This is another irrelevant and stupid blog composed by a narcissist in denial. I plan to use it largely to take up time while I am at work but not actively working.
I work in academe, and therefore writing--so long as the writing concerns itself with relatively serious subjects as opposed to relatively interesting ones--is not necessarily a waste or misuse of time. I am a historian. Much of my job requires writing. The more writing I do, the better. Ergo, writing a blog during office hours is an effective use of university-paid time.
And that, my friends, is how one rationalizes.
I plan to write on such subjects as: the horribleness of the Tea Party; the soul-crushing nature of an academic job search; what it feels like to read all day at work, come home to ramen soup, and then read some more, all the while regretting getting a PhD. rather than a useful degree, like an AA in stenography; my dog and what strange things he ate on the way to campus; the legal and moral problems concomitant with asymmetric warfare and counter-terrorism; hamburgers.
I do not flatter myself enough to think anyone will read this, but nonetheless, I will put my thoughts to digital paper.
One of the things that I do when I am bored is read the comments sections of news websites. I am especially interested in the comments sections of news articles that have been linked through the Drudge Report (www.drudgereport.com).
I got in the habit of reading Drudge when I was working for my US Senator. It was 2003, and every morning, we would read Drudge to prepare ourselves for the barrage of phone calls from Drudge-reading conspiracy theorists.
What I find particularly distressing about online political discourse today is its absolute vapidity, and there is no stronger evidence of this than the posted comments on Drudge-linked articles. For instance, today, the AP published this completely dispassionate item:
The comments section was closed after about 2 hours, but before that, the top-ranked comment--which garnered something like 2000 thumbs ups, was along the lines of:
I read Michael Ignatieff's Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry the other day. The presentation of his argument was so lucid and so reasonable that it almost hid how challenging it was.
In a nutshell, he argues that talk about "human rights" only becomes relevant when we recognize three points. First, if we are to take a set of basic human rights as truly universal and try to enforce them, we have to restrict those rights to the classic negative rights outlined by Locke. These negative rights are freedom from arbitrary violence to person and property. While we may use terms like a "right to healthcare," "a right to economic opportunity," and "a right to education," none of these positive rights should be considered human rights because they are generally unenforcible and require too many trade-offs. These "rights" are really aspirational social projects, and using rights talk to describe them debases rights talk as a whole because it conflates what need be and what should be.
Second, we should abandon the argument that "human rights" have some kind of ontological validity. The argument that people have certain transcendent basic rights because they are human is a farce. Rather, we need to recognize that human rights are a pragmatic set of tools that serve to reduce the amount of unnecessary suffering in the world. Their validity is derived from the empirical evidence that shows states and regimes that respect basic negative human rights are more stable and more just than those that do not. In other words, we should accept--most of the time--that human rights are a useful fiction. When we start to worship them for their own sake, we make policy decisions that hurt rights more than we help them.
Finally--and this is the most important part--we should not respect or tolerate cultures and states that violate these basic human rights and then hide behind the armor of "cultural relativism." Just because it is culturally acceptable in certain societies to torture, discriminate on the basis of gender, or suppress political dissent does not mean that those cultures get a pass to do so. In this respect, his argument is a trenchant attack on post-modernism and a reaffirmation of Enlightenment values. But the ground on which he makes the argument is not that these values are transcendent, but that they are useful, and that they derive their validity from their utility.
I agree entirely. I believe strongly that people should have access to education, healthcare, and economic security. But I am not sure that these things are rights. "Economic" and "social" justice are aspirations, even good ones depending on how we define the terms. They may even be worth fighting for. But they aren't basic human rights because these kinds of rights have to be, or ought to be, enforceable by their very nature. They must come after the establishment of basic political rights to accomplish their central goal, which is to reduce suffering as much as possible.
This blog is dedicated to a woman named Ammy. In order to not embarrass her professionally or personally, I will simply refer to her as "Ammy" without any other details about who she is. This is because Ammy is an intensely private person who feels most comfortable when she is invisible.
I think Ammy's desire to be invisible is terrible because Ammy is one of the most beautiful human beings I have ever met. When she makes herself invisible, we all suffer.
Ammy is my girlfriend. We live together in an apartment. She has adopted my small dog and become his mom. Both the dog and I love her completely. The dog and I are equally convinced that we don't really deserve her. The dog feels this way because he sometimes pees in the hallway, and sometimes farts in the bedroom. I feel this way because she is just generally a better person than I am--kinder, more accomplished, and more sophisticated. She is markedly less fat, agoraphobic, melancholic, and lazy than I am.
She also has fantastic personal hygiene practices. Mine are just so-so. The dog's are terrible. He eats cat shit and licks his own asshole.
I am desperately poor and so cannot by Ammy the fancy, glittery things that she deserves like a Tesla sedan and huge blood diamonds, trips to Paris and fancy shoes. I cannot even afford to dress myself properly, let alone bedeck her with sparkles.