Friday, November 26, 2010

Infra Dig

The thing about Marty is that he had his personal friends but if you didn't take a course from him, or eat at his table, you didn't even know he was alive --from the perspective of being inside Harvard or inside Soc Stud.--To me the entire thing: the festschrift for a man with no real academic production, no serious students, no moral trail other than a trail of slime--reeks of preciousness and an inability to judge the truly worthwhile. I'm deeply ashamed of Michael Walzer for ever lending his prestige to this and, apparently, for being unable to "know" with any kind of moral clarity that people don't say *incredibly racist things* without also promulgating and agitating for incredibly racist policies. Pace EJ Dionne's "we can argue/friends can argue" no one gives a flying fuck if important upper class white people are friends with, and have dinner with, other important upper class white people and if they, as they port goes 'round the table and talk turns to summer vacations occasionally give vent to racist sentiments which are politely ignored or dealt with by an uncomfortable but indulgent "oh Marty!" The thing that pisses off the students is that this mindset, these publications, these policies have real world consequences for actual people who are not, as it happens, white, or jewish, or christian.

Brad knows that I avoided the whole weekend--though I believe my family "represented"(!) but I really stand aghast at the barefaced, hackneyed, amorality on display by my former department expressed in this touching attempt to redirect the conversation:

"Richard Tuck: I let Abdelnassar Rashid speak because he is somebody that I have had dealings with and whose substantive views on this matter I respect."

This is precisely the problem. One is allowed to speak absolute racist hate speech because he is known and loved and has money and favors to dispense to his former students. Another is, briefly, allowed to speak on opposition because he is "known" and has "substantive views." This is an obscene form of "on the one hand/on the other hand" that denies the very possibility of an actual moral stance. I get that maybe in the Econ department, or Geology, or Engineering it may be appropriate to ignore a given Professor's insane and hateful rhetoric because, after all, his graphs or his mines or his bridges are top notch but I'm sorry to say that in a field like Social Studies with its proud moral and intellectual commitment to something-or-other Marty Peretz should never have been allowed to serve as other than an object lesson in what happens when an oppressed person takes a vow that he and his friends will never be subordinate again and cheerfully arrogates to himself the right to put his foot on the neck of everyone lower down on the social ladder from himself. Marty should have been seen as nothing more than a fucking object of study--not a professor in the respected sense of the word. No Fellowships in Marty's name anymore than we name fellowships honoring the diseases we are trying to eradicate.

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