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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Done.

I just finished what might actually be the worst paper of my undergraduate career, in which I argue that Marx was not actually a historicist. As a result of this paper, I only slept for three hours last night. However, this also happens to be the last paper of my undergraduate career, which means that I am done with college. I find myself in the same situation I was in at the end of high school, which seemed to end, so to speak, not with a bang but with a whimper. (And yes, I actually looked through my high school blog archives to make sure I wrote that, and I did.)

Up next is a week and a half of college-sponsored revelry, then graduation, then my parents' couch for a week, then I guess I am moving to Washington. (How did that happen, you ask? I thought you hated Washington, Miss Eww Rats and Roaches and Pompous Politicians Self-Important? Yes, I did. But it seems that no matter how well-laid the plans I make for myself are, I end up following other people's plans for me instead.) Up next in blogging is probably going to be a lot of schmaltz and nostalgia and wistfulness as I sentimentalize everything about college. The weak of heart are advised to seek bitterness and snark elsewhere.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Facebook etiquette, redux

Recently, my mother emailed me to tell me that one of her former students had emailed her an invitation to join Facebook and a friend request, and did I think this was normal? No, I replied. It is not normal to invite your professors to Facebook just so they can be friends with you. But is it normal for professors to be on Facebook, she persisted? This I don't know. Is it?

It could be argued that professors are people too, and they might have social lives and friends and photos of themselves wearing slinky tank tops and drinking beer out of red plastic cups, and all this might warrant a Facebook account. Or, it might be said that the posting of perfectly bland information like their interest in gardening and their favorite quote from the Simpsons is not at all incriminating, and might actually be wholesome. Maybe. But I am not convinced (both that they are people, and that they should have Facebook accounts).

I am always weirded out by my professors' Facebook profiles. Even when the people teaching my classes are only grad students, people I might otherwise look down on if I weren't forced into a situation where I automatically look up instead, I feel awkward and voyeuristic when I come across their profiles. I don't want anyone who teaches me anything (or is generally in authority over me) to be a mere human whose life consists of lame interests and failed attempts to be cute or funny.

Also, Facebook profiles are just too easy. I put a lot of effort and ingenuity into internet stalking my professors, and I don't like to be handed otherwise elusive information on a silver platter.

All this being said, it's still not cool when my professors DO have Facebook profiles, and I friend them, and they reject my friend request.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

A correspondence between Wednesday afternoon and my history final, on the occasion of it being my last college paper

Dear Wednesday afternoon,

You are so close, yet so far away. Many uncertainties remain as you approach--will I be done in time? What am I even going to be about? What will I do after I am done? Will there be other papers, or will I be the last final, and you, the last deadline? Your imminence is at once welcome and dreaded. The question remains, will we ever meet again for a re-match?

Sincerely,
Miss Self-Important's yet-to-be-begun 10-page history final

* * *

Dear Miss Self-Important's history final,

Neener, neener.

Love,
Wednesday afteroon

Friday, May 18, 2007

Return of the BA, renunciation of Facebook (for, like, five minutes)

I got my BA back today, and I did not get the Grade of Which We Shall Not Speak. Instead, I got the Happy Grade of Relief and Rejoicing! This is also known as the Grade of Graduating with Honors and the Grade of Getting a Grad School Recommendation. Oddly though, the two sets of comments I received on it frequently said completely antithetical things about my BA. My advisor said my conclusion that the school came to replace the militia in American republican thinking was not convincing. My preceptor said he loved it. My advisor said my background research was unusually thorough. My preceptor said it was lacking. Nonetheless, today, we celebrate!

It now appears that I am the last one of my non-UChicago friends to still be in school. Everyone else's Facebook picture features them in a cap and gown, and everyone has updated their work info with, um, actually work info. As a result, checking Facebook is starting to make me craaazy. Grr.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

First world problems: Help me to care

I recently filled out a five bazillion page end-of-the-year survey from the College intended to determine how things are going with us. So basically, whether our bouts of depression are clinical, seasonal, social, academic, or event-triggered. One of the five bazillion pages asked us to evaluate how we had either improved or declined in our various powers of mind since we started college. I am of the last-but-one persuasion when it comes to these types of surveys; I rarely say that anything is "extremely improved" or "extremely diminished," but rather "somewhat improved" or "somewhat diminished." Extremes make me nervous. So when it comes to the question of whether my ability to make moral judgments (or any judgments, really) has improved or diminished as a result of my college education, I am hesitant to say "extremely diminished." That would be too depressing.

However, it's true that my faculty of judgment has sort of ceased to exist or has at least become seriously impaired. I came to college with a lot of (largely misguided, uninformed, and stupid) convictions, then I read some books, I reconsidered these convictions. But not only have I failed to replace them, one of the few convictions I have developed is an opposition to developing convictions. This is pretty retarded, I admit, but it happened nonetheless, and in successive stages of increasing uncertainty. First, I stopped caring about foreign policy because it was so complex and, well, foreign. Then, I stopped caring about domestic policy because it required too much economics and statistics. Then my judgment contracted again and pushed out bioethics, which, although it has a partially phenomenological basis that can be evaluated through personal experience, became too ethically thorny. Finally, I stopped caring about the philosophy of education, which I am exposed to every single day. There was a problem with its history being ultimately indeterminate or something. In any case, it's gone.

There is a girl in one of my classes who seems to be constantly offended by the critiques of liberalism we read because they are not nice. Marx's "On the Jewish Question" is so anti-Semitic as to be useless for our understanding of anything. Schmitt is a Nazi so how seriously do we really have to take him? And so forth. Ever since I read Arendt's reading of Marx and it occurred to me that my own readings of everything (but especially Marx) were prejudiced and ineffective, I have become averse to this kind of reading. Let us be radically open and empty ourselves of our misleading preconceptions! Let us read everyone on their own terms! Nazi? Nazi, schmazi! Maybe the Nazis had a good idea? How will we know if we don't take their ideas seriously? Also, Lenin! Stalin too! Maybe Mao, Hitler, Saddam Hussein! Let's approach everyone suspecting that they are right!

A noble plan in theory, maybe, except that the effort of taking everyone's ideas seriously leaves me little time or energy to figure out any of my own, or even to pay attention to what's happening. Reality is mundane, and filtered through banal newspapers written at a sixth-grade level full of irrelevent information. Why bother with it when you can have pure, pre-analyzed theory instead? And, how can I trust myself to judge even elementary things before I have grasped all the possible approaches to judgment? At the same time, when you take everything seriously, everything begins to appear very serious indeed, and you realize, these people are so smart! So much smarter than me! They all have such well-conceived and valid things to say! How am I to decide between them? I am hopelessly unqualified to decide whether the "surge" in Iraq is a good idea, so I am perfectly willing to postpone judgment for the time being, which turns out to be a long time, so long that I forget to care altogether.

I have some views about which political theories better describe reality, but it's not clear how I arrived at them when I don't have very many views about the content of reality. I can't even answer the prompts of my art papers, which ask me to defend a preference for one campus building over another. I think they both have good justifications and are both very nice. The only things I still feel qualified to pronounce judgments upon are what other girls on campus are wearing, whether they are fat, and whether their boyfriends are schmucks. In essence, while many of my powers of mind have grown in college, this particular power appears to have regressed to the seventh-grade level. Also, I feel qualified to hate people who do judge things, or at least to judge them to be rash, arrogant, and wrong. But I am also a little jealous because they actually believe in things, even if they are only mundane things like anti-Semitism is mean or Nazism is bad. That girl, incidentally, is also really articulate about her beliefs, and one might almost forget while listening to her that they are not interesting or helpful.

This silly paralysis of my ability to judge has been developing for some time now, but its symptoms are relatively easy to bear in college. One usually benefits from some good critical distance in school (the papers asking one's preference are rare, fortunately). It only really becomes problematic when I have to make actual decisions about actual things but I am so critically distant that I am off in space. And when I graduate, presumably I am going to have to learn to judge and act again, or I will wallow in indecision forever, and become fat and lazy in the process, and write in my hum professor for president again. So I have about four weeks to learn to care. Where shall I begin?