FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Jacko and Me

by DAVID KER THOMSON

The philosophy work I’m most familiar with as a day job is called continental, like the breakfast.  It’s typically accused of being esoteric or, more damningly, French, but in fact it spends most of its time carefully deploying a limited number of entities, like I, you, it, the world, God, and so on.  To which basic stock I typically append my two children, my dog, my wife and, on occasion, Joe Bageant from Winchester.  I suppose if you take these universal and particular entities once again and do them up in quotation marks, and then chart the lines between them, then all of that taken together is everything there is or could be in any possible universe, so maybe that’s a bit esoteric.  But it’s good work.

The thing about getting paid to do this work is that your paycheck is one of those slyly allusive rectangles, like paper money or art frames, that nod elsewhere, and you’re only ever a couple of degrees of separation from people doing work you’d never want to do and only about three degrees from people doing stuff you’d never want to make money off even indirectly.  A willingness to pretend that your own paycheck isn’t outsourced like this is what is usually called maturity.

Just for fun, you could summon, in a degree or two of separation, all the major players in continental philosophy with a keyword search of just a few players who thought being a Nazi was a good thing to get in on the ground floor of, but who then later had the leisure to qualify that enthusiasm—from Carl Schmitt to the appropriately named Paul de Man (full disclosure, my wife and I courted each other reading bits of him out loud) all the way up to Heidegger.  And then as the pendulum swings the other way, well, plenty of exculpatory work, which is like fast-talking he-says-she-says-he-says with a shovel, to get these guys out of the Nazi hole.  Love the sinner and hate the sin, in short, because the good stuff’s all in there somewhere too.  If it’s an archaeology of knowledge you want, you’re going to have to get into the dirt a bit.

At thirty, I’d been hoping that the form, professor, would be an ethically neutral container into which I could pour good ethical content.  When I turned forty, my hands took to shaking for a couple of years.  Never figured that one out—maybe it was a pouring metaphor.  About that time my philosopher friend cut a deal to be named Petro Canada Young Innovator of the Year for a year and used the undisclosed sum from wearing that mantle to write a critique of Big Oil.  He went up for early tenure, and his hands never shook.  I used to be jealous about that.  Still am, but in a different way.  Now I’m fifty and I suppose I’m employed, give or take a few royalties, not much more and not much less than Michael Jackson, who was born on the same day as me.

My hands don’t shake these days, though last night I was awake for an hour wondering what it all means.  They say it ain’t over till the skinny guy stops singing.  Maybe I’ll take up carpentry, work with my hands again.  “You did that last year,” my wife says.  I’m not so sure being not so sure isn’t rather a good thing, after all, given the options.  Maybe I’ll grow up one day, maybe not.  Maybe I’ll stop chanting odes to ambivalence, maybe not.  For now, I’m still able to put one foot forward onto the ground of being, then the next one.  It’s all you need to get to breakfast.

Dufferin Grove watershed, Toronto.

DAVID KER THOMSON writes for Lowbagger.org.  He was a gravedigger during the Reagan administration.  He has taught at Duke, Princeton, and the University of Texas.  Currently between jobs, he can be reached at dave.thomson@utoronto.ca

 

 

Your Ad Here
 

 

 

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 09, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nasty As They Wanna Be
Henry Giroux
Trump’s Second Gilded Age: Overcoming the Rule of Billionaires and Militarists
Andrew Levine
Trump’s Chumps: Victims of the Old Bait and Switch
Erin McCarley
American Nazis and the Fight for US History
Lewis Lapham
Hostile Takeover
Joshua Frank
This Week at CounterPunch: More Hollow Smears and Baseless Accusations
Paul Street
The Democrats Do Their Job, Again
Vijay Prashad
The Cuban Revolution: Defying Imperialism From Its Backyard
Michael Hudson - Sharmini Peries
Orwellian Economics
Mark Ames
The Anonymous Blacklist Promoted by the Washington Post Has Apparent Ties to Ukrainian Fascism and CIA Spying
Conn Hallinan
India & Pakistan: the Unthinkable
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Nativism on the Left – A Realer Smith
Joshua Sperber
Trump in the Age of Identity Politics
Brandy Baker
Jill Stein Sees Russia From Her House
Katheryne Schulz
Report from Santiago de Cuba: Celebrating Fidel’s Rebellious Life
Nelson Valdes
Fidel and the Good People
Norman Solomon
McCarthy’s Smiling Ghost: Democrats Point the Finger at Russia
Renee Parsons
The Snowflake Nation and Trump on Immigration
Margaret Kimberley
Black Fear of Trump
Michael J. Sainato
A Pruitt Running Through It: Trump Kills Nearly Useless EPA With Nomination of Oil Industry Hack
Ron Jacobs
Surviving Hate and Death—The AIDS Crisis in 1980s USA
David Swanson
Virginia’s Constitution Needs Improving
Louis Proyect
Narcos and the Story of Colombia’s Unhappiness
Paul Atwood
War Has Been, is, and Will be the American Way of Life…Unless?
John Wight
Syria and the Bodyguard of Lies
Richard Hardigan
Anti-Semitism Awareness Act: Senate Bill Criminalizes Criticism of Israel
Kathy Kelly
See How We Live
David Macaray
Trump Picks his Secretary of Labor. Ho-Hum.
Howard Lisnoff
Interview with a Political Organizer
Yves Engler
BDS and Anti-Semitism
Martha Durkee-Neuman
Millennial Organizers Want to See An Intersectional Understanding Of Gun Violence
Adam Parsons
Home Truths About the Climate Emergency
Brian Cloughley
The Decline and Fall of Britain
Eamonn Fingleton
U.S. China Policy: Is Obama Schizoid?
Graham Peebles
Worldwide Air Pollution is Making us Ill
Joseph Natoli
Fake News is Subjective?
Andre Vltchek
Tough-Talking Philippine President Duterte
Binoy Kampmark
Total Surveillance: Snooping in the United Kingdom
Guillermo R. Gil
Vivirse la película: Willful Opposition to the Fiscal Control Board in Puerto Rico
Patrick Bond
South Africa’s Junk Credit Rating was Avoided, But at the Cost of Junk Analysis
Clancy Sigal
Investigate the Protesters! A Trial Balloon Filled With Poison Gas
Charles R. Larson
Review:  Helon Habila’s The Chibok Girls: the Boko Haram Kidnappings and Islamist Militancy in Nigeria
December 08, 2016
John W. Whitehead
Power to the People: John Lennon’s Legacy Lives On
Mike Whitney
Rolling Back the Empire: Washington’s Proxy-Army Faces Decisive Defeat in Aleppo
Ellen Brown
“We’ll Look at Everything:” More Thoughts on Trump’s $1 Trillion Infrastructure Plan
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail