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Saturday, January 10, 2015

Hashtagging Solidarity

The printing press, the telephone, the automobile, the airplane: each in their own way radically shrunk the world, diminished the power of mere distance to maintain our strangeness to one another.  Yet, arguably, no human innovation has served as a greater tool for transcending Nature's most seemingly impregnable boundaries, space and time, than the World Wide Web. The Internet, that curious and most favored tool of our particular variety of talking ape, also has facilitated the trespassing of infinitely more complex human-constructed borders, those of nation, culture, even language.  It quite literally translates, deciphers and transmits the foreign, the distant and the strange in an instant, on command.

Alas, the one remaining boundary the Internet has not yet broken, because (as some philosophers have argued) it cannot be broken, is the one that delimits the space of idiosyncratic subjective experience, if not also the idiosyncratic relations of that subject to the purlieu and milieu in which its experiences are experienced.  During the last several months, we've seen several noble efforts at border-crossing the empathy/sympathy divide, efforts that more or less amount to digitally establishing communities, both in the positive sense of solidarity (#BlackLivesMatter, #JeSuisCharlie, #ICantBreathe, #YesAllWomen) and in its negative sense (#NotAllMen, #NotAllCops, #NotAllMuslims, #IamNotCharlie).  There is an interesting existential symmetry to both these negative and positive labors-- "I am x, like you" and "I am, like you, not-x"-- as they likewise attempt to articulate, express and encode what are in effect shibboleths.  Because their codes are meant to be deciphered, because they are intended not to be secrets but rather passwords, they both reinforce and threaten the borders of the very communites they mean to establish each time they are uttered in public.

Monday, January 05, 2015

It's the Exploited Labor, Stupid

Despite much well-earned Sturm und Drang in the last few years surrounding the so-called crisis in the humanities, the regrettably pernicious corporatization of higher education, the imminent death of American universities, the (at turns, but more often in conjunction) sexist, racist, homophobic, classist and just garden-variety asshole-ish paucity of civility/collegiality in academia-- especially in the discipline of Philosophy--  I sometimes fear we may have lost sight of the really important, in fact, core malady that continues to plague, sicken and weaken the the quality of higher education in the United States. If I may, allow me to channel for a moment my inner James Carville-- to my mind, one of the most brilliant American political strategists of the 20thC who is not also a war criminal (see here and here for his less illustrious competitors)-- and say what is already painfully, desperately, economically and existentially OBVIOUS to more than 50% of faculty working in higher education today:

It's the exploited labor, stupid.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

We'll Get By With A Little Help From Our Friends: Dr. J's 2015 Signal-Boosts

Just a few months ago, in September, I somewhat unceremoniously celebrated my 8th year at the helm of this still-imperfect, though incrementally improving, work-in-progress blog.  My first couple of years were an experiment, to be sure, but I found my stride here at RMWMTMBM around 2008 or so, and it's been mostly gravy since. I'm actually proud to say that the tagline I initially chose for this blog-- "where philosophy, music, politics and pop culture get equal deconstruction"-- has remained descriptively accurate and even has become more so over the years.  For what it's worth,  if I were given it all to do over again, I still would have chosen the title of this blog to be "Read More, Write More, Think More, Be More," despite its being a mouthful and, as far as I can tell, mostly guessed-at by any and everyone who searches for it on Google.  (Keep faith, grasshoppers, you can still get here even if your rendition is mangled!)  This blog's title has been, and remains, the very FIRST rule on my list of "Dr. J's Rules," which I have included on every one of my course syllabi since 2007.  It may also be the one thing I've said publicly and repeatedly that other people quote back to me most often.  Should I die today with no other legacy, I'll be happy to have that one.

Today, as RMWMTMBM inches ever closer to 400K "unique" hits-- which is pretty impressive given how irregular (for personal and professional reasons) my attention to this blog has been for the past couple of years-- I figured it's long past time for me to utilize whatever internet-traffic power I have for the good.  So, let me hand out a few signal-boosts to those who deserve it.