This Ruthless World

Adventures in absurdity

Archive for the month “September, 2012”

On Academic Navel-Gazing

When I was a senior in college, I received an assignment from one of my professors to write an open-ended essay on the topic of “Who Am I?” I don’t know why the professor did it. The “Who Am I?” nonsense had nothing to do with the subject of the class. But he was a young fella and liked to do things unconventionally; perhaps this was his way of thinking outside the box. Whatever the reason, the assignment irritated me a great deal.

In the course of my academic career up to that point, there had been a number of occasions when I had to write a wistful essay (or alternatively, a humorous one) on the subject of Who I Am. I had always hated that topic for the self-congratulatory fakery it invites. And on that particular occasion, in my senior year, I decided to write the professor a letter protesting the topic, and submit it in lieu of the required essay.

This weekend, while clearing out some old papers, I came across a draft of that letter. Here is what I wrote (first couple of paragraphs omitted): Read more…

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America’s So-Called “Freeloaders”: Beyond the Label

One of the biggest problems for Romney is that the man just can’t control his big mouth. (His running mate isn’t much better.) He speaks with a certain cluelessness that casually dehumanizes anyone who doesn’t fit his profile of a default constituent (white, male and wealthy), and then acts surprised when people react with anger and disbelief to his blooper du jour. The latest is, of course, his assertion that he does not care about –and therefore will not concern himself with, as President — the lazy, useless 47% of Americans who don’t pay income taxes, preferring instead to suck the government’s teat. His campaign’s attempts to walk back that statement — such as this one — only added insult to the injury, since they were clearly based on the assumption that the people who took umbrage at Romney’s statement are stupid.

That statement was, of course, based on a myth, and most editorials exposing it correctly point out that the overwhelming majority of those who don’t pay federal income tax still pay other taxes. I, however, want to approach the this deconstruction from a slightly different angle. Who are these 47%?

Let’s start with the lowest-hanging fruit. Read more…

Five Issues American Politics Should Confront, But Won’t

It’s the election season, so once again, we are talking about abortion. Worse, we are talking about contraception now, and the extent to which “God” should be part of an American party’s platform. Truly, if someone from another planet or someone who has been living under a rock looked at our election-season haranguing, that person would get the impression that America has no problems to speak of, what with so many people worrying so much about other people’s genitals and the respect accorded or not accorded to their imaginary sky-being of choice.

And yet America has got problems — big ones. The powers that be, as well as much of the American public, aren’t interested in them, because it’s much easier and more fun to draw in supporters by tapping into something inflammatory, like sex, or something lurid, like extra sexy, guilt-free sex. In fact, as I’ve written previously, ignoring pressing issues in favor of obsessing over sex and such is one of the weaknesses of democratic regimes.

In a perfect world, here are five things I would really want politicians and voters to focus on: Read more…

On Child-Free Weddings

Over at Feministe, there is a discussion on whether banning children from weddings — which is becoming a trend, apparently — should be perceived as offensive to parents who are invited. Lots of virtual ink is spilled detailing children’s propensity for undecorous behavior, the poor parenting skills of people who reproduce (as oppose to the child-free, who frequently emerge in these discussions as the experts on proper parenting), and why whole classes of adults are not excluded from such events based on unacceptable behavior of certain of their members, while excluding children is okay. Read more…

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