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A Privilege to be Apart

I wonder if there could be scientific research done that could come up with a way to measure how much privilege an individual possesses and then create a scale that tells us that this amount of privilege will lead to this amount of life.

Presuming that more privilege equals more life.

And visa versa, I suppose.

By all accounts I should be dead: leukemia in 2009, a year later a lung disease as a result of the bone marrow transplant and of which was to knock me off within five years, heart failure in 2014 as a result of my prophylactic chemo pills, forever more a decimated immune system as a result of all the above, and most recently this summer, also as a result of all the above, pneumonia, of which my oncologist said if I ever contracted it would be game over.

But the game continues…

I guess I’m kind of like a cockroach that there ain’t no gettin’ rid of.

Who knows for sure why I’m still here.

But my guess is that my off the chart privilege score has a heck of a lot to do with it.

Some of the points you can add up by site: white, male, tall, all my limbs and digits intact.

Some points can only be determined by knowing a bit about me.

For instance, by knowing that my ultimate privilege has to be that there never has been a moment in my life that I have not felt loved. That’s got to be worth beaucoup points, oui?

Or that there has never been a moment in my life that I have been without good health insurance.

Good medical coverage + lotsa love as medicine = one long-living cockroach.

And another big privilege of mine is that for the most part I could walk into just about any room of my choosing and feel accepted, or at least unthreatened.

Even without understanding that the ability to do something like that is a privilege, it’s gotta be good for one’s well-being, no?

Yeah…

But it goes the other way, too.

I’ve also had the privilege of self-induced estrangement without having to worried about being labeled as strange… or as a threat.

I used to love being in a foreign country, especially in Asia where I look completely different from most, and riding a bus or a train by myself and not understanding a single word being said around me. Everything just hummed in the background and I could be surrounded by masses of people crammed into the subway car with me and yet be completely apart from them… at peace, without fear.

It was almost spiritual.

A privileged feeling like that’s gotta be worth a few points.

I wonder how many of those from other parts of the world coming to my country today, the less than United States, can ride alone in a crowded subway car not understanding what’s being said around them and feel at peace and without fear.

There is a beautiful piece in the New York Times by Elisa Gonzalez titled How Alienation Became My Superpower…

In 2016, I moved to Poland to study and write poetry on a Fulbright arts fellowship. Doing so required stripping myself of fluency and the cloak of native understanding. With each failure of action or speech, I squelched around in touristic self-pity. “I live on Smutna Street,” I told someone, momentarily forgetting “Smolna” was my street’s actual name; her laughter reminded me that smutna means “sad.” I was often sad during that first, dark autumn, dealing with a disintegrating marriage and the parched loneliness of the unlanguaged.

Fortunately, later in the piece we learn that Ms. Gonzalez was eventually able to find peace with her alienation.

But I don’t suppose everyone who feels alienated and alone because they look different, or speak different, or love different, can find such peace.

But I wish they could.

My work in progress is a story about alienation and estrangement. The main character, white, male, old, kind of like yours truly, gets so fed up with the state of humanity that he decides to no longer identify as a human and disassociates himself completely from society.

But instead of becoming estranged from humanity, he, or it as it prefers to be referred to, creates a kind of a cult around itself in the process.

Go figure.

Privilege is a powerful thing and its worth can never be accurately tallied I suppose.

But we know, or at least I do, that it is so powerful it can fulfill and extend lives.

Now that’s not just power, that is a true superpower…

One that, unfortunately, not everyone has the privilege to enjoy.

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Where one scholar is in error and another in scholarly license

Yes, this is yet another entry for the Ungeziefer file…

One where scholar and author Rebecca Schuman, who is obviously highly intelligent and supremely credible as evidenced by her skepticism (likeminded with yours truly of course) of Michael Hoffman translating Kafka’s Ungezeifer as a cockroach, as discussed in her 2017 Literary Hub article I Made a Mistake in My Book and the Internet Went Nuts.

Cockroach is, some might say, a bold choice. Others might, uncharitably, call it a mistake, and a big, significant one, one that would signify Hofmann’s grasp of the field he dominates as tenuous. But as vehemently as I disagree with cockroach—I prefer Susan Bernofsky’s some sort of monstrous insect—I’m not saying that Hofmann’s a hack, not entirely.

But this entry is a bit more than just a validation my point.

It is also one where with Schuman’s willingness to take on the odd word choice, which some might call a regretful miscalculation, of a renowned scholar such as Hoffman is, isn’t just an example of her intellectual rigor and toughness, it is also yet another example of the disparities between females and males in a professional setting, the setting here being in the arena of German language author-ity and scholarship.

The disparities this time being exhibited in the differences in the reception between a female scholar’s oversight versus a male scholar’s, where Schuman’s oversight of screwing up her German skulls almost lost her her career (and maybe even her mind) and Hoffman’s oversight of calling Gregor Samsa a cockroach was mostly viewed as harmless scholarly license.

It was true. I had fucked up my skulls. Given: It’s hardly a rousing soliloquy claiming Goethe’s finest work is Macbeth. But still.

Here’s how it happened. The chapter now marred by Schädel-gate is called Liebeskummer, a word for heartbreak that literally translates to “love grief.” I wrote it, in its entirety, with a newborn baby, a feat comparable to climbing the sheer face of a cliff using only one’s teeth. It’s a goddamned wonder I could remember Goethe’s name. However, I’m loath to share this fact; offering, as an excuse, my attempt at multitasking the impossible reveals me as a woman—and, therefore, someone whose expertise is brought into question by default.

Obviously, these disparities in reception has much to do stereotype incongruencies, you know, kind of how people get weirded out by male nurses.

Anyway, what are we gonna do, right?

It is, after all, a man’s world…

At least until it isn’t.

~~~~~

Featured image courtesy of The New Sisyphus Is a Woman by Ron Milford

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There’s vermin in my library!

n884_w1150

And by vermin I mean Ungeziefer of course.

And if that Ungeziefer were a snake, the little bugger probably would have bitten me.

Yeah, so… after yesterday’s mostly tongue-in-cheek diatribe re: my frustration with translators who blasphemously translate Ungeziefer, the German word for the mysterious critter into which Franz Kafka has Gregor Samsa of “The Metamorphosis” metamorphose, as anything other than vermin, the actual word Ungeziefer translates as into English, I happily discovered in my Kindle library a 2002 translation of the complexing story by a one David Wyllie that I downloaded from the Gutenberg Library god only knows when that has the famous first sentence translated as…

“One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin” (emphasis emphatically mine!).

Now, was that so hard?

Actually, I have no idea if that was hard or not because I, alas, am a mere one-language knucklehead.

But, don’t you feel even a bit more relieved to know that you are reading a translation of a word, a word that has caused much confusion and consternation and the expenditure of reams and reams of paper, both of the tactile sort and of the e-sort, for nigh a century now, that comes closest to the author’s original?

Look, obviously all this so-called diatribe of mine is, like I said, mostly tongue-in-cheek.

Key word there being: mostly.

There is, to me, however, a little slice of sincere seriousness about all this as well.

Think about it…

Think about the differences between Ungeziefer/vermin and insect, which the Muirs use in their translation, and cockroach, which Hoffman uses in his translation, and even a “big beetle with wings under his shell, capable of flight” for which Vladamir Nabokov lobbied *.

Because I’d bet my bottom bitcoin (if only I had one, right?) that Mr. Kafka certainly did.

And for some reason, he felt compelled to use, not such a specific identifier as cockroach, nor a more general identifier as insect, but an identifier that could easily include both in its meaning as encompassing and horrible, as Wyllie refers to it as in his translation, or as gigantic, as the Muirs refer to it as in theirs, or as monstrous, as Hoffman refers to it as in his, as it is.

So, we all probably have some general understanding what the word vermin means, but let’s get the read deal definition from a renowned authority:

Vermin (colloquially varmint(s) or varmit(s)) are pests or nuisance animals that spread diseases or destroy crops or livestock. Since the term is defined in relation to human activities, which species are included vary by region and enterprise.

The term derives from the Latin vermis (worm), and was originally used for the worm-like larvae of certain insects, many of which infest foodstuffs. The term varmint (and vermint) has been found in sources from c. 1530–1540s.

Wikipedia

So then, with that understanding in mind, what would compel a man like Kafka to use just that word and not the others?

To me, the crux of it all has to do with the alienation he felt in life.

Some say this alienation has mostly to do with his daddy issues.

Yeah, okay, maybe to some extent; but to this knucklehead it seems that this alienation is mostly driven by Kafka’s identity and the marginalization he felt because of it.

For, not only was he marginalized as Jew in a city country continent world** rife with antisemitism, but he was even further marginalized because, for some reason I’ve yet to discover/research, Prague Jews didn’t speak Czech, they spoke German, which is why we’re discussing the German word Ungeziefer for vermin and not the Czech word Havěť .

So, what better way to express this deep-seated feeling of alienation in Kafka as embodied by Gregor Samsa than to turn him into, not some creepy but elusive cockroach, or some ambiguous, generic insect, most of which are mostly harmless and go mostly unnoticed, but into some vile, oversized and infectious vermin that everyone, without prejudice, could fear and despise?

Nothing comes to mind. Yeah, I think Kafka pretty much nailed it.

Yeah, so a lot of this is just for fun and I really have nothing but respect and envy for all the translators out there opening up the world for us…

But, a little bit is wholly and very serious to me because I think it matters with much immensity and immediacy that the world regards the fateful Gregor Samsa explicitly as Kafka intended.



*A reenactment of Nabokov instructing his Cornell students on the subject of “The Metamorphosis,” with Christopher Plummer staring as Nabokov, can be viewed here.

**The Metamorphosis” was published in 1915, only a few short years before the rise of Nazism begins… and which, by the time of its end, Kafka’s three sisters had been murdered in Nazi concentration camps. To illustrate how anti-Semitic times were within Kafka’s life, three years after he was born, Friedrich Nietzsche’s domineering, mentally imbalanced, and extremely anti-Semitic sister Elisabeth Alexandra Förster-Nietzsche moved with her husband to Paraguay to create the pure-Aryan paradise of Nueva Germania. Yeah… pretty awful and surely highly impressionable times for Franz, I’d venture to say.

NOTE: Regarding the featured image, Kafka instructed his publisher to not represent on the book cover what he, the publisher, conceived the vermin to be; instead, he, Kafka, wanted only a man lying in bed to be represented. Hence, my choice of the featured image that I found in the Pexel free database. To me, the identity of person lying in bed is unidentifiable, although I assume (I know, I know… risky business there) this is a person of color, which would, sadly, make this person wholly marginalized in my neck of the woods… and probably, sadly, in yours too.

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Only in North Carolina*

Image courtesy NBC News

A man who alleged in a lawsuit that he was fired from a hospital system because he is a white man has been awarded a $10 million verdict by a North Carolina jury, according to court documents.

Jury awards $10M to former exec who said he was fired because he is white male, NBC News, October 28, 2021

My guess is that many on the jury that awarded this poor, victimized dude $10,000,000.00 for his misfortune of being born white and male overlapped with the University of North Carolina board of trustees who denied tenure to Nikole Hannah-Jones, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer for The New York Times Magazine, for her blasphemously accurate reportage of the United States’ bleak history of slavery…


*And by North Carolina, I mean South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas… you get the picture.

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ESPN for the Hat-trick

And by hat-trick I mean the Rachel Nichols sh*t show at ESPN that features a disappointing trifecta of racism, sexism, and privacy rights issues.

Here’s a quote at the center of the controversy that comes from a phone conversation of Nichols that was inadvertently recorded to ESPN servers and then discovered and (illegally?) dispersed by a former/fired ESPN employee:

“I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world — she covers football, she covers basketball,” Nichols said in July 2020. “If you need to give her more things to do because you are feeling pressure about your crappy longtime record on diversity — which, by the way, I know personally from the female side of it — like, go for it. Just find it somewhere else. You are not going to find it from me or taking my thing away.”

A Disparaging Video Prompts Explosive Fallout Within ESPN, New York Times, July 4, 2021

Generally speaking, I’m not surprised that a white person (Rachel Nichols) would feel this way towards a Black person (Maria Taylor) regarding positioning and advancement in the workplace. However, I am surprised that a white person would openly (openly can certainly be debated here, hence the concerns about privacy rights) express such sentiments whose occupation (NBA courtside reporter) involves developing close relationships with the employees (NBA athletes) of an an industry (professional basketball) where Blacks make up nearly 75% of the workforce.

On second thought, I’m not actually surprised by that either.

No matter how much we, and by we I mostly mean progressive whites but just about anyone can be included I suppose, profess to be color blind and sex blind and gender blind and sexuality blind and on and on, it doesn’t take much to trigger us back to type, and by type I mean the socialization/indoctrination process that takes place during our formative years and instills deeply, indelibly some would say, within us our beliefs and values and prejudices and fears.

And the fear of losing one’s livelihood is a heck of a trigger.

Not saying it’s right, just saying that’s the way our world works as I see it.

Which is why there has been and there always will be, at least for the foreseeable future, a critical need for special interest groups, identity politics, and the understanding by all of the concept of intersectionality, a concept more and more of us are becoming familiar with as the ugly and misguided debate about Critical Race Theory drags on.

For an example of how intersectionality works, consider how racism, sexism, and homophobia affects the Black female lesbian, perhaps the most marginalized group in the country:

The most general statement of [the Combahee River Collective] politics at the present time would be that we are actively committed to struggling against racial, sexual, heterosexual, and class oppression, and see as our particular task the development of integrated analysis and practice based upon the fact that the major systems of oppression are interlocking. The synthesis of these oppressions creates the conditions of our lives. As Black women we see Black feminism as the logical political movement to combat the manifold and simultaneous oppressions that all women of color face.

THE COMBAHEE RIVER COLLECTIVE STATEMENT (1977), Blackpast.org

Look, I’ve only scratched the surface here so you really need to read the whole story to get a feel for all the unfortunate issues going on right now at ESPN. It really is quite tragic…

And, unfortunately, quite unsurprising.

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If you condemn and attack Critical Race Theory and the 1619 Project* without any understanding of either…

Sorry to say but chances are you’re a racist…

One more than likely slave to a supremist ego and motivated by fear and seduced by a willful (and more than likely generational) ignorance.

However, if you condemn and attack Critical Race Theory and the 1619 Project without any understanding of either and truly believe you’re not a racist, then please at least make an effort to explain to us (in your own words, not Fox News’) how that is possible.

Good luck with that.


In exploring the reasons why there is so much pushback and misinformation being disseminated regarding critical race theory (CRT) … let’s examine the psychology of humans. There is a theory called “psychological reactance,” which was first proposed by Jack W. Brehm in 1966. Brehm theorized that people are inherently resistant to certain persuasion, specifically when they feel that the persuasion is somehow posing a threat to their freedoms or their existence. People who are threatened usually feel uncomfortable, hostile, aggressive and angry.

Psychological reactance makes people disregard even the most glaring reality in order to protect their perception of themselves — their ego. They view an acceptance of this reality as a threat to their entire existence and do everything in their power to stifle that “perceived threat.”

Justin J. Grooms, The San Diego Union-Tribune, June 15, 2021

*and #BLM and the Take a Knee Movement and on and on and on…

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Killing in the Name

Waiting for the trump statement to be released declaring the Minneapolis cops who murdered George Floyd to be good people…

Mr. Floyd died after being handcuffed and pinned to the ground by an officer’s knee, in an episode that was recorded on video by a bystander, inciting condemnation and protests.

What We Know About the Death of George Floyd, New York Times, May 27, 2020

President Donald Trump seemed to encourage police to be more violent in handling potential offenders during a speech to law enforcement officers today.

“Please don’t be too nice,” he said to the audience in Long Island, New York.

Trump to police: ‘Please don’t be too nice’ to suspects, ABC News, July 28, 2017

Some of those that work forces are the same that burn crosses…

#GEORGEFLOYD
#KILLINGINTHENAMEOF
#WAKEUP
#BLACKLIVESMATTER

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The Dichotomies of Hate

Racists, driven by their feeble-minded ignorance and incapacitating insecurities, will always leech off any opportunity or misfortune to project their self-loathing and self-delusions upon others of whom they both envy and fear…


A man followed the Chinese American doctor from the Boston hospital, spewing a profanity-laced racist tirade as she walked to the subway. “Why are you Chinese people killing everyone?” Li recalled the man shouting. “What is wrong with you? Why the f— are you killing us?”

Asian American doctors and nurses are fighting racism and the coronavirus, Washington Post, May 19, 2020

#hatethehate

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What is Gotham Trying to Say about Interracial Marriages?

Even though I grew up a comic book nerd, I’m pretty much over all the Marvel/DC Comics superhero movies. I used to watch them religiously at the movie theater – because if one must watch a big budgeted bloated bonanza of bombastic visual proportions, then it must be watched while on the big screen – however, I’m trying very hard to wean myself off of them. Key word: trying.

Despite the fact that I know without a doubt I’m going to be hugely disappointed at the movie’s end, I still find it hard to resist them. For instance, the buzz around the Black Panther movie is phenomenal so chances are pretty good I’ll make the trek to my local Frank’s Theatre and hope for the best… while still expecting the worst.

Fortunately, thanks to the likes of HBO, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and the… like, the superhero genre has not been left behind during this amazing renaissance of television we’re happily going through.

As for there being any good content on broadcast television, I wouldn’t know. I haven’t watched anything on any of the broadcast channels, other than sports, since Happy Days went off the air… what has it been? a year or two ago?

Except for one broadcast show, that is.

Gotham.

I am off on a hardcore wide-eyed binge on that show, which should tell you that I don’t actually watch it when it’s broadcasted on Fox. No way. Never again will I be a slave to a network time slot.

I watch Gotham as any discerning 21st Century viewer would, at my leisure on that amazing little channel of an app called Netflix.

With all its dark, demented, hyper-violence, let me tell ya… Gotham is good. Real good. It actually feels like a comic book has been brought to life, making it exactly what a discerning 21st Century television viewer like yours truly wants…

And deserves.

Anyway, onward to the point of this overly prolific post…
Continue reading What is Gotham Trying to Say about Interracial Marriages?