I discovered these two books reviews yesterday: one in Norwegian (Norwegian) by the student magazine at our institute, and this one (English) at a pretty good anthropology website. Although they write in rather different ways, they both focus on the fact that I was very much engaged in the world of my informants in Douglas and the latter specifically critisizes the fact that I concluded with what I thought needed to be done.
Now I do agree that their criticism is valid, as far as we are speaking of liberal academic practice. This is what we today know as being the practice in “academia” and it is what gets you high grades: self-censor yourself to say absolutely nothing while showing how many books you have read so far.
This contrasts highly with the ideals I am trying to follow: For a Marxist (and I am excluding the academizised version of it for now) the point of conducting and research or study is precisely to be better skilled to change the circumstances under whih people exist and suffer.
The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it. (Marx 1845 Theses on Feurbach: II, VII, XI)
and for a radical such changes will with necessity be huge and, uhm well, radical…
Tears starting building up in my eyes when I read those words last Thursday. But I quickly wiped them away; I was in public. I had just finished reading Upton Sinclair ‘s The Jungle — a story about a Lithuanian family that immigrates to the United States and lives in the meat packing district of Chicago where they try to get along under the brutal reign of Capitalism. At some point earlier in the book, the entire family decide to unionize, but it does not last long as they start loosing their jobs and generally life is too uncertain for them to old on to the union for very long. Just about all family members end up either dying due to serious accidents that would have been completely preventable if they had had money, or going into prostitution, or both. The only one who survives through it all, after going through periods of hoboing, working under various brutal conditions, and acting as a strike breaker, is the family father Jurgis. And it is only in the end that he discovers the socialist cause and starts to organize with the socialists.
The socialists are the most driven people around, and they are all described in terms like the Swede Nicholas Schliemann:
About the first of July he would leave Chicago for his vacation, on foot; and when he struck the harvest-fields he would set to work for two dollars and a half a day, and come home when he had another year’s supply — a hundred and twenty-five dollars That was the nearest approach to independence a man could make “under capitalism,” he explained; he would never marry, for no sane man would allow himself to fall in love until after the revolution. (p.396-397)
Hi there, you guys haven’t heard from me for a while. Now you might have thought that the system finally got me, but the truth is that this is only the state of affairs temporarily. In other words: the teaching practice takesquite a lot of time that I could have used on other projects. That does of course not mean that it’s not fun any more in any way.
And also, the silence here is somewhat of an exaggeration if you look at what I actually am able to get done. One of the things I did get done was to discuss the Muhammed picture case in Flensborg Avis (they do not let you find stories under one month old at their site). Now there are two reasons why I did it there: First of all it’s exactly NOT because I have any plans of ever going back to the wicked border area Germany/Denmark (where the paper is based), quite on the contrary: I know I can write stuff in that paper with a readership far far away from here without having to feel repercussions from my surroundings. Secondly, to a large extent I praised the Norwegian government’s handling of the case and asked for the resignation of the Danish prime minister for their extremely poor and confrontational imperialist-minded handling of it all. And what point is there in addressing a Norwegian audience telling them that they and their government are doing everything exactly right?
So the newest scare is upon us.This time it’s the birds who’ll be coming to get us. After sheep, bees and cows, it’s about time for the birds to be trying their luck with ending human civilization. And the media helps us in explaining just where the battle man against bird stands at the time, while governments are doing just exactly what makes common sense when they send out experts in allbody dresses whenever a dead bird is reported anywhere within a few hundred kilometers of any known cases of the Avian Flue. It’s just as professional as it wasfor them to ask us to stop the car and walk through some chemicals whenever we were passing some border line during the heydays of the Mouth-and-Hoof disease (whenever someone goes to a farm, it’s very likely that he’ll wear the same shoes as he will wear when he takes an airplane some days later, right?).
As far as I’ve heard, altogether three cats have so far managed to contract the virus — and that was on the Island where it was first found (Rügen). Now I’ve seen quite a number of pictures of cats eating various small birds in newspapers all across Europe after that, and the number of headline stories about how to avoid getting it yourself have risen immensely as well. Alone on that island, the German military collected 3000 dead birds. Frightening? Well, not if you consider, that under 20% of those found had the virus, and only a small percentage of those actually died of it. (On the 21st of February, when they had found 1000 dead birds, the number of infected cases was 79 — while the north-eastern part of the island houses 69,000 wild birds and altogether 400,000 chicken live on the entire island). And while world wide there have been no cases of cat to human transmissions yet, the German army was granted the right to use a Tornado fighter jet in order to find more bird carcases — of course without result — as one couldn’t tell the difference between dead and alive birds on the pictures they shot! In Russia, Deputy Speaker of the national parliament Vladimir Zhirinovsky is reported to have suggested to arm all males between Sochi and Crimea (both at the Black Sea) in order to stop the yearly bird migration to and from Turkey.
Ts, ts, what can I say? Maybe this is a good time to go out and waste a lot of money on yourself at the mall — you know you might not live to see tomorrow.