The First Dinner at the New Place


And if I never have to move again, I will be a happy person. It’s the small things that will do me in. Where do all these completely indispensable tiny little objects come from? I’m having nightmares about heaps of small objects jumping out at me wherever I go.

Moving Tomorrow

One of the most poignant tests of a couple is how well they handle moving. I’m extremely proud that N and I handled this move (our second shared one and my fifth since we met) without the tiniest instance of annoyance, bickering, anger, or resentment of the “Why are you relaxing over there with a book while I’m cleaning out the fridge?” variety. This is true love, people.

“A move is the third biggest stressor,” my analyst says. “After the death of a spouse and a terminal diagnosis. . . But knowing you as I do, you are probably not even noticing.”

He’s my analyst, so he has to be kind. I’m noticing, of course. I’m exhausted in the extreme. But I’m using the situation – the stress, the fatigue, the feeling of being overwhelmed, the endless to-do lists – as a way of reinforcing my identity of an indomitable, undefeated person. And that’s very enjoyable.

Kharkiv Is Now in Ukraine

The Spanish newspaper El Pais is on a stupid streak. An article on the Russian writer and notorious neo-Nazi Limonov says that he “grew up in Kharkiv which is now located in Ukraine.” I grew up in Kharkiv and I can assure you that it was always in Ukraine. When Ukraine was part of the USSR, Kharkiv was still in Ukraine.

Kharkiv was founded in 1654 by a famous Ukrainian Cossack Kharko with the purpose of defending Ukraine’s borders. It was a major seat of Ukrainian Cossacks since the beginning of its existence and never identified as anything but a Ukrainian city. Nobody ever tried to claim it was anything but a Ukrainian city.

Today, the Russian-speaking Kharkiv is completely pro-Ukrainian. Russia smuggled propagandists and agitators across the border a few times but Kharkivites kicked their asses. Recently, Kharkivites became famous for a funny and obscene anti-Putin chant that became known all over the world. For instance, you could hear Algerian soccer fans chanting it during the World Cup.

Saying that “Kharkiv is now located in Ukraine” is as stupid as saying that “Madrid is now located in Spain.”

Is there any reason why mainstream journalists are not doing even a superficial online search before publishing garbage?

New Responsibility and Screw Networking

I have an unexpected new responsibility which is to review scholarly articles for journals in my field. I never contacted these journals to express my willingness to serve or asked to be considered as a reviewer. They find me on their own. And these are some of the most highly ranked journals in my field.

I have to say, it’s kind of cool to imagine an editor sitting in Liverpool, thinking, “OK, who do I know who can review an article on Bildungrsoman / Calderon / Spanish Civil War? What about this Clarissa person who keeps publishing in this field?”

It seems like I might become a superstar in my field even ahead of the schedule I set for myself. And the best part is that I’m proving that you don’t have to network, make connections, inflict yourself upon people’s notice. If you are not into that sort of demeaning stuff, your work will speak for you.

The State and the Individual, Part I

A state -any state – has the enormous and terrifying power to take an individual’s life. The state can send people to war, impose capital punishment, let the police officers shoot and kill, etc. such an extreme form of power has to be legitimated in some way. There needs to be something that makes this arrangement legitimate in our eyes.

In the pre-modern era, the state’s power to kill was legitimated by God. The king, the tsar, the archduke or whomever was the God-given ruler who was doing God’s will and that will was not to be questioned.

The XVIIIth century shattered religion and God couldn’t legitimate something as huge as the state killing people any longer. This was when the nation-state arose and offered a new contract: the state retains its exceptional right to kill and in return offers to look out for the citizens’ well-being.

When soldiers go to die in Iraq and say “We are going there to defend our freedoms”, this doesn’t mean that Iraq is threatening their freedom of speech or if conscience directly. It means that they are fulfilling their part of the bargain where the state guarantees them these freedoms and they are prepared to die when the state needs it.

Drunk Driving

We are moving tomorrow. And that is also the day when my summer course is ending. I’m so exhausted after everything I’ve had to do this month that on Friday I experienced the doibtful joys of drunk driving.

Obviously, when you learn to drive at my age, the idea of getting behind the wheel drunk is ridiculous. I wouldn’t drive even after taking just a tiny sip of alcohol. However, severe lack of sleep has a very similar effect to drunkenness, as I discovered. I only had a short trip to make from the new house to the old apartment, but I’m telling you, folks, I felt like a drunk driver the entire time. It was nearly impossible to drive in a straight line and not zigzag down the road. The good thing is that drivers around here are mostly very patient and polite, so they made way and didn’t even honk.

I also had a police car drive next to me half of the way. It would be very embarrassing to be stopped for careless driving only a month after I got my license.

I normally don’t need a whole lot of sleep but I definitely underesteemed how sleep-deprived I was. Conclusion: don’t drive drunk and don’t drive exhausted.

Russians and the Nation-State

Of course, Russians have to be original in everything they do, so they go and subvert the nation-state model from a different direction than Americans.

While Americans want the state to provide for their comfort and welfare but are refusing to die in the stae’s wars (which, at least, is a rational and logical position to take), Russians are ready to fulfill their part of the nation-state bargain without asking the state to do its part. Since January, Putin’s approval ratings soared. All he has done to deserve this is send Russians to die in Ukraine.

Americans would be asking, “And what are we getting out of this situation? What is the state giving us in return?” Russians, in the meanwhile, don’t even consider the possibility that the state might do something for them in return for their sacrifice.

Gavrilo Princip

The Spanish newspaper El Pais published an article today claiming that most historians agree that without Gavrilo Princip’s murder of Archduke Franz-Ferdinand exactly 100 years ago, the two world wars would not have begun.

This is, of course, a ridiculous lie because every historian I have ever read (and I read a lot of history) insists that Princip was completely insignificant and the war of 1914-1991 was inevitable. Gavrilo Princip is barely a footnote in scholarly studies of World War I.

Newspapers totally suck. And with the sorry state of the study of history in Spain, such narratives are quite dangerous because of how stupid and uninsightful they are. Epochal conflicts don’t start because an insignificant little fellow freaked out and did something. Even Hitler would have achieved nothing if millions weren’t ready joyfully to shove Jews into ovens.

Look at Putin today, for instance. He isn’t even remotely scary by himself. It is the enormous support he’s getting from the Russian people that makes him terrifying.

Who Destroyed the Nation-State?

So which country was the first one to shatter the nation-state model? I believe it’s the United States. The very public and very massive protests against the Vietnam War were a loud and clear rejection of the nation-state model.

The basic contract between the people and the state in this model is that the state does what it can to ensure the well-being of the people and to foster their emotional attachment to symbols of the state, and the people, in return, die enthusiastically and cheaply when the state needs to wage war.

When Americans bailed on the state so massively during one of the episodes of an epochal war, that signaled the end of the nation-state.