Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Mind of the South

We were at a party last night and Adrian says "Look what I got: The Mind of the South," and say "Cool. Uh, what's that?" So he hands me the book and I flip immediately to page 53:

Such is the primary picture. But I must not leave the theme without calling your attention specifically to the stimulation of the tendency to violence... Nor must I leave it without pointing to two significant patterns which grew up in the closest association with this romanticism and hedonism and served it as channels of discharge.
The first of these is the Southern fondness for rhetoric. A gorgeous primitive art addressed to the autonomic system and not to the enchephalon, rhetoric is of course dear to the simple man everywhere...
Well, I read that and laughed and thought "What the hell is this?" and we all got a chuckle out of its ornate prose and "fondness for rhetoric."

I am no longer making fun of the book, though. I've been flipping through it and, while it is "primitive" in its approach to social sciences and says sweeping, generalizing things like "The Yankee" and "The Southerner" and "The Negro" all the time, W.J. Cash's book is truly interesting. Right now I'm reading p. 331 where he is listing a whole slew of incidents in which professors at various universities have been fired for saying things like "The North was generally in the right" or Booker T. Washington was a great man. Earlier, Cash goes into the whole idea of victimization in "The Southerner." I can only say that this foreshadows the current nativist trends in the Republican party, the militia movement and various right winger purveyors of hate. His writing is thus an ancestor to books I love like What's the Matter with Kansas?, Nixonland, and, obviously with Wendell Berry's stuff.

Cash's condemnation and deconstruction of lynching as a practice are great too. At one point he draws the obvious parallel that the KKK and the Nazi's are of a cloth: "In its essence the thing was an authentic folk movement--at least as fully such as the Nazi movement in Germany, to which it was not without kinship" (344). (Remember, this book appeared in 1941, so he doesn't need film reels of concentration camps to figure things out.) He goes on to relate the growth of the Klan in class terms: "Its body was made up of common whites, industrial and rural. But its blood, if I may continue the figure, came from the upper orders" (344). His point was, of course, that he saw through the upper class' self-interest. The KKK was being used in part to keep workers divided along racial lines.

Ok, I'm going to read now.

Thanks, Adrian. Much, much more interesting than I had thought.

Friday, November 14, 2008

No on Prop 8

Courage Campaign asks you to sign their petition. 180k have so far. Why not you?

Thursday, November 13, 2008


The Republican party is either full of ingrates, ashamed of its history, or some of both:
To understand Nixon’s pivotal role in American history, it is essential to see how he helped turn his personal anxieties into political arguments, remaking his own insecurities into right-wing populist messages. Rick Perlstein’s superb recent book Nixonland provides a fascinating account of Nixon’s rise that ties together his private story with the larger saga of American conservatism.
 Of course,  I teach at his alma mater, so it's a tribute to our college's long legacy of advocating for peace, social justice, and tenure that I say this.

Keynes, Our Economic Times and a Liberal Education

The world-traveling alum strikes again with this find in Asia Times.  The article begins with a quote by Keynes, which should be enough to lure you in...

The power to become habituated to his surroundings is a marked characteristic of mankind. Very few of us realize with conviction the intensely unusual, unstable, complicated, unreliable, temporary nature of the economic organization by which Western Europe has lived for the last half century. We assume some of the most peculiar and temporary of our late advantages as natural, permanent, and to be depended on, and we lay our plans accordingly. On this sandy and false foundation we scheme for social improvement and dress our political platforms, pursue our animosities and particular ambitions ... [John Maynard Keynes, The Economic Consequences of the Peace], 1920
Keynes was a genius. Read the article and see what kind of shape we're in and what kind of thinking it's going to take to get us out.  GCS students, you'll be reading some of this.

When students graduate with an interest and some understanding of the world I feel a sense of pride and a renewed belief in the liberal eduation.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fast cars, clean bodies...

Kristin Ross is a good writer:

"And the primary victims and arbiters of social reproduction, as the subjects of everydayness and as those most subjected to it, as the class of people most responsible for consumption, and those responsible for the complex movement whereby the social existence of human beings is produced and reproduced, are the everyday: its managers, its embodiment." (Ross 77)
A student sent me this today....

By Marwaan Macan-Markar

BANGKOK - The largest island off west coast is emerging as another frontier for China's expanding plans to extract the rich oil and gas reserves of military-ruled Myanmar.

Initial explorations by a consortium, led by China National Offshore
Oil Company (CNOOC), has left a deep scar on Ramree Island, which is twice the size of Singapore and home to about 400,000 people. ''They have destroyed rice fields and plantations when conducting the seismic surveys and mining the island in search of oil,'' says Jockai Khaing, director of Arakan Oil Watch (AOW), an environmental group of Myanmar people living in exile.

''The local communities have been directly and indirectly affected,'' he said. ''Hundreds of people have been forced to relocate as a result of the drilling conducted near their communities. The locals hate the Chinese; their world has become crazy after the Chinese arrived.''

CNOOC has been pushing ahead with its work since early 2005 with no attempt to consult the local residents and showing little regard to such notions as corporate social responsibility, said Jockai. The Chinese company, which is listed on the New York and the Hong Kong stock exchanges, has ''not conducted the required environmental impact assessments and social impact assessments that are recognized internationally as a must before exploration work begins.''

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Resigning feels good

I resigned from a position I was filling on campus this week.  It was time for new blood and, frankly, I was getting tired.

That's why it feels so good to stop. 

Seriously, it was fun, I learned a lot, I made some new friends, I tried some new things, I worked with some great colleagues, I got really tired.  Now I'm done!

Sunday, November 09, 2008