I broke my alcohol fast last night for the second time in 8 days. I had a real gin martini followed by 3 scotches. I can feel it a bit this morning which is unusual for me. Eileen suggested that I find a pattern that would allow me to have an occasional drink and stick to it. But I don’t see a clear way to do that. Meanwhile, back to the fake gin tonight.
I have resumed reading Martha Nussbaum’s 1998 Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education. I’m not sure when I stopped reading it, but my place is clearly marked. In the back of the book, there is a newspaper clipping of her article, Making Philosophy Matter to Politics, which is undated, but seems to have been published in 2002. It’s probably been that long since I have read in it. I had marked my place with a charming bookmark made for me by my daughter, Elizabeth. It’s dated December 1999.
Anyway, I think it’s still very pertinent and interesting to read. This morning I was a bit amused to read that even in 1998 profs were finding that students didn’t have acceptable writing skills. Nussbaum describes three classroom experiences of taking a class on feminism at St. Lawrence U, Washing U. at St. Louis, and Stanford. She reports that first year students at St. Lawrence “do not write very well” and their prof spends a lot of time correcting grammar and style in papers they hand in. Nussbaum is examining their papers to partially determine what the teacher has communicated and the atmosphere prevailing in the classroom.
I’m also trying to finish the library’s copy of Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment is Killing America’s Heartland. I resist purchasing my own copy of this book even though I have learned a lot by reading it. The author, Jonathan M. Metzl, is a sociology and psychiatry prof at Vanderbilt as well as director of its Center for Medicine, Health, and Society.
This book has helped me understand how people in this country routinely support public policy that is harmful to themselves. The short answer is that they understand this and are willing to sacrifice themselves and their loved ones for what they believe. What they believe is usually confused and situated in misconceptions and societal racism. They are not conscious of this and would resent it being pointed out. But I am beginning to make more sense of them with Metzl’s help.
He seems to be a good listener. He and his assistants do focus groups and interview many people. He considers three policy ideas in three different states, all of which he has spent time living in: gun ownership in Missouri, health care in Tennessee, and education in Kansas.
I am learning some new concepts. Reaction formation and the formation role of nostalgia on identity.
There is actually a Wikipedia article on the former. Basically reaction formation is a personality swing from one extreme reaction to its opposite to mask it. Metzl uses it to postulate why Kansans imagine they are living in a vibrant progressive and rejuvenating place when they are living in an “ennui-inducing’ place of endless cornfields and plains. He expands this psychological diagnosis to include the “formation role of nostalgia on identity.”