Through the Eyes of a Stranger: Where is the World Located?

It really annoys me when what could have been a good, informative article is ruined by a ridiculous, offensive title. I just discovered a piece that lists important but sadly forgotten resistance movements in the US. The subject matter of the article sounded fascinating, so I sat down to read it with interest. The moment I saw the article’s title, however, I lost all interest for what its author had to say on any issue:

Beyond Occupy Wall Street: 11 American Uprisings You’ve Never Heard of That Changed the World

I’m sure that these were important uprisings that helped shape this country. The world, however, could care less about the Lowell Mill Women’s Strikes of 1830ies or the Flint Sit-Down Strike of 1936. Other countries had their own strikes, uprisings, problems and victories. So please, let’s stop with the annoying “an American took a particularly successful dump and it changed the world.” And no, the entire planet was not waiting with bated breath for the verdict in the OJ Simpson case.

If anybody tries to tell me this is just a figure of speech, all I can say is that it’s a really counter-productive one. If the author exaggerates the effect of these uprisings on the world, how can we trust him not to exaggerate their importance to the US? One could maybe try to make a case that the two world wars were events that changed the world. Maybe. Other than that, I can’t find a context where this expression can be even remotely useful.

19 thoughts on “Through the Eyes of a Stranger: Where is the World Located?

  1. “Other than that, I can’t find a context where this expression can be even remotely useful.”

    I disagree, for instance the Russian revolution led to events that still resonate in many parts of the world even now.

    I particularly picked that example because of your special expertise in the area 🙂


      1. //Also, I wouldn’t call it “Russian” because there weren’t that many Russians organizing it.//

        You mean it’s all Jewish fault?


        1. Stalin was Georgian, as far as I remember. 🙂 Also, the were crowds of Ukrainian, Polish and Baltic revolutionaries. You remember the Latvian shooters, right?

          Also, using the word “fault” makes it sound like this wasn’t a hugely progressive transformative event that destroyed a vicious, anti-Semitic repressive empire.


      2. My son recently acquired some civil defense brochures from the early 60’s. Telling us what to do in case of nuclear attack ?
        I went to primary school in the UK in late 60’s we had some air raid practice in case of nuclear attack (we still had air raid shelters left over from WWII).

        It was unspoken but it was expected these attacks would come from the USSR.


  2. I wanted to ask you this and there is no suitable post, so I hope it’s OK to post here.

    Something has been bothering me today – “Aaron Stark”. I wonder about Edwin Robinson, whose “Richard Cory” is studied in many (most?) Israeli high schools. Is the following poem antisemitic?

    Aaron Stark

    Withal a meagre man was Aaron Stark, —
    Cursed and unkempt, shrewd, shrivelled, and morose.
    A miser was he, with a miser’s nose,
    And eyes like little dollars in the dark.
    His thin, pinched mouth was nothing but a mark;
    And when he spoke there came like sullen blows
    Through scattered fangs a few snarled words and close,
    As if a cur were chary of its bark.

    Glad for the murmur of his hard renown,
    Year after year he shambled through the town, —
    A loveless exile moving with a staff;
    And oftentimes there crept into his ears
    A sound of alien pity, touched with tears, —
    And then (and only then) did Aaron laugh.

    I don’t think I understand it fully. At first, I thought Aaron laughed at people pitying *him*. Then I changed my mind – the pity was shown to others, with Aaron laughing at those pitying folks’ naivity of how the cruel world works.

    Were you taught *to analyze* lit during your degree? Like profs explaining how you should start analyzing a novel/poem or one has to teach oneself through reading others’ good analysis? I tried to read discussions of some poems on Internet. That’s it or is there a better way? The question is how I can understand what I don’t understand and reach good analysis, if possible. Many times I read a poem and am sure it escapes me, at least partly. If I would improve myself, I would be able to open a blog f.e. with my favorite poems and thoughts on them.

    Last question is about WordPress platform. Can you add only wordpress blogs in your friends’ page/reading wall (forgot the name of it) or all kinds of blogging platforms? F.e. in lj friends’ page one can add only lj blogs.


    1. As for WordPress, I don’t use their Follow function almost ever. I just add all of the sites I follow into my Google reader. There are already 632 of them Google reader is great because you can add any blog to it, irrespective of the platform.

      I’ll respond about the poem later, after my class. I find it really wonderful. Thank you for posting it here because I’d never heard it before.


    2. OK, about poetry. I admittedly suck something fierce when analyzing poetry. The word “prosody” terrifies me. So I always do the unthinkable and analyze poems as if they were mini-novels. (Horrible philistine me!)

      The good news is that no work of art (especially no poem) has one correct reading. A poem is what you make of it, what I make of it, etc.

      Take, for example, my most favorite favorite favorite (yes, three times) poem in the entire world:

      Сестры тяжесть и нежность, одинаковы ваши приметы.
      Медуницы и осы тяжелую розу сосут.
      Человек умирает. Песок остывает согретый,
      И вчерашнее солнце на черных носилках несут.

      Ах, тяжелые соты и нежные сети,
      Легче камень поднять, чем имя твое повторить!
      У меня остается одна забота на свете:
      Золотая забота, как времени бремя избыть.

      Словно темную воду, я пью помутившийся воздух.
      Время вспахано плугом, и роза землею была.
      В медленном водовороте тяжелые нежные розы,
      Розы тяжесть и нежность в двойные венки заплела!

      (Sorry, everybody, but it is really not the same in translation and I can’t make myself put the translation here. It needs to be recited aloud in order for its beauty to be brought out.)

      I’ve been discussing this poem for over a decade with another person who loves it. And we have completely different readings of it. Our readings are from two different planets. So it makes no sense to look for one concrete, correct answer.

      Maybe one day I’ll recite this poem, record it, and place it here on the blog. And then people will realize how beautiful it is. Whenever I recite it even to those who don’t know a word of Russian, they keep asking me to repeat the performance. 🙂


      1. //Maybe one day I’ll recite this poem, record it, and place it here on the blog.

        Great idea. I would also love to read your interpretation in this post.

        RE “Aaron Stark”, why don’t you think it’s antisemitic?


      2. I usually don’t think I can understand such symbolic poems, but here since it’s your favorite I’ll try (never read Mandelshtam, so…) Probably what I’ll say is something basic both you and your friend agree on?

        I think тяжесть и нежность may be viewed as the usual poetical imagery of love & suffering. No matter what you love in this life, one day your yesterday’s sun will be seen на черных носилках, dead. In the second stanza he talks about his dead beloved.

        2nd stanza: he starts describing his specific situation. тяжелые соты – heavy both since he has lots of good memories and since now, after she died, returning to those memories of happiness bring great pain. May be he is waiting for his death since that’s all he feels is left, but it’s Золотая забота so it can’t all be 100% bad. So he feels he has to live his life in a way… f.e. a way which he won’t feel ashamed to tell her when they meet in the other world. To continue working and striving to the end despite the great pain, “to shine in use” instead of rusting as an useless instrument.

        3rd stanza: after her death even fresh air seems помутившийся,
        Время вспахано плугом, и роза землею была.
        He lost track of time after the rose (she) turned to earth (?)
        В медленном водовороте тяжелые нежные розы,
        Розы тяжесть и нежность в двойные венки заплела!
        In водоворот of time all are carried to the end (death) and all love turns to sorrow.


        1. For me, this is a highly erotic poem. If you read it out loud, I think it becomes evident. The last stanza is fully orgasmic.

          For a friend of mine, this is a political statement.

          For another friend of mine, this is all about the poet’s Jewish identity.


  3. We had a referendum here to try and ban the communist part of Australia. The reaction of the west to the rise of communism in the USSR lasted a long time.


  4. Thank you! If you liked it, may be you could say a word about another Robinson’s poem too? Similar to “Aaron Stark”, I feel the magnetism, “The Rat” impressed me most out of Robinson’s poems, but again this frustration of a simple poem escaping.

    The Rat

    As often as he let himself be seen
    We pitied him, or scorned him, or deplored
    The inscrutable profusion of the Lord
    Who shaped as one of us a thing so mean—
    Who made him human when he might have been
    A rat, and so been wholly in accord
    With any other creature we abhorred
    As always useless and not always clean.

    Now he is hiding all alone somewhere,
    And in a final hole not ready then;
    For now he is among those over there
    Who are not coming back to us again.
    And we who do the fiction of our share
    Say less of rats and rather more of men.

    Here you can download more of his poems:

    From 1st stanza I see the “rat” is a poor man, living on the fringe of the society, probably even homeless (“as often as he let himself be seen”, “not always clean”). With a bad temper. Not working? (“always useless”). In the 2nd stanza he is in a grave (“a final hole” as opposed to metaphoric holes he used to frequent in his rat-like life). I see “hiding all alone somewhere” meaning as all people go somewhere alone after they die that we can’t know about. For a long time I missed why their opinion of him suddenly changed, seeing only “not talk bad of the dead” aspect and understanding “among those over there” = “dead”. Now after reading about Robinson – “Suddenly, with the poetic revival that preceded World War I, Robinson began to play a major role as a poet” – I suddenly got 1 good idea at last. “among those” = the fallen soldiers, who are not coming back from the war. Since English isn’t my mother tongue I got difficulty RE the word’s “fiction” meaning (“do the fiction of our share”), thinking it simply means “a part of”, as general respect to dead. Then after getting the war idea saw “fiction” = their task in the sharing the sacrifices of war, giving respect to the fallen soldiers. Now I looked at Multitran dictionary translating fiction as:

    fiction – вымысел; выдумка авиа.мед. мнимость; фантазия

    Could it be that the speaker understands that all real sacrifice is on the soldiers, while the judging town folks perform only “the fiction” of sharing it, the minimum of the minimum of not not talking badly of the man after he died and can’t benefit from it anyway? Probably they too understand it, the “fiction aspect”, I am unsure, but they do get now they misjudged the man (“we … say… rather more of men”).

    Probably I should publish the analysis in another place/blog? I have the tendency of being obsessed, a fan, carried on once I start, as I’ve just done here. If you’re interested in the poem, I would love to hear what I missed and what falls short of a good analysis you would demand in your class.


    1. Forgot to mention, the poor (not in money sense) Rat then saw 3 kinds of holes in his life:
      metaphoric holes –> trenches at war —> “a final hole”
      And 2 kinds of hiding:
      “as often as he let himself be seen” probably due to seeing how others looked at him, he preferred to be alone most of the time –> “hiding all alone somewhere” after dying he is as if hiding somewhere where living can’t follow (alive)
      And possibly hiding his better nature, his character, while he was alive, before the war.
      May be he volunteered to enlist and/or died as a hero. Otherwise, others won’t be persuaded to change their view of him, imho.


  5. The most obnoxious thing is when they expect you to know about their history stuff.When someone says something like “That is Event X all over again!” and then goes “What?! How could you possibly not now what/how important Event X was?!” when you ask them what they are talking about.


  6. And the last Robinson’s poem I’ll post on your blog, which is still a mystery to me. In the lesson plans for teachers I found – “With this lesson, students discuss multiple interpretations of E. A. Robinson’s mysterious poem, Reuben Bright, selecting five interpretations to record on a page in their notebooks.” So I am heartened to see it’s really not very clear, not just me not seeing what’s going on. (In “The Rat” it was obviously about a war, right? Sometimes I get a case of Not Seeing Obvious Things).

    Reuben Bright

    Because he was a butcher and thereby
    Did earn an honest living (and did right),
    I would not have you think that Reuben Bright
    Was any more a brute than you or I;
    For when they told him that his wife must die,
    He stared at them, and shook with grief and fright,
    And cried like a great baby half that night,
    And made the women cry to see him cry.

    And after she was dead, and he had paid
    The singers and the sexton and the rest,
    He packed a lot of things that she had made
    Most mournfully away in an old chest
    Of hers, and put some chopped-up cedar boughs
    In with them, and tore down the slaughter-house.

    I don’t get why he would put cedar boughs (I think they’re from a tree, not from the slaughter-house?) in this old chest “and tore down the slaughter-house”. If those cedar boughs are from the slaughter-house, not from a new fallen tree, it works (since he puts all his old life in this chest). So, people have some tendency to think him “a brute” because of the profession and the speaker warns against it in “I would not have you think”. Why “tore down the slaughter-house”? Because his life ended with his wife’s death for him and he didn’t want to continue working, which is only a part of not wanting to continue living in general? Or something snapped in him after her death, making him more gentle (for lack of better word) inside so that he feels he can’t continue in this specific job? Or he can’t do anything the same way as before and feels a need for change (new job, new life)? Still only 3 interpretations here, not 5 as required.

    Which poems do you like best? I felt the magnetism of “The Rat” and “Aaron Stark”, until I got the name was Jewish and 😦 , but “Reuben Bright” and “Richard Cory” leave me cold.

    Btw, I got a similar case while reading Nikolay Nekrasov. Liked the poem Николай Некрасов – ГОРЕ СТАРОГО НАУМА until my mother opened my eyes Naym was Jewish, not old Russian name as I thought.
    Here it is in full, if you’re interested:

    Еще он видел на лету,
    Как встретились их очи,
    И вновь на юную чету
    Спустился полог ночи.

    Назад тихонько он ушел,
    И с той поры Наума
    Не узнают: он вечно зол,
    Сидит один угрюмо,

    Или пойдет бродить окрест
    И к ночи лишь вернется,
    Соленых рыжиков не ест,
    И чай ему не пьется.

    Забыл наливки настоять
    Душистой поленикой.
    Хозяйство стало упадать –
    Грозит урон великой!

    На счетах спутался не раз,
    Хоть счетчик был отменный…
    Две пары глаз, блаженных глаз,
    Горят пред ним бессменно!

    “Я сладко пил, я сладко ел,-
    Он думает уныло,-
    А кто мне в очи так смотрел?…”
    И всё ему постыло…

    If you read Nekrasov’s poem in full, you do agree it’s anti-Semitic, right? 😦


    1. Naum is originally a Jewish name, just like Mikhail, for example. But it became a commonly accepted Slavic name given to kids baptized in the Russian Orthodox Church. I really dislike Nekrasov, he’s not my kind of poet, so I don’t have much to say.


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