Passionate Marriages

People often underappreciate the extreme strength and longevity of marriages based on a deep contradiction.

My ultra-intellectual, extremely sensitive father lived for 47 years with my mother who despises everything intellectual and is. . . whatever the opposite of sensitive is.

My ultra-liberal friend is happily married to her deeply religious husband who is a church elder in his very conservative denomination.

I also know an older couple where she’s a mega-MAGA prancing from one Trump rally to another and he’s. . . well, not a Bernie bro but more of a Bernie grandpa. They are not tolerating each other for the sake of the grandchildren. They are really into each other.

There’s also a militant vegan married to an aggressive meat-eater, and their bond will be unbreakable until one manages to convert the other into their foodie faith.

I’m extremely happy in my marriage to N who has the most neoliberal subjectivity on the planet now that Milton Friedman passed away and who sincerely doesn’t understand why the USSR had to fall apart.

To have a good marriage, you need to have a reason to engage with each other passionately beyond sex. It’s easy to get lost in the details of daily life and not have any passionate engagement. Sometimes a kid intuits a problem and obliges by developing issues that require the parents’ intense involvement with each other. But a smarter approach is to leave the kids in peace and develop an ideological contradiction that will necessitate long, intense, passionate debates from which no household chores, screens, friends or hobbies can distract the couple.

I don’t know if opposites attract but they definitely work great long-term.

November First

The emails I regularly receive from the new president of my scholarly association give me spikes of high blood pressure. I’m not used to being micromanaged and condescended to, and it’s really getting to me. I resigned but it will take them forever to find somebody to substitute me. Today, I literally had to get off the elliptical 7 minutes into a workout because I got yet another pissy email from this person and decided not to continue while my BP was spiking.

While I was fuming over the untimely demise of my workout, I got an email from the director of the International Business program informing me that they will remove the foreign language requirement because (and I quote) “foreign languages and culture used to be very important but the modern world is different than 20 years ago and it’s no longer justified.” I have no idea what this means, and it’s not helping that the creator of this beautiful phrase has the same name as a ditzy pop star, which makes it even harder to fashion a serious reply.

On top of everything, my graduate assistant is failing her classes and will not be allowed to continue working for us in the spring. I can’t hire a new one because there’s a hiring freeze.

And how is your November going so far?

Why Doesn’t Putin Negotiate for Peace?

Even Putin – who is clearly not a president of a democratic country – can’t just decide to end the war. The stakes for him are much higher than for Zelensky. Zelensky wants to remain president while Putin wants to remain alive. Putin is sitting in the midst of a population of 140 million, 139 of which are very into the war. How is he supposed to tell him, “OK, guys, I changed my mind. Go home now”? On what planet would this work? There are hundreds of thousands of soldiers who have been fighting, who saw their comrades die. Are they going to forget it because some guy said something? How about the Russian soldiers who were incarcerated for violent crime and released to go to war? Will they happily return to prison? How is this supposed to work?

This tendency to see everything in terms of personal failures of isolated individuals is what I call neoliberal subjectivity. The idea that two (or three or five) guys caused a war and all that’s needed to end it is for these guys to hash things out among themselves is utterly nuts but people have absorbed this thinking to the point where they don’t notice how crazy it is.

We’ve seen this with COVID where people just couldn’t accept that modifications in personal behavior can’t stop a virus. We are seeing it in US politics where people get obsessed with personalities and don’t notice that policy exists outside of the personal failures or merits of presidents as individuals. We see it in the incapacity to appreciate works of art or achievements of scientists if their authors were not creatures of absolute, luminous, unmarred perfection.

Neoliberalism is the death of the “we” and the birth of the perennially wounded “I” in search of a symbolic Mommy who will be perfect and cure every ill with her unblemished goodness. But Mommy is the answer to every problem only in early infancy. After that, things get more complicated and sometimes even get to the point where no single individual – no matter how perfect – can solve the problem.

Why Doesn’t Zelensky Negotiate?

I’m very puzzled by people who keep saying that Zelensky should negotiate for peace with Russia. Not only did Russia at no point express any intention to withdraw its troops, Ukraine is not an autocracy. It’s a democratic country, which is what caused the war in the first place. Zelensky was elected to do the will of the people. Does anybody still remember what that means? He can’t just choose to negotiate if he has no mandate for it. There’s zero support in Ukraine for negotiations with Russia. Zelensky will not remain president if he decides to thwart the will of the people so blatantly.

There’s a million people fighting on the frontlines in Ukraine. And they are winning. How does anybody imagine that one person can tell them to admit defeat and go home? Why would they listen?

Sovereignty, democracy, agency and self-respect still have meaning to some people. To some countries, even. Especially the countries that want to remain countries and not turn into some global blob of isolated, brainwashed robots.

Telegram Woes

Does anybody know what’s happening with Telegram? It’s asking for my phone number and refuses me the access without it.

The only reason I wanted to use it is because the charitable organization for which I’m doing free translation is asking me to give them my Telegram contact. I used to be able to access it easily but now I have no access at all.

Darn Europeans and their obsession with apps. If it’s not FaceTime, or Telegram, it’s Whatsapp. So annoying.