioner of Jewish affairs. He had converted to Christianity, and thought everyone should.

“Humboldt was, in general, against baptism [conversion of Jews]; see Bulletin of Russian Jews 24 (1871).” Nonetheless, he recommended Benjamin for that job in St. Petersburg.

I would like to know who Matvee was and what his relationship with Benjamin was like.

Axé.

Leave a comment

Filed under A.V. Bari

Sobre el mundo actual

Milosexual and the aesthetics of fascism (Boston Review)

Government by white nationalism is upon us (Slate)

Pankaj Mishra (The Guardian)

Letters of Erich Auerbach 1933-1946 (PMLA)

When it is too late to stop fascism, according to Stefan Zweig (The New Yorker)

A useful discussion of populism (The Nation — and a piece worth critiquing)

A post-apocalyptic classic (A Canticle for Liebowitz)

Axé.

2 Comments

Filed under News

What is Critical Thinking?

This piece by Rob Jenkins was in the CHE and I am reproducing it. The words from here on are not mine.

Axé.

The longer I teach (I’m now in my 32nd year) the more I’m convinced that the best thing we can do for our students is help them learn to think for themselves.

That involves explaining what critical thinking actually means — a step I fear we often skip — as well as equipping them with the requisite skills. That’s why I recommend talking to students on the first day of class about critical thinking. What is it? Why is it important? How can they learn to do it?

What follows is an example of my opening-day remarks. For graduate students and Ph.D.s new to teaching, if this talk resonates with you, feel free to adapt it for your own classrooms.

These days, the term “critical thinking” has been overused to the point where it has almost ceased to mean anything in particular. It has become more of a popular educational catchphrase, so that even the people who use it often don’t know exactly what they mean by it.

Get any group of teachers in a room — kindergarten through college — and throw out the question, “What can we do to help our students learn better?” Within minutes, someone is bound to say, “I know, let’s teach critical thinking!” Then another person in the group will say, “Oh, that’s good. Write that down.” And so they dutifully put it on the list, and everyone nods sagely, including the people who eventually read the list, and no one ever takes any concrete steps and nothing ever changes. This process is known as “educational administration.”

None of that means, however, that critical thinking is not a real thing. It is — and it’s vital for you to understand what critical thinking is and how to do it. The extent of your success in college — not to mention life — ultimately depends on it.

Critical thinking, as the term suggests, has two components. The first is thinking — actually thinking about stuff, applying your brain to the issues at hand, disciplining yourself (and it does require discipline) to grapple with difficult concepts for as long as necessary in order to comprehend and internalize them.

This is important because we live in a society that increasingly makes it easy for people to get through the day without having to think very much. We have microwaveable food, entertainment at our fingertips, and GPS to get us where we need to go. I’m not saying those things are bad. Ideally, such time-saving devices free up our brains for other, more important pursuits. But the practical effect is that we’ve become accustomed to setting our brains on autopilot.

Actual thinking requires deep and protracted exposure to the subject matter — through close reading, for example, or observation. It entails collecting, examining, and evaluating evidence, and then questioning assumptions, making connections, formulating hypotheses, and testing them. It culminates in clear, concise, detailed, and well-reasoned arguments that go beyond theory to practical application.

All of this, as I mentioned, involves discipline. And what better place to develop that discipline than in college courses, especially the ones you don’t want to take because they’re “not in your major”? After all, we can increase our brainpower, just as we can increase our physical strength, and in much the same way — by pushing against resistance. The greater the resistance, and the more we persist in pushing against it, the greater the intellectual benefit. That’s why it’s in your best interests to apply yourself to the courses you dislike the most and find most difficult: Those courses actually constitute “cross-training for the brain.

The second component of critical thinking is the critical part. In common parlance, “critical” has come to mean simply negative — as in, “I don’t like to be around him, he’s always so critical.” But of course that’s not what it means in an academic context.

Think of movie critics. They cannot simply trash every film they see. Instead, their job is to combine their knowledge of films and filmmaking with their extensive experience (having no doubt seen hundreds, even thousands of films) and provide readers with the most objective analysis possible of a given movie’s merits. In the end, what we’re left with is just one critic’s opinion, true. But it’s an opinion based on substantial evidence.

To be “critical,” then, means to be objective, or as objective as humanly possible. No one is capable of being completely objective — we’re all human, with myriad thoughts, emotions, and subconscious biases we’re not even aware of. Recognizing that fact is a vital first step. Understanding that we’re not objective, by nature, and striving mightily to be objective, anyway, is about as good as most of us can do.

To be critical also means to be analytical, to be able to look at a problem or question and break it down into its component parts — the way a chemist analyzes a compound. What makes a film good, or bad, or mediocre? Is it the acting? The directing? The script? The cinematography? All of them combined?

Finally — and perhaps most important — to be critical means to be dispassionate, to be able to separate your emotions from the situation at hand. That’s not to say emotions are bad. Perhaps there are some decisions that, as human beings, we should make based primarily on emotions (although I would recommend giving your head a vote, at least). And we should certainly take emotional factors into account in all our decision-making, as in the case of compassion, for instance.

But in professional life, and to some extent in our lives in general, we simply can’t make most decisions based primarily on emotion. We can’t trust our emotions because they aren’t necessarily grounded in reality. They are inconsistent, changing with our moods, with the seasons, with the time of day, with that last song we just heard on the radio — or the last presidential election. Emotions are, by definition, not based on reason and, therefore, form a poor, shaky foundation for decision-making.

Like thinking, learning to recognize and set aside our emotions requires a great deal of discipline. As humans, we’re emotional creatures. Being dispassionate doesn’t come naturally to us; we have to train ourselves to do it. And again, what better place than in a college classroom, where you’re exposed to all kinds of ideas and information, including some you don’t like?

– See more at Chronicle Vitae.

Axé.

Leave a comment

Filed under Teaching, Working