Sunday, March 20, 2005

Happy Anniversary Ira!

A quick shout out to my lovely wife, Ira G, otherwise known as Irina Dmitrievna Rasmussen Goloubeva, on this, our first wedding anniversary.

It’s been a fabulous first year of marriage, and I really wish we could be together today. Although our academic commitments prevent us from doing so this year, in the future we'll have to do all we can to secure March 20 for ourselves.

I miss you sweetheart! Spring Break ain't really no break this year, not least because you're gone. Do some extra relaxing for me, ok.



Saturday, March 19, 2005

In favor of the idle

A quick word to family and friends who have wondered when I'll be less busy and have warned me about working too hard lately: I am aiming to devote more time to leisurely activities and catching up with the people in my life who really matter, though, alas, it may be hard to do before the end of the semester, which has been an absolutely grueling one.

Regretably, though predictably, contemporary academia has not learned from Nietzsche...

As a sign that esteem for the meditative life has decreased, scholars now compete with active people in a sort of hurried pleasure, so that they appear to esteem this sort of pleasure more highly than the kind that really is their due and that is in fact much more pleasurable. Scholars are ashamed of otium. Yet there is something noble about leisure and idleness.—If idleness really is the beginning of all vices at least it therefore finds itself in the closest proximity to all virtues; the idle person is always a better person than the active one.—But you surely do not think that in speaking of leisure and idleness I am referring to you, you sloths? —

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Zizek on 'The Two Totalitarianisms,' or, Why Fascism is Worse than Stalinism

I remember taking a 'social studies' class back in high school in which the teacher, who was also the athletic director and the assistant coach for football, basketball and track, wrote on the board "Communism = Fascism = Socialism." This was back in the late 1980s, shorty before the fall of the Soviet Union as it turned out. Even as a teen, I was disgusted by this crude equation, which was never explained properly but was based on the assumption that the three aforementioned political systems were all forms of 'anti-democratic' totalitarianism.

In The Two Totalitarianisms Slavoj Zizek argues that while it is absolutely necessary to condemn the horrific brutalities perpetuated under Stalinism, it is also wrong to simply equate Communism and Fascism as Leftist and Rightist totalitarianism. Zizek declares that, "[i]t is necessary to take sides and proclaim Fascism fundamentally ‘worse’ than Communism. The alternative, the notion that it is even possible to compare rationally the two totalitarianisms, tends to produce the conclusion – explicit or implicit – that Fascism was the lesser evil, an understandable reaction to the Communist threat."

In a nutshell, Zizek's argument is based on the premise that Communism acknowledges the fundamental class antagonism and posits a model in which all people are, theoretically, equal, whereas Fascism displaces and naturalizes the class struggle as racial conflict and posits a racialized hierarchy in which certain people (Jews, Gypsies, etc.) are designated inferior.