My Day

I apologize for the preceding post which looks like it was written by an inveterate inebriate. I had a meeting, 3 lectures, two more meetings, and two appointments scheduled back-to-back, so everything had to be done on the run. I haven’t even had time to eat since 9 am today. Here are some things I have wanted to share all day:

– Now that I don’t use PowerPoint, students started noticing my outfits. All day today I’ve been hearing variations on “Professor, you are rocking this outfit!” from students. I dig that because I agree I was rocking my outfit today. Of course, my sister would slaughter me if she saw me go to work in it but while she isn’t here, I can indulge. The outfit features a black skirt with embroidered white flowers and a bright-red blouse with a mountain of frills.

– People on the Book Club hated the Teaching Naked book as much as I did. This makes me happy because it means I’m on the same wavelength with my colleagues.

– I almost brought students to tears with the harrowing tale of Jews expelled from Spain and the importance of Spain giving them citizenship 500 years later.

– I’m now making coq au vin because we have an enormous quantity of alcohol left after the party, and there isn’t anybody here to drink it.

Tonight I will do no more work. Instead, I will continue reading Wolitzer’s The Interestings. I’ve already read about half of it. I will finish it but getting through her very pretentious and cloying style of writing is getting to me. A review will follow but it will not be extremely kind.

Nothing is more disgusting than those whiteboards where you have to write with a marker and then use a stinky chemical liquid to wash off the writing. Who is the enemy of humanity that keeps buying these evil things for college classrooms?

I think that’s it for now. And what was your day like?


I asked for a grande iced Americano at our campus Starbucks and instead got a piping hot venti Americano and a lukewarm venti Americano. I could have waited for the correct third version but there is a limit on how much Americano even I can ingest.

I know there’s some cool metaphor hiding within the Americano adventure but I’m exhausted and can’t find it. The exhaustion is actually the reason for the Americanos.

Our Foreign Policy

What bothers me about the foreign policy of the US is how reactive it has become. I don’t see any evidence that there is a concerted plan, a goal that this country is trying to achieve with its foreign policy. This is why everything it does in the realm of foreign relations these days seems so weak and confused. 

“Let’s wait and see what Putin does. OK, this is what he did. Right. Now let’s wait some more and see what he does next. And for good measure, let’s warn him that we are gravely concerned and about to do something. Let’s see what he does next. . . and next. . . and next. . . and then for sure we will do something.”

Substitute ‘Putin’ with ISIS or Hamas or Israel or absolutely anything at all, and the result will still be the same.

The way I see it is that a foreign policy, in order to be successful, has to be guided by a goal or a set of considerations or, ideally, a philosophy of “our being in the world.” Then there would be no need to sit here, scratching our noodle, while everybody else is pursuing just this kind of actual philosophy. 

Putin has a philosophy. He wants Russia to be to the world what the US was in the XXth century. Ukraine has a complex and interesting foreign relations policy. Gosh, even ISIS has a concrete and specific goal. Yes, the Caliphate is an idiotic goal, but at least it is an actual plan. 

Even a bad goal is better than nothing. With a bad goal, people could argue, discuss, work to modify it. “Let’s use everybody in the world like a disposable piece of Kleenex to enrich ourselves and have a grand old time.” That’s, at least, a concrete philosophy people could choose to work for or against.

And I have a proposal for a much better philosophy of “being in the world.” I think it would make sense to dedicate ourselves to preventing the scenario of “the imagined community of the aggrieved and the sulky getting together and lashing out against those who are not as intimidated by the rapidly changing world.” Yes, that would involve taking a stand and actually having the courage to say “we” and “they.” While we are sitting here, wriggling in the polite terror of hurting somebody’s feelings, the less sensitive among the world’s players are creating real terror that will be visited upon us irrespective of how sensitive and polite we are.

Gosh, even W. with his “evil-doers” now makes me feel nostalgic after Obama’s endless “folks” and “whatever is happening.” 

P.S. Has anybody noticed how brilliant my recent posts have been? It’s like one flash of brilliance after another, if I say so myself.

What Comes After the Nation-State, Part VI

Reader el asked if there is a worst-case scenario for the post-nation state. Yes, of course, there is.

Benedict Anderson famously referred to the nation-state as an “imagined community.” A nation is an imagined community because there absolutely no possibility for the citizens of even a very small nation to see the entire country and meet every single citizen. This is why, for the nation to exist and have meaning, we need to imagine and re-imagine it every single day.

Now, the worst-case scenario for the post-nation state is that the collapse of the “imagined community” will be followed by the “imagined community of shared grievance.” I can’t remember for the life of me who coined this brilliant phrase but that genius was not me. Global media of communications enable everybody around the globe who feels vaguely aggrieved and left behind by the rapidly transforming world to get together and join in the hatred of those who have run too far ahead.

In case this sounds too cerebral, here is a real-life example. We are all seeing Russians nursing an extreme sense of grievance right now. They are obviously not even sure what they are  so upset about: NATO, EU, USSR, the West, their own miserable existence – who knows? They are upset and they are acting out. And do you think the vaguely aggrieved Russians might have something of value to give, say, to the similarly vaguely aggrieved ISIS?

This is the worst-case scenario of post-nationalism. The imagined community of the aggrieved and the sulky getting together and lashing out against those who are not as intimidated by the rapidly changing world.