What has happened to human rights in the last twenty years is a hijacking, of the sort Napoleon managed with the Declaration of the Rights of Man when he turned Europe into a “bloodbath,” as Power would put it, under its banner. The search around the globe for genocides to eradicate is the ultimate rights perversion, for it reduces human rights to the right not to be brutally murdered in a particular way that fits the definition of genocide given in the Genocide Convention. This cannot be anyone’s idea of a robust human rights. If human rights are to be reclaimed they need first of all to be restored to the realm of politics. Not the realm of morality, which is always and ever a discussion of good versus evil, but politics.
The Intellectual Situation
Tucked beneath our covers, laptops propped on our knees—is this not the posture most conducive to meaningful Gchatting? In addition to being comfortable, our beds are private; on Gchat, we must be by ourselves to best be with others. Night affords another degree of solitude: like the lights in the apartment building across the street, Gchat’s bright bulbs go out, one by one, until a single circle glows hopefully. Like Gatsby’s green light, it is the promise of happiness.
The funeral came off without a hitch, in spite of the snow. It was as dignified as we could have hoped for and no one from the altar mentioned what had happened. I parked my rental car on Argyle Avenue, feeling a bit more alert than usual. In Atlanta, just after Thanksgiving, two gunmen robbed me of my station wagon and wallet; two days before Christmas I didn’t want to invite fate’s wrath a second time. I was back home in Baltimore.
Fiction and Drama
Joe lay with his head on his arm. His hand, he realized, was holding a limp, wilted dick. Jesus, he thought. Jesus. This was exactly the problem. What was it with him? He was the type of guy to go out and try to sell vacuum cleaners and end up eating twenty fucking pieces of pumpkin fucking pie. Jesus.
There was a woman in a white suit who had grown a human ear on a mouse and a curly-haired MacArthur genius who made documentary films on government secrecy. There was a two-man team of economists from Harvard, one of whom apologized for the absence of his companion, who was sick, and for sitting far apart from everybody else because he too was sick, although he assured everybody that neither of them had the swine flu.
One enterprising juggalo asked if I’d like to touch his testicles for $5. I hastened my search for a campsite. Finally I picked a spot next to the parking lot in the “Lost Ninja Clan” area. (Ninja, I learned, is the diminutive form of juggalo, e.g., “What up, ninja?”) Having never camped before, I spent twenty minutes flexing tent poles and accidentally launching them like javelins. I heard a soft voice behind me ask, “Need any help?” I turned and met Adam.
He was reading the same book as almost everyone in his general situation, Paul Goodman’s Growing Up Absurd, and it formed the foundation of his teaching practice. Goodman insisted, in a lively, sensible voice, that there was something fundamentally wrong with the way boys were being brought up, and proposed a revival of the progressive education model. The model he presented most persuasively, however, was his own warm, straightforward style: “The curriculum is only superficially what ‘a man ought to know’; it is more fundamentally how to become a-man-in-the-world.”
Nearly every great philosopher in the era of the university has said somewhere that there is no such thing as education in schools. Nearly every one of these, too, taught or lectured (Nietzsche, Heidegger, Wittgenstein, James, Arendt), or was entangled as far as to have learned from a university, in its lecture halls and library, what philosophy would be.
Before drifting off to sleep, I would read articles about the trial. One strategy of the prosecution was to let the plaintiffs themselves—their personalities, their histories—make a fresh case for the ability of homosexuals to form successful unions. The two halves of the male couple, Zarrillo and Katami, were affable and settled. Zarrillo had grown up in suburban New Jersey and attended the local high school.
Be strong, sweet David, live long unto seeing thy children’s eyes, / though their backs hasten to flee from thee, stay in touch with thy / comrades-in-arms, / after thy sons deny thee, a covenant of the shunned. / Take care, soldier-boy.
Ryan Schreiber launched Pitchfork in November 1995 from his parents’ house in a suburb of Minneapolis. Because the domain name www.pitchfork.com belonged to a company selling livestock out of Butte Falls, Oregon, Schreiber had to settle for www.pitchforkmedia.com. The name, he told BusinessWeek in 2008, was meant to suggest “an angry mob mentality” toward the music industry.
Inside the theater it felt like a church service or a rock show. When the recorded voice told us to turn off our cell phones because The Book of Mormon would begin in one minute, the audience cheered wildly. This was my first musical on Broadway—a fact I’d concealed from the editors of n+1 when persuading them to assign me this review—but I sensed it wasn’t usually like this. The Arab Spring was bogging down in the bloody summer. We were bombing Tripoli. Radiation was leaking from Fukushima. The woman behind me sighed a long, settling-in sigh, and then said, “I just want to see something funny.” And that’s exactly what was about to happen to her.
These reckless propositions—that the only way to save the country from this ignorant nonentity was through some form of soft, disguised, quasi-legal coup—are gently whispered into plausibility, and the door is opened to the enemies of democracy.
It is doubtful that the mere novelty of the phonograph was enough to determine lasting shifts in people’s daily behavior. Further, we need to question the notion that recording technology was a source of private and introverted musicality, and that the public concert was a source of shared experience and sociality. The 19th-century music lovers I’ve studied frequently reported feeling alone in their passion for music. They listened at concerts in the midst of friends and family, but insisted that such friends did not hear the same sounds and were not moved in the same way.