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How to Annoy a Professor

September 14, 2010

The first few weeks of classes are fun for everyone. For those students out there who are looking for great advice on how to start the semester on the wrong foot, I suggest the following ways to annoy a professor.

First Way

Professor: “My classes are not easy—there are a lot of readings and you have to keep up with them to do well in the course.”

Student: “You just ruined my day.”

Second Way

Professor: “What does the author mean by x?”

Student 1: “He means y.”

Professor: “No, that’s a good guess but it’s not correct.”

Student 2: “He means z.”

Professor: “Exactly; we know he means z because …”

Student 1: [under breath but still loud enough to hear across the room] “That’s exactly what I just said.”

Third Way

Just send an email from an account like “crazyitalianbitch43,” don’t identify your name or the class you’re in, and write one grammatically incorrect sentence asking about something that should be easily accessible on the syllabus, like “wht do you to stuyd for next weak.”

Where Am I?

August 24, 2010

Hi all! This site has largely been inactive over the summer because I’ve been busy writing other things and because I haven’t really had a bee in my bonnet about anything.

However, I want to let you know that I will be blogging at a new location, under my given name rather than a pseudonym. I won’t be taking this blog down—I’ll continue to post here from time to time—but I wouldn’t expect regular postings.

If you’re interested in following me at my new location, send me an email at missivesfrommarx at gmail dot com, and I’ll probably let you know. I don’t want to share that info here, publicly, because I don’t want my cover to be blown where anyone can find it!

“Growth” as a Euphemism

August 5, 2010

I get an alumni magazine which includes stories and notes related to my undergrad’s divinity school. They recently featured a bio of a recent graduate of the divinity school; she was quoted as saying that she experienced a lot of “growth” during her studies.

It suddenly hit me: “growth” is a euphemism for “I don’t believe the same crap I did when I started my divinity school training.”

I can see why they use the word “growth”—it’s a lot less threatening to the conservatives who donate to the school and potential future students.

Opium, Prozac

July 31, 2010

Marx suggested (ambivalently, as it is not often noted), that religion was the opiate of the masses.

In Selling Spirituality, Jeremy Carrette and Richard King suggest—in the spirit of Marx—that contemporary spirituality is the prozac of the masses.

Or, in their own words:

Privatised spirituality emerges here as the new cultural prozac bringing transitory feelings of ecstatic happiness and thoughts of self-affirmation, but never addressing sufficiently the underlying problem of social isolation and injustice. (77)

Manufacturing Consent and Selective Memory

July 30, 2010

Check out this cover from Time magazine. The headline says: “What Happens If We Leave Afghanistan.” This is the apogee of using the plea for protection of women to manufacture consent to war. It makes me sick.

Of course I have no sympathy with the Taliban. But couldn’t this headline also read, “What Happened because We Supported the Mujahidin”?

Or, “What Happened while We’re in Afghanistan”?

Folk Theories of Religion

July 22, 2010

There is a dominant folk theory of religion out there: the theory is that religion is about belief, and the behavior or actions of religious practitioners somehow are causally produced by the beliefs they hold.

This is not only false as a theory of religion, but it is a dangerous theory as well: it leads to people thinking that if the Qur’an says Muslims should kill infidels, that means people who “believe” in the Qur’an will kill infidels. This is clearly not true.

Nye puts it well in Religion: The Basics, where he is discussing how defining religion as a “belief system” slides into an explanatory account:

What is happening here is, in fact, that this idea of belief is being used not merely as a definition [of religion], but as an explanation. That is, religious belief becomes an explanation in itself: our absence of understanding what a person from another religion is doing or thinking leads us to fall back on our basic knowledge of their beliefs. Thus we assume that a Hindu is acting a certain way because s/he ‘believes’ in reincarnation, and a Muslim in another way because s/he believes in Allah. Such an explanation may or may not be correct—but what it does is rule out a number of other possible explanations. (117)

Suicide Terrorism

July 21, 2010

I’ve often heard people suggest that suicide terrorism is intrinsically counter-productive: the aims desired are never achieved. In Dying to Win, Robert Pape demonstrates that this is not the case: suicide terrorism campaigns sometimes do end with the achievement of stated aims.

In addition, I’d like to point out that Al Qaeda’s #1 goal was the extrication of US forces from the Middle East in general, and from Saudi Arabia in particular. US forces are obviously not out of the Middle East, but they did withdraw from Saudi Arabia in 2003 (after a 13 year stay).

Just sayin’.