News from Ferguson, MO

There seems to have been a leak to the effect that the grand jury will refuse to return an indictment against the officer who shot Michael Brown. There is also a rumor that the decision will be handed down very soon and that there will be massive protests in Ferguson and neighboring towns.

These are just rumors I’m sharing. I have no definitive source to quote. All I know is that today I was warned not to go near St. Louis in the coming days by three different people.

What’s your anti-whetstone?

Jonathan Mayhew posted a great question on his blog:

What’s your anti-whetstone?

It could be alcohol. For me, that is a way of shutting my mind down from time to time. Otherwise, the weight of intelligence could be overwhelming.

It could be the ease of not having to struggle very much to have your ideas accepted. You don’t have to be sharp because you are in a mediocre environment.

Maybe it’s a social thing: you can’t be as sharp as you want because that would make it socially uncomfortable for you. It’s easier not to be the asshole and just go along with the flow.

The anti-whetstone is what dulls your mind, over the long term.

I definitely need to shut my mind down every once in a while. My anti-whetstone is my news feed. When I feel like my brain is overloading, I start reading by blog roll obsessively. For instance, back in June / July when we were moving, I’d spend up to 5-6 hours a day (cumulatively) scanning my news feed. Between the visits of the contractor, the TV people, the electricity people, the real estate agents, the movers, etc., I’d do nothing else but scroll down the news feed, feverishly and constantly. 
When I was still a drinking person, alcohol was definitely my anti-whetstone.
And what is your mechanism to deal with the weight of intelligence?

Power of the Subconscious

I told my husband that we were going to celebrate today. When he asked what we were celebrating, I couldn’t say. It was only when a reader of this blog reminded me that today was the anniversary of the October Revolution* that I realized why I was feeling the need to celebrate. The power of the subconscious is, indeed, amazing.

* October Revolution is celebrated on November 7 because of the change in the calendar. The Russian Empire was on a different calendar before the revolution.

Religion and Revolution

Kotkin writes:

While it was true that almost all the leading lights of Georgia ‘ s Social Democrats emerged from the Tiflis Seminary – like the many radical members of the Jewish Labour Federation (Bund) produced at the famed Rabbinical School and Teachers’ Seminary in Wilno – that was partly because such places provided an education and strong dose of self – discipline.

Here Kotkin is allowing his belief in the all – conquering power of hard work and education to steer him away from a more profound analysis. The Russian revolution and the system that it ended up creating was based on a deeply religious model. Stalin recreated the Holy Trinity, the prayer corner, the adoration of the Holy remains,  etc in the supposedly atheist country he led.

The revolutionaries of the Russian Empire rejected the religions of their ancestors because they found a more convincing religion.

Middle-Class Stalin

Nobody is as incapable of preventing their ideology from seeping into their research output as historians. I knew who Kotkin, the author of the new biography of Stalin, votes for by page 2.

This isn’t a big problem in itself. I’m not looking for books written by robots. But it does get funny when the author of a scholarly book on Stalin begins to massage Stalin’s life into the narrative of the American dream. “And so little Stalin read a lot, excelled at school, tried to better himself, believed in God, and as a result of his hard work and religiosity, achieved great social mobility.”

It is also very funny how dedicated Kotkin is to proving that Stalin doesn’t come from a dirt – poor family in a tiny backwater town. In Kotkin’s world, it just isn’t possible to gain the importance Stalin did without growing up middle – class. Kotkin’s efforts to make Stalin’s family middle class are so intense that they smack of desperation.
I’m loving the book.