if you're around carbondale ill a week from today, you should check me out on my 'insufferable diva' tour, soon also to play slippery rock.
"Abolitionist Saints and Anarchist Freaks: American Radical Reform, 1820-1850" SIUC Department of Philosophy, Faculty Colloquium 3:30pm - 5:00pm; Faner 3059
"Crispin Sartwell: American Philosopher" Free Public Lecture with Dr. Sartwell after a brief screening of the film "Crispin Sartwell: American Philosopher" Film screening: 7:00 - 7:30pm; Free Public Lecture: 7:30 - 8:00pm; Q & A: 8:00 - 8:30pm Morris Library Guyon Auditorium
speaking of my personal cult of iiird tyme out, ii'll be giving talks on bluegrass and on realism in pictorial arts at east tennessee state u on sep 26 and 27. maybe i can put the texts and even the powerpoints up on google docs? actually, the bluegrass thing, thur sep 27 in ball hall at 6 (wait. 6? won't everybody be eating? bring pizza?) will be on hippie grass like muleskinner (embedded below), as well as the seldom scene, newgrass/"progressive bluegrass", the dc bluegrass scene etc.
54 is a good age for a person in my line of jive to transform his hopes for sudden recognition of his transcendent genius to hopes for transcendent posthumous success. really when i was but a wee philosopher i thought i could be a transformative figure. insofar as i am in contact with reality, i'd have to be convinced by now that such a thing is not likely, possibly due to insufficient talent. princeton and stanford aren't calling; indeed, it's more like i'm lucky to have a job. i fantasize about a macarthur or something, but i didn't even get the grants i applied for for my sabbatical. i keep writing books and they get published, but putting it mildly they don't launch a discussion, much less whole new lines of actual inquiry, ecsatic worldwide acclaim etc.
now i might tell myself things like this: oh they just don't see how incredible i am because they're too...narrow-minded, conventional etc. however, one would have to notice that radical or unconventional figures often do extremely well. so then it oscillates to: well you must just suck, you pathetic fuckhead. it's hard to tell about yourself how smart you are, or how good you actually are at your job , isn't it? at least, it's hard for me.
so i tell myself that all i can really do is to try to keep plugging away, or doing the best work i can. i berate myself: are you doing this because you believe what you're saying and because you love what you are saying it about - are you doing it for it - or are you doing it to be loved and admired? i want to be intrinsically committed to the material, not the career: that's how i feel i could do meaningful work. but then: i am writing a 'system of philosophy.' it might be tending to become massive. and i have to ask myself: who would read something like that from you? ok if some famous dude at harvard or the sorbonne was doing something like that, someone might publish it and people might read it. but the world surely is not begging for that from crispin sartwell. i do think about audience/success enough to ask myself, stongly enough to make me take the day off, whether anyone will actually read this stuff i spend years typing. and then i find myself in a fantasy: oh you know in 2075 somebody will casually find my book in the stacks of an academic library and go: wow that's amazing! revolutionary! let's write some dissertations about this. i portray myself in my own head - in what i cannot but regard on reflection as really a pathetic attempt to bolster a repulsively saggy ego - as a van gogh, etc: someone laboring away in obscurity in his own time only to sell for $100 million a hundred years afterwards. i waver between crazed grandiosity and useless defeatedness.
just possibly these reflections are somewhat heightened by the news that my ex-wife - with whom, pathetically, i am still in love - is dating an academic who just got a 200k advance on his next book, and whose divorce decree states specifically that should he win the nobel, she gets a third. i am so far from worrying about your pathetic nobels! he sobbed.
i just uploaded a kids'/ya e-novel about overthrowing a middle school. though the main character is a girl, it's based on my revolution against alice deal junior high school in dc, and some of my daughter emma's subversive adventures at carver high school, towson, md. it could actually be a manual on how to drive your principal literally insane, which my little guerilla band did do circa 1972. it's published on kindle at amazon and in multiple formats at smashwords.
some folks who know me well have lately been saying to me that i'm a "theoretical" anarchist, or that i'm an anarchist because of the philosophical leverage or point of view it yields. well, there's something to this. as i urged in against the state, anarchism performs the function in political philosophy that skepticism performs in epistemology; it presses people to justify their fundamental assumptions.
but they're also gently saying i'm a hypocrite, because i pay taxes and use roads, for example, and because i do not take up arms against the state. not that the accusation of hypocrisy is entirely unwarranted, but let me respond briefly. there are things i actually want to do in this world - like teach, and write books, and raise kids. i don't hate the world, even with the state in it, and i will point out that i reject the idea that the state makes everything about our lives together possible: all kinds of things happen outside or in spite of it, and all kinds of things it does are things i think might be done in some form without it. i oppose the state, but there are other things i want to do besides merely constantly oppose it; on a good day i want to be able to ignore it, and i live in such circumstances that i often can, and i take advantage of these circumstances and try to appreciate them. what i'm interested in primarily is doing what i want, and i pay taxes so i won't have to enter into some nightmare hassle with the authorities.
i went through a period as an actual revolutionary of sorts; but then i sort of realized that that would condemn me to a personal history consumed by rage and unproductive activity. (well a lot of folks who were revolutionaries in 1973 realized it wasn't going to work out.) and also i realized that i can comfortably be part of no movement, that i'm temperamentally unsuited to solidarity. one way i continue to realize this; anarchists don't think i'm an anarchist. libertarians don't think i'm a libertarian. even tiny fringe splinters of the ideological spectrum extrude me, until i'm a movement of one. not exactly your effective revolutionary front!
in this and in many other senses (though not all!) i am an individualist. (not all: i do not endorse greed or think that human beings are naturally only self-seeking, e.g.) (not all: i think human individuals exist only in and as relation: to each other but also to non-human things.)
my life included an extreme anti-authority rebellion, expressed with regard to my parents and my schools. i still have that, and it takes the form of what you might call epistemic perversity; it is extremely important to me, evidently, to reject the consensus of the people around me; i constantly really feel reverse peer-pressure, i might say. i've had to learn to compromise with this, because mere rejectionism doesn't really lead you to truth either. i make an effort to listen and try to find a consensus plausible. but i never am perfectly clear on the extent to which i believe what i believe for anti-social reasons. on the other hand, i also think that real insights are available here; if i am proud of anything, it's that i often see things from a different angle than other people, and see things they don't or can't. obviously, i also have my blind spots. but on the other hand, i do immediately detect the authoritarian elements in any discourse, practice, or policy (including the benevolent, good-hearted ones), and work to expose them.
non-anarchists often tease me about being an anarchist; they assume this means that i'm a libertine, and that i can't stand any rules or principles. they think i'm a hypocrite for wearing clothes or writing syllabi with grading standards, or in admiring or practicing or demanding monogamy or sobriety or industriousness or, um, punctuality (cs: the punctual anarchist). but here i'm just going to say that that's wrong. it's coercion i reject, not rules or principles or self-discipline. you can't play chess without rules; the rules are the game. emerson said that "Wild liberty develops iron conscience. Want of liberty, by strengthening law and decorum, stupefies conscience." my desire is to live by rules i impose on myself, and by rules we make together in social activities, or in play. my idea is that rules imposed by coercion make people worse, make conscience and self-discipline and cooperation apparently unnecessary. my ex-wife regards me as puritanical. well, i am puritanical, in proportion as i am always about to tumble into vice. but being that and expressing it or even expecting it of others is not itself incompatible with my anarchism. (that's why i no longer believe a lot of what i wrote in obscenity, anarchy, reality, much to the disappointment of a few fans of that approach.)
so anyway, it is a complex position/life, and complexly related to the various things people - both those who account themselves anarchists and those who don't - mean by 'anarchism.' but there it is.
i'll be delivering some version of 'political aesthetics' - complete with immortal tech videos - at notre dame [corrected date and time] at 4 next friday (april 8). annenberg auditorium of the snite museum of art.
just re-watched v for vendetta. and of course, how could i not love that movie? (i have reservations about alan moore as a theoretician; but then you might have noticed that i have reservations about everyone except myself as a theoretician. and i'm not so sure about myself.) anyway it puts me in mind of what i actually wanted to be when i grew up: the perfect revolutionary. i wanted to study, you know, bomb-making, locksmithing, guerilla warfare, survival, disguise, propaganda, etc etc. and i was pretty serious: i was actually doing...things. and i made some headway in each of these areas.
now i was 15 in 1973, and as the years went by it dawned on me, as it dawned on a lot of folks, that there wasn't going to be a revolution. also it is a bit hard for an anarchist to contemplate the actual mechanisms and results of actual revolutions. none of the twentieth century revolutions eventuated in anything that resembled the rhetoric of the revolutionaries. and every successful revolution of the twentieth century eventuated in a totalitarian regime. and i got sidetracked of course: love, poetry, philosophy, drugs. i remained committed to the ideas, which i found in emma goldman or developed for myself, and i have tried to express them or stay true to the anti-authoritarian impulse, of which i have found over the years that i have an inexhaustible supply. but i also made some sort of peace with some sorts of authority (even my own: the hardest task).
anyway, no one can be v, who was a comic book because he was a super-hero. no one is going to save us or return us to our supposedly true or pristine selves. but you know i have known moments of regret that i didn't give it more of a try. v is always on about the power of words and ideas. i suppose i might say that i have not witnessed this power in any very potent form. my writing has had infinitesimal effects, and i note that v wasn't sitting around writing books, even if he was always quoting shakespeare with questionable purport. but honestly i'm not sure we've seen much from the power of ideas since the 19th century.
hey next tuesday, oct 26, i'll be giving a talk on the topic of the meaning of life (eep!) at gettysburg college. the title is "'don't mean sheeit': releasing life from significance.' actually, though, i've pulled back just a bit from that abyss. 7PM, though i'm not sure exactly where!
so i'll be appearing in dialogue with the astonishing harvey molotch this evening at 6:15 at the university of maryland architecture school auditorium. we're talking about the future of american urbanism. so if i've done the math right - which is not my strong suit - my program is that each american man woman and child gets 8 acres and a fema trailer. it's gonna rock!
my only fundamental insight is that it is purposeless to say what everyone else is already saying. so for example i could talk about reducing your carbon footprint or recycling. but why would i? all middle-school teachers have been chanting it like a mantra for a decade. every politician. every university president. every high-school aged girl, every television network, every carton of milk and ford advertisement. etc. it's what people say when they need to say something nobody could possibly disagree with. but if nobody can disagree with it, it's not an assertion. why don't you just look at my mouth or my blog and fill in the blanks? then you'll feel better. seriously, pretend i just said it. you know the words. even if i was completely committed to it body and soul there could not be any point in expressing it besides a commitment to infinite redundancy. shut up for a year and see if it comes back to life or something.
originally i started watching general hospital when i was 18
and living in a lovely group house in bethesda, md. residents:
tweedy: the biggest coke dealer in the area. carl: the heavily-armed
biker who, when too drunk to turn off his lights at night, shot them
out instead. my stepbrother bob: charming sexual abuser and illiterate
victim of fetal alcohol syndrome. gac the depressive ("gac" was,
seriously, his last name), who weighed 350 pounds and emerged from his
room only to go to the bathroom, literally, for years on end. we fed him through the door, but after a few years on end it was 150.
other than gac, who putting it mildly didn't date, these guys favored
strippers. they'd bring them home, make them scream all night -
sometimes in a good way, sometimes not - and then leave them in the
morning to head to work. (tweedy's cover was auto mechanic; his cash was buried in the woods somewhere.) so there
would be strippers - often, you know, 14-year-old strippers, but also
22-year-old strippers - draped around the living room watching soaps,
after they woke up early in the afternoon.
i was a student and often
home mid-day. so i hung out with strippers watching soaps, listening to their tales of woe, as created by my housemates. often they seemed to resent the fact that that they had been passed from carl to bob to tweedy or perhaps the other way round. and yet...there they were and after their shift that evening they'd be back, perhaps with a friend. well there was coke, booze, and extremely bad boys. still i didn't think they were really getting what they wanted or acting rationally. they kept telling me so, actually. i didn't have sex with them, which i did and did not think was a good thing. at any rate, i didn't press the point, but sadly neither did they. i was like
tell me this wouldn't be a good stoner comedy, set in 1976.
dudes, i'm being bitch-slapped by pneumonia. i feel like i've been nailgunned to my bed, while my chest rattles in a disconcerting way. now i know how jimmy rogers felt. ma, i gots the consumption. put me on a slow train back to meridian.