Category Archives: Da Whiteman

Le calvinisme et le travail

Yesterday this illness I have had came upon me again and I wanted to go to sleep for the night at 7:17 PM. I said: you cannot do that, you must read at least one article and answer one e-mail, it won’t be too much. But it took me until after midnight to really read the article because it was a bit long and I was going slowly because I was so tired, and I didn’t get to the e-mail. And then I was so TRULY exhausted that I slept most of the morning. Moral: Calvinism is not only bad for you, it is inefficient. A pox upon that Benjamin Moses Bary for turning into Matveevich, converting, and getting so Calvinistic. He did his children no good by it, nor me.

This, once again, is why I am opposed to academic advice. The neoliberalism of it and the Calvinism.

Axé.

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Mais

I read about all these professors and how happy they are, how independent and financially secure and creative, and I think:

    • I should be happy and productive, and it is only my lack of strength that prevents it
    • They are happy in places even sadder than here; I should be too
    • I am lazy and not working hard enough
    • What is it in my history that caused me to remain so impaired?
    • What would I like to do with my life?
    • What would I have done with my life had I not been so beaten down from the beginning?
    • How can I right this ship?

and so on, and feel practically too weak to get up. Then it occurred to me to say instead “We are working a demanding job in difficult circumstances. We got here through life’s vicissitudes, and we have certain pleasures and certain power,” and I felt much better.

Before Reeducation I did not scrutinize my life for imperfection and I lived a much more perfect life therefore.

Axé.

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Some things I learned at the conference

I learned a number of the things one normally learns, about new work, ideas, books. I learned that I have to actually write the proto-article I presented on: it is time to write it, and the thinking will come in the writing. Here are some of the other things I learned.

My projects are many and complex. They are like those of the stars and people who get invited to be keynote speakers. This is why I always end up in conversation with those people. And someone told me that it involves having the kind of thick education that many professors don’t have anymore.

Anyway, the reason I don’t develop my projects well enough is that they need R1 time and confidence, ideally, or barring that a more positive or at least less hostile work environment; and also that I’ve always been taught to be tentative, to limit myself, not to jump in with both feet. Jumping in with both feet is something within my power, as well as leading myself from the head and not pushing myself from the back (this last is what those who say their problem is not liking to write do). And standing up against mistreatment.

Also, I remember that in Reeducation I was not only accused of being too logical, but having excessive powers of concentration and focus. I kept saying these were just my academic training, and that I needed them, they were a tool of my trade, but my Reeducator was looking for pathology and thought he might be able to tackle me with an OCD diagnosis. I was afraid of this because I was afraid of the drugs I would have to take, and tried to show that I could destroy or disable my powers of concentration and focus on my own, without drugs (thus also proving I was not wicked, and trying to earn the right to something more like psychoanalysis).

The other part of Reeducation was academia and in it I was shocked to find myself, first, in a teaching-and-pampering situation and next, in a research-first situation where research wasn’t an intellectual endeavor but a measurable production endeavor for the university as industrial complex. It took me a long time to understand these situations and my lack of comprehension of them.

I think that for my article on neoliberalization these things are important. I remember some of the first signs of it when I was a student. We took them seriously but did not understand them as completely as I do now (and it’s not a question of hindsight; the information existed but we did not have it). I think that the whole time I have been a professor is the time in which this destruction has been happening. We’re accused of not having stood up to it but in my case it has been not understanding it, or at least not understanding it immediately. I have only become really able to understand it recently.

Axé.

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On primitivism and aristocracy

I do not agree with everything in this Appiah article on primitivism but there are some very interesting references in it.

⇔⇔⇔⇔⇔

I have been in Utrecht for a week and it has changed me greatly. I want to live here. I looked at some notes I made the first day and I know so much more about the town now, and the Netherlands are so much more familiar now.

I have learned something important: the idea that was imposed upon me, that one should finish the Ph.D. in a field like letters, and then decide what to do with one’s life, is an aristocratic one, was what aristocrats actually did. It is not an odd neurosis of mine that one must first prove personhood via the Ph.D. and ideally tenure in a top place in a humanities field before going on with one’s life, finding ones true field and vocation — it is an aristocratic ideal that was actually communicated to me as a requirement.

This is very interesting. Parents who want children out of the nest, on the one hand, but want to tie them to it hand and foot, on the other. I had some other psychoanalytic insights as well, about early infancy.

Axé.

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I spent an afternoon in Amsterdam

It was so anti-inspiring when I really need to be inspired and I already live in such an anti-inspiring place. Throwing away the chance at small amounts of inspiration for the sake of participating in socially acceptable oppression just felt terribly self-destructive, like so many things I have done in life because they were correct and were expected but that have done me so much harm.

Amsterdam reminds me of Maringouin. It is a tourist simulacrum you are made to feel guilty for not loving, while in fact its colonial operations continue, the slaves are beaten, the master of your house rapes you, and the masses gamble in venues corresponding to their class and station. This is the very strong impression I had of the place.

Yes, I have been there before and been to the museums, and yes, I realize that this place produces a great deal of culture. (I understand, I promise, I am sorry, I really am, but just please, please don’t hit me any more.)

UPDATE: There are apparently a lot of drug tourists there, and this would be a good reason why I was so claustrophobic. AND it turns out that I am not the only person who does not understand the Amsterdam fetish.

HOWEVER: What I’d like to do is get a good grasp on the history of the place and its place in world history.

Axé.

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Writing is the act of saying I

Joan Didion, again. “Writing is an aggressive, hostile act.” Trysh Travis:

[In] graduate teaching, this means helping students figure out what they are arguing about complex and multifaceted topics with which they tend to have, in clinical mental health terms, deeply codependent relationships. . . .

. . . bell hooks calls the process “coming to voice”. . . . Confidence in their own authority allows them to say both “this is my argument” and “that could be my argument, but it is not.”

Making such claims is scary; they entail a lot of responsibility. Traditional feminist pedagogy — indebted to the ethics of care — provides an easy jumping-off point for discussing the responsibility an author has to sources and audience. . . .

But we lack a feminist discourse that grapples with the fact that, as Didion explains, writing is “. . . an invasion, an imposition of the writer’s sensibility on the reader’s most private space.” To be clear, that aggression inheres . . . in the act of clearing space (in one’s head, on the page, in the scholarly conversation) for one’s own vision and voice.

Writing in standard academic English, “the act of saying ‘I’” always already occurs over and against the voices of others. Writers dialogue with some of those voices, but to most of the others, they must say, “That could be my argument, but it is not.”

Axé.

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On procrastination and block

Jonathan has a theory on procrastination which applies rather well but I have more ideas on it. My thoughts are not yet well formed but one is that there is a great difference between procrastination and block. I have been greatly frustrated by trying to use techniques designed to fight procrastination on block. I think at this point that Jonathan’s theory straddles the two. That is why it is tantalizing: it gets at something, but not quite.

Here are some of my fragmentary thoughts: procrastination can be tackled rationally, with techniques like Tanya’s, but block comes from the unconscious and has to be dealt with at more or less a psychoanalytic level. When I was blocked on that infamous manuscript and thought I was procrastinating, I kept having dreams that, if I had been willing to read them, meant that the project had to be dropped so that I could live.

The idea that is nipping at my heels, and that parallels both Jonathan’s theory and mine, has to do with addiction: I’ve heard that one is addicted not to “feel good” but to limit oneself: first through intoxication and yet more importantly, through hangover or withdrawal and the search for more drugs. Desired is the hangover and the limits it imposes. Why does one want limits? So as not to see beyond the horizon. Beyond the horizon are vistas you cannot yet tolerate, or that some introjected authority does not wish you to see.

You do not want to start because you do not believe you deserve to finish, suggests Jonathan (he calls this procrastination, although I would say this kind of procrastination is tinged with block). You both want and do not want the project, and are not aware of the full dimensions of this conflict, say I (this is outright block). In both cases, you are hanging onto limits.

The antidotes for askesis and acedia, as I found out by reading the early church fathers and Aquinas, are charity and love. This fits Jonathan’s theory (and I should unearth and share the piece of creative nonfiction I published on that). Charity and love, when lacking, are hard to find or build, but it is they and not discipline or strategy that stop procrastination. What stops block is deeper work, that involves seeing things you would rather not.

Axé.

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