A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Archive for September 2002

A Test

I took the Meyers-Briggs test today. It’s not a test in the strictest sense, of course; the counsellor was quite specific about that, since apparently the term “test” implies a competitiveness that really shouldn’t be present. Rather, it’s supposed to determine what career paths I might want to follow. This is important, since right now I’m uncertain what I want to do apart from getting my Master’s degree in English. I look forward to discussing the results Friday.

(Oh. I should see if it conflicts with my appointment with Dr. Walker.)

I finished that essay on Progressivism as a fundamentally middle-class ideology of control at, oh, 10 am. It was only the rough draft, so I’m safe, I guess. I’ll talk with Dr. Walker to see if I can bring in Eugen Weber (France as a comparable case) and Foucault (the state as an essentially regulatory body). It’s out of place for this essay, but so what?

Written by Randy McDonald

September 30, 2002 at 5:01 pm

Posted in Assorted

Confusion

Right now, I’m confused about my future.

This isn’t unusual, I suppose, though I’ve reason to suspect that people who know me might be surprised by this. So far, I’ve no idea what to do with my life, apart from vague inclinations towards academia and writing. I’ll be going to Student Services and taking the Meyers-Briggs test; hopefully it will help me clarify things.

I’m not too concerned with this, though, since I’ve already gone through a much more serious confusion–linked with gut-gripping existential fear, too–already this year and emerged the stronger for it. (Yes, it was discovering I was bi.)

Lately, I’ve been going through my E-mail archives, when I came across the messages I’d exchanged with barely two weeks after my fateful realization. Craig was kind enough to offer to talk with my privately, and in his first message to me he’d set up a simple scenario for me:

First, imagine that you decide not to do anything about your current
feelings. You decide at the age of 22 that it isn’t worth the risk of
rejection, so you choose not to explore the possibility of what your
feelings might mean. How does Randy at 40 feel about that? What does his
life look like? Is he happy? Has he found a life he really wants? Or has he
spent the last 18 years feeling empty and unfulfilled?

Now, imagine that you decide instead to take the risk and explore where
your feelings are leading you. Ask yourself the same questions: how does
Randy at 40 feel about that? What does his life look like? Is he happy? Has
he found a life he really wants? Or has he spent the last 18 years feeling
empty and unfulfilled?

In response, I’d written that “[i]f I deny myself, I really don’t see me even making it to the age of 40. On the other hand, I still have no idea what I do if I accept myself: I’ve been uncertain about so many things, about my future residence, about my choice of career, that adding my sexuality on top of that blurs things beyond recognition.”

And Craig simply noted:

Interesting. Have you noticed that in this scenario you’re just confused
about your future, but in the denial scenario you don’t even
have a
future to be confused about?

Just think about that for a minute.

I really needed that perspective then, you know, Craig. My infinite thanks for exposing me to it.

The general principle that Craig described above works very well with areas of my life–or areas of anybody’s life–apart from sexuality. All I have to do is discover a career that will make me happy–fit with my needs and desires, hopefully provide me with some scope for public accomplishment–and avoid the ones that’d be deadening. Like library science.

This task doesn’t sound nearly as difficult as it might have sounded seven months ago.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 29, 2002 at 10:53 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

A Question

I’ll just toss this question out into the sea of LJ communities and see if it gets any answer:

Assuming that you’re a Marxist or you adhere to Marxist-influenced theories, why would you necessarily understand globalization in all of its manifestations?

From my understanding of Marx, a global capitalist economy that breaks up old traditional modes of subsistence is a prerequisite for the creation of a proletariat. The examples of the Soviet Union and China would seem to confirm, if nothing else, that it’s impossible to move directly from traditional modes of subsistence to Marxist communism, and that it’s rather difficult for a Communist state to challenge a world that was either capitalistic or capitalism-influenced. (The country formerly known as Zaire wasn’t a capitalist economy like 18th century Britain, but it was definitely plugged into global capitalism, as evidenced by the West’s support for Mobutu.)

So. Given the demonstrated inability of semiperipheral and peripheral areas of the world economy to challenge the capitalist core, and the need for the entire planet to be a globally-integrated economy in order to produce a world proletariat that cares about it’s subordination, wouldn’t the best route to go be a largely uncritical acceptance of globalization followed by proletarian revolution when you get the masses in New Guinea and central Africa to care about global inequality?

Written by Randy McDonald

September 29, 2002 at 8:33 pm

Posted in Assorted

American Concerns, Part 2

My visits to the United States were of short duration–more or less six days in Virginia, more or less three days in New York City. Still, I was able to leave the United States with some definite impressions. I don’t think I’m too badly unqualified to comment on the United States. Between Toronto on the one hand and the United States on the other, the thing that struck me most was the energy of the United States. I’m pretty sure that this impression didn’t spring fully-formed from my wide-eyed Islander innocence: Toronto struck me as more relaxed than New York City, more even than Richmond. it wasn’t a matter of ethnic diversity or lack thereof, of wealth or lack thereof, just a kind of doggedness. The United States has a certain energy to it that Canada doesn’t have, and that the rest of the West doesn’t have.

The United States strikes me as a Nietzchean society, and not necessarily in a bad way, either. Though Nietzche’s philosophy did lend itself to a justification of Naziism, Nietzcheanism isn’t destined to end in apocalypse and genocide: Nietzche himself disdained anti-Semitism and wasn’t a racist, and wouldn’t have approved of his sister’s very odd colony in Paraguay. Still, in the United States’ aggressiveness–will to power, if you will–in its embrace of a dynamic capitalist economy driven by the need for Schumpeterian creative destruction, its social Darwinism, I do see a philosophy of public life that does bear some resemblance to nietzcheanism. After all, Ayn Rand is by far biggest in the United States: Hardly anyone reads The Fountainhead outside of the US.

That said, the United States might be Nietzchean, but if it is it is a kind Nietzcheanism. I do agree with James Bodi, my Toronto host and friend, that “the US has been as decent to Canada as a huge, aggressive and chaotically governed polity can be.” I’m just afraid what might happen to the US if its Nietzcheanism isn’t moderated.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 29, 2002 at 6:51 pm

Posted in Assorted

Heh

You are 44% geek
You are a geek liaison, which means you go both ways. You can hang out with normal people or you can hang out with geeks which means you often have geeks as friends and/or have a job where you have to mediate between geeks and normal people. This is an important role and one of which you should be proud. In fact, you can make a good deal of money as a translator.

Normal: Tell our geek we need him to work this weekend.

You [to Geek]: We need more than that, Scotty. You’ll have to stay until you can squeeze more outta them engines!

Geek [to You]: I’m givin’ her all she’s got, Captain, but we need more dilithium crystals!

You [to Normal]: He wants to know if he gets overtime.

</blockquote

Take the Polygeek Quiz at Thudfactor.com

Written by Randy McDonald

September 29, 2002 at 5:15 pm

Posted in Assorted

American Concerns, Part 1

It’s no secret that as of late, a rather big gap has opened between the United States and its Western allies.

It’s not just with a supposedly resentful France, as demonstrated by the recent German federal elections.

It’s not just with a supposedly decadent continental Europe, as demonstrated by the distinct possility that if Tony Blair does take the United Kingdom into Iraq alongside the United States, he’ll be abruptly jettisoned by Labour just as Thatcher was discarded by the Tories a decade before.

It’s not just with a supposedly inherently anti-American European Union, as evidenced by the reluctance in Canada and Australia to go to war alongside the US.

It’s not just Iraq: There’s the International Criminal Court (I’m generally unconvinced by American arguments), there’s the Kyoto Protocols (a flawed but necessary first step IMHO), there’s the unilateralism decried by the world.

In a real sense, it’s a case of the US versus Everyone Else.

I was visiting slayage.com–a daily-updated links page for Buffy the Vampire Slayer-related articles–when I came across the remarkable article Buffy, the U.N. slayer”. It was written by National Review Online editor Jonah Goldberg, who stated that:

[I]n one episode Buffy desperately needs the Council of Watchers’ help to fight an especially powerful enemy (an ancient pagan god or some such). The council attempts to use this opportunity to regain its influence over Buffy, forcing her to agree to all sorts of new Slayer regulations. And then, at the end of the program, it occurs to the Buffmeister that she doesn’t have to put up with any of it. “I have the power,” she explains to the stuffy, and typically British, Watchers.

Without Buffy, the council is nothing more than a debating society, an irrelevant club. At the end of the day, it’s Buffy, and not the Watchers, who has to do all of the fighting. So, she says to the Watchers, if you help me now, I will let you in on the action. Don’t help me and my job will be harder, but your job will be irrelevant.

Now, the last part should sound familiar to anyone who knows about President Bush’s speech to the United Nations earlier this month. President Bush informed the U.N. that if it doesn’t help America slay the threat posed by Baghdad, the United States will do it without the U.N. As a result, the United States’ job will be harder, but the U.N. will become an irrelevant League of Nations.

America the Chosen One?

There is quite a lot of anti-American criticism out there that is fatuous, and ridiculous. The United States, I’d wager, is acting no more autocratically than, oh, mid-19th century Britain, and is no more dangerous to world peace and progress than that same hegemonic Britain. I’d state confidently that it is certainly far more benign than comparable Soviet hegemony would be, or even a modern Chinese, Indian, or Russian hegemony. (The European Union would be different, but it’s not yet a confederative state with a single more-or-less coherent foreign and security policy. When it does establish itself as such, interesting things ahead.)

Still, I find quite a few actions of the Dubya administration rather galling. I’m particularly concerned by the impending US imperial adventure in Iraq. Saddam’s an evil man, certainly. The impending elimination of Saddam Hussein, though, seems like it will take place at least as much for the need to go after any state following the inconclusive engagements with al-Qaeda and the reality of Iraq’s modernization. (There’s also Dubya’s family feud and concerns for cheap oil, but those factors are secondary.) The US can pull this off, of course, in the narrow sense of eliminating the Iraqi regime. I’m concerned, though, at the apparent lack of any viable plan for Iraq after Saddam: The figures touted by the US as Iraq’s future leaders , as Charlie Stross observes, aren’t very encouraging:

Meet General Nizar Al-Khazraji — former Iraqi chief of staff, highest level defector to the west, accused of using chemical weapons against Halabja in 1988 and kicking a baby to death in front of witnesses (among other crimes). Or Brigadier-General Najib Al-Salihi, who suppressed the post-1991 rebellion in Iraq (in which numerous civilians were murdered, in some cases by being hanged from the gun barrels of tanks, and 1.5 million Iraqis fled their homes). And meet Ahmad Al-Chalabi, who isn’t a war criminal and who runs the Iraqi National Congress (a CIA-funded opposition group) and is under threat of a 32-year prison sentence in Jordan for embezzlement on an heroic scale.

Let’s not mention the possibilities of an Israeli retaliation if Saddam actually launches some weapon of mass destruction at Israel and it gets through the imperfect ABM defenses. And the possibility that if the US does conquer Iraq and does get embroiled in nation-building (for which the precedents are not good, see Somalia and South Vietnam), the bloody messy aftermath will wreck the United States’ credit with the wider world. (Not my argument, actually; Immannuel Wallerstein’s in the past summer’s Foreign Policy.)

I’m not an American. I’ve no desire to be an American. But from my experience in the United States, though (hi Tom, Jonathan, Naomi, Derrick!), I can say that I quite like Americans, and I like the United States. The US is a different country, to be sure–at least based on my experience in Virginia and New York City–but it’s nicely different. I really don’t want the US to get badly hurt in coming months and years, or hurt at all. I can’t help but feel, though, that if Dubya continues to ignore the United States’ allies for the past half-century, let’s the gap expand even as he gets the US involved chin-deep in a long messy occupation of Iraq, he’s going to hurt his country. That’s the consequences of American exceptionalism.

In the next post in this thread: Why I think the US is so different.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 27, 2002 at 7:55 pm

Posted in Assorted

Last WINAMP Playlist: Mylène Farmer

Mylène Farmer is a part-Québécois singer who’s quite big in the Francophone world, particularly France and outlying areas. She can tend towards the twee, but on the whole I like her. She’s not Céline, to be quite sure. Perhaps not enough to buy an album, but there you go.

And here’s the last playlist.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Randy McDonald

September 27, 2002 at 7:22 pm

Posted in Assorted