As always, this is a vast improvement over the same thing that was posted at my other site, Happy Jihad’s House of Pancakes.
Dreams are, as we all know, weird. But when I share mine with my roommate, she assures me that they are simply not normal.
Last night, for instance, Phyllis Schlafly used a small Latino boy who was hurling insults at me to lure me into a park and then turn me into a robot vacuum machine. Then the bitch stole my luggage and hid it in plain sight. My whole brain and body was stuffed into this impossibly small vacuum cleaner, which was also me. Phyllis was mad at me because I had written about her on my blog. We were at a conference on Mars, and she was in a hotel down the hall from me, and for some reason there were camels in the market in the alley behind the convention center/hotel. The whole time, I had the distinct feeling that I was in a Philip Dick novel: uncertain about my own identity (this is understandable, of course, since I had after all just been turned into a vacuum machine robot).
What does it all mean?
The class I taught lass night was sort of a washout. I feel bad about it. I suspect the fact that I had forgotten to take my meds (Adderol) may have contributed to a certain scatterbrainitude. I was also utterly unprepared for my students to have not read one of the readings, which I thought was going to be a lot of fun. I knew that I had blown warrants, the red-headed stepchild of Toulmin argument. I have never seen a good explanation of them before, so I was trying something new, and that did not go as well as I wanted it to. We spend the first part of each class period on principles of argument and rhetoric. then we often watch something for no more than 20 minutes about the topic of the day, all of which are related to shams, confidence men and tricksters. Last night it was cures for cancer. This one hits close to home because several years ago, a good friend of mine had a son who was in the last stages of brain cancer. She had just found out that he did not qualify for an experimental treatment because the tumors blocked his spinal fluid’s flow up to his brain: the entire dose would not be able to reach where it was needed. She was desperate, and she told me about this guy who was saying that he had a cure derived from synthesized horse urine. It broke my heart to have to apply the brakes of reason, but I couldn’t in good conscience allow her to waste the precious little time left with her son by being scammed. I said that if he had been telling the truth, he would not be in Assville, New Mexico hawking his wares on the Internet. He’d dean of medicine somewhere and sitting on his Nobel Prize. For doing that to her, and for making me do that to her, that dude deserves nothing more than a hammer to the skull.
So we went around the room, looking at the various cures. They ranged from powdered dandelions to hypnosis to, I kid you not, walking barefoot in dirt daily. Again we find the pervasive conspiratorial sales pitch: the government WANTS you to be sick. The FDA or CDC or big pharma is suppressing your cure because research is more profitable than treatment (R&D with no payoff? Yeah, it did not make sense to me either). The irony is, of course, that if they aren’t batshit crazy, these scam artists are redirecting their marks’ suspicions toward the government and away from the scam.
Last week’s topic was Holocaust denial, and that was pretty interesting. One thing that Holocaust deniers in this country often wonder about loudly without investigating is why there is a huge Holocaust Museum in D.C. They just go for the Jewish conspiracy angle: to keep lawmakers feeling guilty or something. A Holocaust denier was making headlines at Columbia University a few days ago, and it looks like a lot of people are trying to get us to go to war with them. (I don’t see how that is logistically possible, though throwing blocks for Israel’s touchdown run actually be the type of mission that the US could contribute to. Let’s hope not.) And a lot of people believe that the charges leveled at Iran are trumped up. This reminds me of the effect that Allied propaganda in WWI had on the perception of the next war. In the WWI the propaganda was over the top: that the baby-raping nuns were turning convents into whorehouses. No debauchery or perversion was too low for the Germans. Well, in truth, not so much. So when the same type of stories were emanating from Europe during civilization’s second attempt to commit suicide, people took it with a grain of skepticism. Indeed, ideological commitment to the war was directed at Japan initially. Until Hitler, for some reason, declared war on America as well, and even then there was not the same motivation to fight Germans on the part of most Americans. Certainly there were not the concerns of race. As Paul Fussell points out, neither the Germans nor the Japanese needed to produce a series of films called “Why We Fight”, but the Americans apparently did. Anyway, as the Allies rolled up the front in Europe into Germany and came across the concentration camps, suddenly (and you hear this over and over again by the veterans) soldiers realized that they found a reason for their fighting. The Holocaust gave meaning to the suffering that they had endured and that their families had endured. It made the Germans unequivocally evil and made our war against them a “Good War.” This sense of American achievement, linked as it was to America’s postwar economic ascendancy–we were, after all, pretty much the only country in the West worth a squirt that did not have its infrastructure absolutely gutted during the war–the Holocaust became a signifier of American (rightful) righteousness during the period of ascendancy is central. It must have seemed almost Providential that after we had waged a good war that we enjoyed the bounty and economic growth of the 50s, almost like it was a reward. The Holocaust is part of the morality tale that was the American century.
Next week’s topic…conspiracy theories. Yay!