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Showing posts from October 15, 2017

vista and corner

The American eye expects a vista. We enter the Walmarts, the Target, the Walgreens, the mega-grocery store, and we expect to see the commodities arrayed there like the corn in Oklahoma fields, spread out, flat. We expect the great plains. When we come in, when we look at the goods extending as far as we can see, under one roof, we are pioneers, we are … we are that mythical creature from economics, the sovereign consumer. We see the checkout counter on one side, and we see the staff in their designated shirts doing inventory. We don’t think of that staff as advisors, fellows who have solved our consumer problems, but as walking signposts, to whom we can ask directions. In France, on the other hand, what confronts us are corners. Vistas abhor a corner. Yesterday we went shopping for Adam’s birthday. We have incautiously invited his class to a party, tomorrow, in the park, and  the class responded with a large yes. So now it was time to get little gift bags together, as well as ge


Who wants yesterday’s papers, the Rolling stones sang a long time ago. Then they became yesterday’s papers. And so will all of us.   However, I’m doubtful about this, as about all other nuggets of Mick Jagger’s wisdom. Myself, I find yesterday’s papers much more interesting than today’s. One of the great things about the internet – or no, let me go to 11, here, mes amis – the greatest thing about the internet is that it makes archives so instantly available to us. The prestige of the archive is, in part, derived from the fact that it is inaccessible. Archives conjure up the secret police. In fact, after revolutionary acts – such as the storming of the Bastille – everybody wanted to get their hands on the files of the Parisian police. But it wasn’t until late in the 19 th century that a scholar, Francois Ravaisson, put them in order.  And now they are available on Gallica and and one can read the testimony of a prostitute named Mlle. July about her whipping sessions

a prick in the prick system

When O. was president, I often wrote bitterly critical things about what his administration was doing and what was happening in America. But to use the metaphore du jour, I was not entirely woke.  Trump is a wake up machine. He is, as well, an outgrowth of processes that have been at work in the U.S. since well before the age of Reagan. I think of these processes as the counter-civil rights revolution, not dissimilar to the inertial backwardness that allowed the Jim Crow system to spring up after the Civil War. That took a hundred years to dissolve. Do we have that much time left? One of the areas where the counter-revolution has succeeded in driving us “back” not to the 1920s, but to, oh, the 15 th century under Henry 8, is in the court system. If Amnesty International weren’t a puppet of the U.S. and the E.U., it would have to mark down the court system in the U.S. as something akin to the court system in Uzbekistan. Currently, the vast vast majority of criminal cas

distance effects

I don’t believe that conservatives or Trumpkins suffer, for the most part, from some empathy disorder. There's a discussion of  Corey Robin's book up at Crooked Timber in which there are many mentions, among the commentariat, that the Right is just a mass of moral failure, built on a deeper emotional deficiency. I don't think this is true, or, more to the point, that there is any evidence for it.  So what makes for the visible lack of empathy among conservative groups for certain groups?  I would look for the way empathy gets into our social action more than for how our neurons work, here. A neural interpretation of ideology might seem real scientific, but it is no more scientific than, say, an atomic view of ideology. It is reductionism in a void - the void being our vast, vast ignorance about how evidence of our neural processes actually work on the higher level of personal and social interaction. Instead, we read backwards, from those interactions to the neural maps.