Somebody on my FB is ranting in defense of the plagiarizing poet I mentioned over the weekend. First of all, she didn’t plagiarize, he says. And even if she did, it was by accident. And even if it wasn’t, she’s a good person, which is what matters. And anyway, there are greater tragedies in the world.
What makes the situation even more delightful, this same fellow recently posted a long screed condemning Columbus for not anticipating, back in the XVth century, the moral code of the XXIst and not living up to it.
Of course, it’s easy to pass judgement when it doesn’t obligate you to do anything. As an acquaintance says, “I love fishing because fish don’t talk back.” Columbus doesn’t talk back, so it’s a pleasure to take him to task.
My FB friend is not the only one. A bunch of writers published a letter in support of the plagiarist. Because she didn’t do it, and even if she did, etc, etc.
I prefer to read Spanish-language books on history and history of literature because there are none of the triumphalist, self-aggrandizing and moralistic pseudo-revelations about how the “evil West despoiled the rest” that comprise up to 80% of the English-language books of this kind. Of course, the manuals in question have to be published in Spanish-speaking countries. The moment an author moves here, s\he begins to parrot these boring narratives in the most subservient ways ever because nothing else pays.
By God, I’ve been reading a new textbook on the early Middle Ages, and it’s all written in the Melissa-McEwanish jargon of the 21st-century American narcissism. It’s ridiculous that a person who is simply trying to learn about the 7th century should be subjected to page after page of these inane and idiotic proclamations about the decided inferiority of the Western culture to a vague everything else.
And it’s not just one book. These demonstrations of narcissistic woundedness are everywhere.
What drives me nuts is that whenever the issue of people being hounded on campus arises, all everybody wants to discuss is whether they agree with that person’s ideas. Or, which is more likely, with somebody’s clumsy retelling of a retelling of those ideas. It’s like that old Soviet joke where a fellow says, “Gosh, that Pavarotti guy can’t sing worth a damn. He’s horrible. Rabinowitz sang me a couple of Pavarotti’s tunes and they stank.”
A university should be a place for a free exchange of ideas. Not “ideas I like and approve.” Just ideas. All of them.
As I keep saying, there need to be at least a couple of general principles that guide your actions. But people have been so colonized by neoliberalism that the only principle they can accept is “whatever doesn’t give me warm and fuzzy feelings of comfort is bad and should be screamed down.” Neoliberalism tries to transform us all into infants with their insatiable needs, their incapacity to stand any frustration of their desires, their intolerance of delayed gratification, their complete dependence, their existence outside the realm of the word and within the realm of emotion.
That’s what we need to resist. Everybody on their own and all of us together.