FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Jacko and Me

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:
bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
February 25, 2020
Michael Hudson
The Democrats’ Quandary: In a Struggle Between Oligarchy and Democracy, Something Must Give
Paul Street
The “Liberal” Media’s Propaganda War on Bernie Sanders
Sheldon Richman
The Non-Intervention Principle
Nicholas Levis
The Real Meaning of Red Scare 3.0
John Feffer
Cleaning Up Trump’s Global Mess
David Swanson
How Are We Going to Pay for Saving Trillions of Dollars?
Ralph Nader
Three Major News Stories That Need To Be Exposed
John Eskow
What Will You Do If the Democrats Steal It from Sanders?
Dean Baker
What If Buttigieg Said That He Doesn’t Accept the “Fashionable” View That Climate Change is a Problem?
Jack Rasmus
The Nevada Caucus and the Desperation of Democrat Elites
Howard Lisnoff
The Powerful Are Going After Jane Fonda Again
Binoy Kampmark
Viral Losses: Australian Universities, Coronavirus and Greed
John W. Whitehead
Gun-Toting Cops Endanger Students and Turn Schools into Prisons
Marshall Sahlins
David Brooks, Public Intellectual
February 24, 2020
Stephen Corry
New Deal for Nature: Paying the Emperor to Fence the Wind
M. K. Bhadrakumar
How India’s Modi is Playing on Trump’s Ego to His Advantage
Jennifer Matsui
Tycoon Battle-Bots Battle Bernie
Robert Fisk
There’s Little Chance for Change in Lebanon, Except for More Suffering
Rob Wallace
Connecting the Coronavirus to Agriculture
Bill Spence
Burning the Future: the Growing Anger of Young Australians
Eleanor Eagan
As the Primary Race Heats Up, Candidates Forget Principled Campaign Finance Stands
Binoy Kampmark
The Priorities of General Motors: Ditching Holden
George Wuerthner
Trojan Horse Timber Sales on the Bitterroot
Rick Meis
Public Lands “Collaboration” is Lousy Management
David Swanson
Bloomberg Has Spent Enough to Give a Nickel to Every Person Whose Life He’s Ever Damaged
Peter Cohen
What Tomorrow May Bring: Politics of the People
Peter Harrison
Is It as Impossible to Build Jerusalem as It is to Escape Babylon?
Weekend Edition
February 21, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Election Con 2020: Exposing Trump’s Deception on the Opioid Epidemic
Joshua Frank
Bloomberg is a Climate Change Con Man
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Billion Dollar Babies
Paul Street
More Real-Time Reflections from Your Friendly South Loop Marxist
Jonathan Latham
Extensive Chemical Safety Fraud Uncovered at German Testing Laboratory
Ramzy Baroud
‘The Donald Trump I know’: Abbas’ UN Speech and the Breakdown of Palestinian Politics
Martha Rosenberg
A Trump Sentence Commutation Attorneys Generals Liked
Ted Rall
Bernie Should Own the Socialist Label
Louis Proyect
Encountering Malcolm X
Kathleen Wallace
The Debate Question That Really Mattered
Jonathan Cook
UN List of Firms Aiding Israel’s Settlements was Dead on Arrival
George Wuerthner
‘Extremists,’ Not Collaborators, Have Kept Wilderness Whole
Colin Todhunter
Apocalypse Now! Insects, Pesticide and a Public Health Crisis  
Stephen Reyna
A Paradoxical Colonel: He Doesn’t Know What He is Talking About, Because He Knows What He is Talking About.
Evaggelos Vallianatos
A New Solar Power Deal From California
Richard Moser
One Winning Way to Build the Peace Movement and One Losing Way
Laiken Jordahl
Trump’s Wall is Destroying the Environment We Worked to Protect
Walden Bello
Duterte Does the Right Thing for a Change
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail