Saturday, November 19, 2011

Dr. J Catches Up

It's been too, too long since I've posted here. Two whole months, in fact. [Insert standard excuse about being too busy.] My absence was particularly egregious this time, since my last posts, back in September, left a few issues hanging. (Just as an aside, it's hard for me to believe that the last time I posted on this blog was in the pre-Occupy-era. What a difference 8 weeks makes.) I'm using this post not so much as an effort to adequately tie up loose ends, which I think might not be possible, but more as a segue to new things. Here are a few, all too brief, remarks on what has happened in the interim:

Leiter v Alcoff: As to the Leiter v. Alcoff hullabaloo, a lot has happened since my last weighing in on the issue. Among other things, SPEP passed a resolution in support of the Pluralist's Guide to Philosophy, a decision which sparked much debate on Leiter's blog, the New APPS blog and elsewhere. As many anticipated, the debate over the merits/demerits of the Pluralist's Guide have now ballooned into a much larger contest about the state of the so-called "analytic/Continental" divide in professional philosophy. And, as has been our way, the quality of the debate has ranged from puerile and ad hominem attacks to seriously reflective and constructive suggestions for reform. I'll just say, for my part, that I was one of the 24 who voted against the SPEP resolution (outnumbered by the 118 who voted in favor of it), though I still think that there are many merits to the Pluralists Guide and something of that sort is needed in our profession. I'll also say that I think Leiter-et-al's personal attacks on Alcoff (and, more generally, the SPEP constituency) were unprofessional and inexcusable. I'm sure this matter will be revisited on this blog again.

Penn State scandal: My graduate school alma mater, The Pennsylvania State University, was recently rocked by a sex scandal involving one of their former football coaches, Jerry Sandusky, who is alleged to have used his position as the director of a troubled-youth program (The Second Mile) and his influence as a football coach at PSU to prey upon and sexually abuse several young boys over the course of a couple of decades. PSU President Graham Spanier and longtime football coach/legend Joe Paterno were both fired for allegedly knowing about and covering up the misdeeds of Sandusky. (Penn State's former Athletic Director, Tim Curley, and Senior Vice President, Gary Sschultz, were arrested along with Sandusky and charged with perjury.) After the news of Spanier and Paterno's dismissal was announced, Penn State students rioted in the streets. As a Penn State alum, this has all been heartbreaking and embarrassing. I *will* have a post on this matter forthcoming, but in the meantime I'll directly you to Associate Dean (and Professor of Philosophy) Chris Long's excellent Open Letter to Liberal Arts Undergraduates at Penn State.

Ask me what the inside of Lucinda William's tour bus looks like: In happier news, I got to meet one of my musical idols, Lucinda Williams, several weeks ago. I went with a friend (Kelly Robinson, author of the really excellent blog A Certain Solitary Pleasure: Adventures in Reading) to Williams' concert at the New Daisy here in Memphis and, after it was over, I asked one of her road crew if there was any way I could meet her. (Hey, the worst they can say is "no," right?) He looked a little skeptical, so I started to tell him about my American Values Project, since Lucinda had spoken quite a bit about #OWS during her show and I thought she might be sympathetic to a project like ours. As it turns out, she was. My friend and I got invited onto Lucinda's tour bus, where we spent about an hour talking, laughing, and taking photos (of her and her whole band) for the American Values Project. Lucinda was warm and funny and smart and committed to good politics, just as I hoped she would be in "real" life.

Antjie Krog at Rhodes: In another getting-to-meet-my-idols story, I had the good fortune to meet and serve on a panel with Antjie Krog, South African poet, journalist and author. Krog was one of the reporters who covered the proceedings of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission and wrote Country of My Skull recounting that experience. She came to Rhodes this past week to deliver a lecture and poetry reading, both of which drew an overflowing audience. Thanks to my good friend, Mark Behr (who organized Krog's visit), I got to spend a lot of time with Krog. She is, in almost every conceivable way, the very model of an engaged intellectual. I don't think there's been any academic, other than Derrida, who has had me so star-struck upon meeting them. Krog not only has a very powerful presence about her, she IS a presence-- a soft-spoken, slight, mild-looking woman who commands attention and respect with the power of her words alone. Greatest moment: getting to discuss my weak humanism ideas with her, outside on a deck, smoking an after-dinner cigarette.

American Values Project: I've also been really busy with the American Values Project this semester, which has launched a new website and a new Facebook page. Rhodes College also gave AVP two new assistants this year, and their addition has helped a lot. We recently participated in an event sponsored by CODA (the Center for Outreach and Development of the Arts) called "Exhibition Momentum," where we were able to take AVP photos of people, print them out, and create a real-time collage of those image on the Jack Robinson Gallery's wall. The AVP team is really committed to keeping this project going, and we're still working toward creating a physical exhibit of the images that could travel the country during the 2012 Presidential campaign season. So, if you haven't submitted a photo to the project yet, please do so! And if you have submitted a photo, please spread the word and encourage others to do so! The AVP began right here on this blog back in February of this year, and since then we've been shown at a gallery in New York City, been featured on the Rhodes College website, grown the size of our team by 200%, and even gotten celebrities to contribute! Sometimes, when I'm buried in the mundane business of the AVP, I think to myself that I shouldn't be so committed to this project. But I am.

Occupy Everything: Last, but not least, you may have noticed that we have a revolution on our hands. The occupation of Wall Street that began in September of this year has spread out across the nation. Initially dismissed as the content-less complaints of a marginalized few, the protesters have now taken on the sobriquet "the 99%", and their message is resonating with the heartland. Every week, it seems, their messages and strategies get more innovative, more powerful, more inclusive, and more insistent. It is no longer possible for any of us to dismiss their presence, and it's increasingly more difficult to ignore the systemic injustices to which they are calling our attention. Because of the Occupy Movement-- yes, it's really a MOVEMENT now-- I've had some of the most interesting and reflective discussions in my Marx classes in years. (No more of these problems!) All of the other interesting things that have been happening in my life in the last couple of months notwithstanding, I've missed the most blogging about OWS. More to come, for sure.

Okay, that should just about catch me up. Stay tuned!

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