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Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

Archive for the day “May 20, 2011”

Terry Eagleton’s Why Marx Was Right: A Review, Part I

In a recent review, I criticized Ernesto Laclau for failing to decide who his intended audience was and writing consistently for that audience. The good news about Terry Eagleton’s new book Why Marx Was Right is that Eagleton is very clear on who he is writing for. His audience consists of hopeless illiterates who have fallen off a pumpkin cart fifteen seconds ago and have hit their heads against the ground really hard in the process. Nobody else would buy into the author’s truly egregious prevarications. I use the word “prevarication” with full understanding of what it implies. Eagleton is a highly erudite person, and it is simply not possible that in this book he speaks out of ignorance. To give an example, at the very beginning of Why Marx Was Right, Eagleton mentions that Marx drew his conclusions on basis of observing the

extraordinarily violent process by which an urban working class had been forged out of an uprooted peasantry in his own adopted country of England—a process which Brazil, China, Russia and India are living through today

The idea of uprooted peasants in today’s Russia is completely bizarre. All of Russia’s peasants were uprooted with the goal of creating an urban working class out of them during Stalin’s industrialization. I know that Marxists are given to wild leaps of imagination but, surely, not to the extent of imagining crowds of uprooted peasants marching through a country that has been heavily industrialized for decades?

Another equally ridiculous statement comes when Eagleton begins to enumerate the so-called achievements of the Soviet Union, a task he engages in with the earnestness of a brainless male cheer-leader:

Soviet Union played a heroic role in combating the evil of fascism, as well as in helping to topple colonialist powers. It also fostered the kind of solidarity among its citizens that Western nations seem able to muster only when they are killing the natives of other lands.

Given that the Soviet Union brought Hitler to power and promoted the imperialist goals of the Russian Empire, this statement sounds, at the very least, disingenuous. Eagleton’s suggestion that it “fostered solidarity among its citizens” is equally confusing since it is common knowledge that the Soviet Union exploded in a mass of ethnic conflicts beginning in 1989. These ethnic conflicts and their attendant genocides are still going on in many of the former Republics of the Soviet Union. I wonder if Eagleton ever heard the word “Chechnya” or asked himself which historical events promoted the feelings of solidarity that are still making the Russians and the Chechens slaughter each other. (In case you don’t know, in 1944 Stalin deported the entire Chechen and Ingush population, consisting approximately of 400,000 people to Siberia. About 30% of Chechens died during the deportation.) One has to be either completely cynical or in the throes of a massive attack of Alzheimer’s to use the word “solidarity” to describe the horrible relations between the different ethnic groups within the Soviet Union.

Eagleton is equally annoying when he pontificates about “the loss of women’s rights” that the collapse of the Soviet Union supposedly brought about. He gives no examples, of course, which is a shame because, as a woman who has lived through the collapse of the Soviet Union, I would surely love to hear which of my rights were lost as the Soviet Union fell apart.

Does Eagleton refer to the right to abortion as the only form of contraception available in the Soviet Union, which led many women to undergo dozens of abortions within their lifetime? Abortion is still free and legal in the non-Muslim republics of the former Soviet Union. Now, however, people have easy access to condoms, oral contraceptives, IUDs, patches, etc. Absolutely none of this was available to the citizens of the USSR.

Maybe Eagleton is talking about the horrifying sexual harassment that existed everywhere in the USSR and for which there was no legal remedy? It is still present everywhere in the FSU (former Soviet Union), but at least now there are people who have discovered the word “feminism” and are speaking out against it.

Is it possible that Eagleton is talking about the absolute lack of any hygienic aides to menstruation? Now, women of the FSU have the same choice of tampons and sanitary pads as women in all developed countries. And if you think that this is not a big deal, I strongly suggest you go through a single menstruation with no methods of hygiene available to you. (And please don’t ask me why we didn’t just use cotton wool and gauze. It was easier to encounter diamonds growing on fir-trees than buy cotton wool and gauze in the Soviet Union).

(To be continued. . .)

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Two Hours of Writing

Completing my two hours of writing for the day makes me feel self-righteous (in a good way), at peace, and guilt-free about lying in the bathtub for a long time, reading a very silly new book by Terry Eagleton. (A review is forthcoming.)

The Folder

I have received the dreaded midpoint tenure review folder that will have to be filled with paperwork testifying to my achievements halfway down the tenure-track road.

I have seen many folders in my life. In fact, I’m somewhat of a folder fanatic. I love buying huge folders to organize my paperwork. This folder, however, is the biggest I have ever seen. It is subdivided by 34 tabs. Something needs to be placed in most of them. (I’m reasonably sure I can skip the tab titled “Recitals”).

Since the folder is so important (and did I mention huge?), I have removed it from my office that has been overrun with birds in a truly Hitchcockian fashion. I’m afraid that handing in a bird poop-covered folder will reveal too much of my true sentiments about bureaucracy. In my opinion, everything one needs to know about a professor’s progress towards tenure can be gleaned from his or her CV. The rest of paperwork is an excuse for the bureaucrats to keep getting their humongous salaries. And an excuse for wasting our time on useless rubbish yet again.

As Long As There Are Teenagers Like This One. . .

. . . this country will be fine. It is very heartening to see teenagers who understand what this country is supposed to be about and who fight for the rights granted to them by the constitution. A high school senior in Louisiana has taken a stand against his school’s plans to force the graduating class to participate in a collective prayer. (Jesus is rolling in his grave at the idea that a Christian prayer can be collective and public.) Here is what this intelligent student had to say:

My graduation from high school is this Friday. I live in the Bible Belt of the United States. The school was going to perform a prayer at graduation, but due to me sending the superintendent an email stating it was against Louisiana state law and that I would be forced to contact the ACLU if they ignored me, they ceased it. The school backed down, but that’s when the shitstorm rolled in. Everyone is trying to get it back in the ceremony now. I’m not worried about it, but everyone hates me… kind of worried about attending graduation now. It’s attracted more hostility than I thought.

Thanks to the Internet, Damon Fowler can make these egregious attempts at violating his rights widely known. Crowds of students are brainwashed by fundamentalists in our schools. Mr. Fowler has demonstrated to them that they can fight for their right not to be molested by shows of fake religiosity just because they are trying to get an education.

What’s with the Apocalyptic Posts?

I scrolled down my blogroll just now and the number of times references to the end of the world appear in blog posts today is staggering. I’m old enough to have gone through several “the world is about to end” moments. The best one was on New Year’s eve 2000. That one, at least, made sense, since many people thought it was the beginning of a new millennium.

Why has the interest in the topic suddenly revived today? Does anybody know? Or is it simply that people have difficulty finding topics to blog about this week?

Disqus Sucks Dick

I am beyond frustrated with this stupid Disqus commenting system, people. It either prevents me from commenting at all or attempts to reveal my real name. Which I never in a million years authorized it to do or entered into any boxes connected with Disqus. It simply accessed my private data without my permission and is now attempting to make it known to the world.

Recently, it has become fashionable among bloggers to adopt the stupid sucky Disqus as their commenting system. I, for one, have not been able to find a way to publish comments with Disqus in the format I prefer (one which would link to my blog, so that people know who I am and the blog gets promoted.) This means that I will not be commenting on blogs that have adopted this policy any more.

My advice is: if you thinking about adopting Disqus, think again. I can promise that you will lose commenters. One has to be really desperate to post a comment to subject oneself to the aggravation of this nasty system.

“Something Wrong? Give Birth!”

One of the consequences of the rise of racism in Russia is a widespread conviction that Russian people procreate at a slower rate than those pesky dark-skinned folks. This is supposedly about to lead to the Russian culture being devoured by the hordes of brown people. I am not aware of any other place in our overpopulated world where the apocalyptic discussions about how we are all dying out and one needs to procreate as much as possible to prevent that from happening would be as common as in Russia. Even seemingly educated, progressive people have been deeply affected by the constant government propaganda telling people how they are procreating too little and what dire consequences this will have to the very survival of their culture. I have nothing against people procreating as much or as little as they wish, of course. What I find disturbing, though, is a trend towards exhorting people to give birth as part of combating “the brown threat.”

On May 18, a governmentally sponsored group “Our People” that is known for the racist overtones in its propaganda organized senior citizens to participate in an action aimed at convincing people to procreate. Senior citizens had white slips over their clothes that said, “Something wrong? Give birth!” Their goal was to occupy all seats in a subway car and only allow disabled people and pregnant women to sit down. They approached young people and distributed brochures to them, explaining how it was their duty to procreate as soon and as much as possible.

Here are more photos of the “Give Birth!” campaign. If you can read the discussion that accompanies the post I linked to, you will see that even though most people realize that the senior citizens only took part in this campaign because they were paid to do so by the government, still people support the campaign and find it to be “cool.”

Here are the participants of the action in a Moscow subway station

Blogger Still Malfunctioning

It sounds like Blogger is still unable to recover from its recent malfunction. Bigger sites that are hosted by Blogger have been having issues with posting and editing today and yesterday. Here is, for example, what the folks at College Misery report:

It is still impossible for most of us to edit posts. Commenting seems to be working for everyone. These problems are widespread. Many readers have asked me this, and I have tested WordPress as a possible location for this blog. But I do not like the formatting options available there. So I ask your patience as Blogger continues to recover from their major meltdown of last week.
This makes me feel glad that I moved to WordPress and saved myself the aggravation of waking up to yet another bout of issues with Blogger. In the aftermath of the meltdown, it never felt like Blogger achieved any degree of stability. I’m afraid their issues are too major to be repaired any time soon.
I wish the people who blog with Blogger a very fast resolution to these blogging troubles.

First Visitor From China

And now that I have abandoned the previous version of the blog, I got my very first visitor of China come to it.

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