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« Turkana Boy | Main | Caricatures »

February 07, 2007


Robert Gehl

It's one thing to argue about rules in, for example, grammar. In that case, your admonition of your new WC colleague is spot on. She's arguing that the rules of "Grammar A" don't really matter; instead students should seek their personal, individualized (and I would argue consumeristic) "Grammar B" (I think those were the terms they used when I was getting my undergraduate degree). Clearly, she is wrong; we need grammatical rules in order to set a standard of communication. We also need rules of scientific conduct, rules for research, etc.

However, I think that the pomo (postmodern) critique (at least, the REAL pomo critique - not just the cartoon variety) is directed towards the proper object: the rules themselves. Who wrote them? Why? How? and for whose benefit? If it weren't for pomo/Latourian critiques of science, we might be in the midsts of Eugenics, or some other dubious scientific agenda - ideologically driven, spurious, and dangerous.

I think we can maintain a project of critiquing the constitution of rules - rules of scientific conduct, academic standards, etc - while accepting the need for standards of conduct. Rules are made by people. They can be set to exclude some to benefit others. However, they can be changed by people.

What we cannot argue are scientific facts arising from material reality. The difference is that these are not created by people, they are perceived by people, and as such are inalterable (and, as some might argue, they are basically intangible).

In other words, you can argue about the proper way to measure the theoretical concept of "gravity." Those are the rules, which create a measurable standard, which can in fact be changed (think of the shift from Newtonian physics to modern day quantum physics). Those rules arise from particular political and social concepts and biases. What you cannot argue is that gravity as a phenomenon does not exist.

The problem arises when we conflate the rules of measurement, conduct, etc, with the phenomenon.

Ok. That was my one of my least coherent responses to your posts. I guess I'm trying to find my "authentic voice."

James F. Trumm

It was a rainy night in the naked city and I was down in my basement doing two of the things I do best: typing and pissing people off. I like being a blogger. Maybe not as much as I like a stacked blonde in a diaphanous peignoir running her fingers through my hair, but it sure beats having the back of your head beat with a tire iron. I was very conscious of this preference when I heard my back door open and two pairs of Doc Martin's clumping down the stairs. I reached for the sap I keep in my desk drawer and waited.

"Gentlemen," I nodded as the two goombahs walked through the door. One of them was a tall drink of water with a shock of hair the color of three-day snow and a dark sportcoat over a darker tie. The other one was shorter, bald as a cue-ball, and wore glasses and a white turtleneck.

"We're looking for Trumm," said Sportcoat, sounding like a guy at a lobster tank picking out this evening's entree and crushing a Gauloise into the carpet.

"Yeah?" I said. "I'm looking for love in all the wrong places. Guess we got something in common."

"Hear that, Jacques?" said Cueball. "Bright boy thinks he's a funny man. Maybe you should try getting a laugh out of my little friend here." He reached meaningfully into his coat pocket. I tightened my grip on the sap handle.

"Clam up, Michel," Sportcoat snarled. "Let me do the talking."

"Yeah," I said, apropos of not much except the growing feeling that I was going to need either a fifth of whiskey or a good lawyer before the night was over. On the whole, I'd prefer the whiskey: less of a hangover that way.

"So, Smart Boy," said Sportcoat, to the chase having cut, "nice blog you got there." He sneered at my 'puter. "Shame if something was to . . . happen to it."

"You need discipline," said Cueball, ignoring Sportcoat's glare. "And punishment." These two guys were both talking now, but it didn't seem like they were communicating with each other. At least that's how I interpreted it.

"Is that so?" I bluffed. "On account of why?"

"See," purred Sportcoat, "I know a guy who knows a guy who was kinda put out by some stuff you said recently. I thought you might want to . . . edit yourself a bit, you know, so this guy doesn't get too unhappy."

"Which guy? The first guy or the second guy?" I asked, keeping my tone light.

Sportcoat stopped smirking at this. "You put the finger on some friends of mine," he said, all business now. "You told Roscoe and Omar that my friends and me were responsible for lousing up the enlightenment, Smart Boy."

"So what if I did? And who are Roscoe and Omar?" I asked, genuinely baffled.

"Textual constructs. Friends of mine. What does it matter?" growled Cueball. "Let's whack him and get it over with, Jacques."

The one called Jacques seemed to take a moment to think about this before moving his hand across his chest to the inside pocket of his sportcoat. I saw my chance. As soon as his hand went in, my feet hit the floor. I jumped up, feigned a left jab at Jacques and then gave him a nice love tap with the sap on the left temple. Down he went like a ten-dollar whore. Michel already had his gun out, but I was too fast for him. Bent over at the waist, I charged into him, getting my back under his gun hand and then ramming three stiff fingers into his adam's apple. He dropped the piece, clutched at his neck and began to make gurgling, gasping noises.

I picked up the gun and pointed it at him. "Our little interview is over," I said. "You pick up bright boy there before he bleeds all over my carpet and get out." I flicked the safety off, meaningfully. "Interpret this anyway you like, but if I see either of your ugly French mugs in here again, you'll wind up with more holes than a four-story whorehouse. Move."

After they were gone, I studied the burn on the carpet. Maybe it added ambiance. I opened my bottom drawer and pulled out a bottle of Old Bushmills. They'd be back, I mused, them or guys just like them. You try to pin a rap like murdering the enlightenment on guys like that and eventually you wind up real dead.

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