A Mile Wide and an Inch Deep

Good Wednesday evening,

It is only about 6:15, but I have been up since about 12:30 this morning. The unilateral decision of another has forced me into a couple of weeks of scrambling. However, that was not the only reason I am running on (and seriously fading from) only three hours of sleep. Today was the day all my tenure materials were actually submitted to the university committee. In 196 pages (almost exactly the same length as my dissertation) and three significant binders, along with my chair’s and department committee’s recommendations, I have asked this institution to grant me tenure. I must admit it is a relief to finally hand it in. It also reminds me clearly how different institutions can be. I knew at my previous institution my relationship, or lack thereof, with a dean had sunk me a year or more before I ever went up. I never did go up there. I resigned before they voted. I am pretty sure I would have lost the 2/3s vote by one vote. Here it is so different. The 5 years have been unbelievably busy and yes, even demanding, but that have also been wonderful. While I know there are things that could be stronger -always the case- I do believe in my heart that I have earned this distinction. I also feel valued here. That is an important difference.

This morning, after working most of the night, I had my first meeting at 7:00. The weekly meetings with the LLC director and mentors is a meeting that I enjoy. The mentors are a group who honestly demonstrate a sense of caring for something bigger than themselves. Quite a difference from what seems to be the norm of others. They too lamented the lack of dependability of some of the LLC students, students who changed their minds on something, but did a “no-show-no-call” to an event this past weekend. Much like the theme of my last post, no sense of commitment or obligation to keeping one’s word. It was interesting to hear the words of the director, a person with a business background. He simply said, “In a professional setting, they would be fired. Pretty much the same thing I found in my research noted in my last blog posting.

I am still stunned that so many can show such blatant disregard or concern about their choices, even when they affect others. The response to a statement I made about obligations earlier this week was ” I am not obligated to anyone; I have no obligations.” While he or she might foolishly argue that, and even proceed in life with such a philosophical mindset, to believe this is possible, in my opinion is problematic because it goes against the basic fabric of society. As John Locke noted in his “Second Treatise on Civil Government”, paraphrased it says something like “when humans create a society, by extension, they give up certain individual rights. I was speaking with my favorite philosophy professor last night and told her of this statement. I do not give her a specific context and, in fact, was vague intentionally. Her response was to laugh rather heartily and she said, “yeah, right!! Good luck trying to succeed in the professional world.” She went on to say that such a person will never keep a job. I find myself saying the same.

The paper I am working on for this conference requires me to consider another culture, so I am researching. I am profoundly interested in what I am going to find. As I have spoken with colleagues about the change in plans and making sure that I can still present with a modified presence of the co-presenter and not need IRB approval (ironic that my keyboard wants to keep switching to Spanish as I compose this), at least three people have said this is a cultural characteristic (this parenthetical is offered after response to this posting. Two of the three persons who are referred to here are husband and wife and grew up in an area of the country which has s significant Latino community. So their comments are empirical.) That has both shocked and intrigued me. Is it truly possible that another culture of humans can act in a manner, and justify behavior, that seems to show such an ambivalence for, or towards, their fellow human beings? I should note that I also understand that question comes from my status as a non-Latino and I do not mean it to be unfair. I mean it in s profoundly “need to understand” moment. I am also compelled to ask this question: if one has no obligation or even sense of obligation to another, is said person as a consequence completely self-centered because he or she only does what serves their own needs (this parenthetical again is added following the conversation that is referred to in my next posting. While this part of my blog is certainly is, in part, a response to events in my life, that has always been the impetus for my writing. It is how I make sense of my life. It is how I manage things that are important, both personally or emotionally as well as societally or thoughtfully, philosophically. I will also confess that as a human my emotions and thoughts are intrinsically connected. Therefore what follows at this point it meant philosophically as that kind of a thought process and argument, nothing more.). By extension, does one when in the presence of such a person, simply understand that there is only one outcome, one option when in any relationship with him or her and that is you will be used? Perhaps that is not the intention, so I am not saying there is malevolent intent, but merely understand what is coming. It seems this might be the case. Again, I understand this assessment comes from my point of view and could be inaccurate (edited and added- I am told this is inaccurate and when taken as a personal conversation, I can agree with why that might be thought to be the case.) Oops, I have published and I am not finished . . . More to come

Back: I went to Cracker Barrel with the Deckers, the family I have had the most interaction with since I went to UW-Stout in 2003. Mark is now my assistant department chair and little brother of sorts. He is the one who gave me the phrase that is my title for this blog post. Both he and Gayle believe the choice to not attend the conference to be related, and actually to a large extent, to cultural issues (as noted earlier they have significant exposure to Latino communities growing up. I should also note they know this situation first hand.). I do want to write more here, but my brain feels like mush at the moment. I need to write carefully and appropriately. Please come back in the morning. Ok, it is morning, around 3:15, but I have slept for about six hours. However, I have woken with a fever, and a soaked bed again. This is the third time in a week. It had been a while since that has happened multiple times in a week. I will be up for a while as things are washing and drying. I am sitting in a high backed chair in my room as I continue to compose this. Actually as I think about this both as a possibility of culture and reflect on the words and actions observed in the bigger picture, there is some clarity. (Again what follows is based on my personal experience in the situation, but this argument is not a personal assessment of the argument at this point, it is a much larger philosophical argument that considers religion, culture and experience. As such I do use specific words and experiences to provide a context.) Both the theology espoused, which has been noted in earlier blogs (see 41 Years and an Oxymoron), and the philosophy about “possessions” (not really the best word here, but used rather collectively) seems consistent with the sense of “no obligation “. It is consistent with this theology that I called a “sense of relative or secular humanism”. There is the problem with believing you are deistic in your own right. I will posit If we are all Gods no wonder we can supposedly do what we want with no obligation. I am not sure we as faulty, less-than-perfect humans can handle either the power or responsibility of being “God”. The problem is there is no sense of consequence or regard for consequence outside ourselves. As long as we survive the situation relatively in tact, it is all good. There are two areas that are yet to be figured out in all of this – well, probably more, but two that come to Mina at 4:00 a.m.. It is not the system that supposedly requires responsibility to each other that is corrupt or has failed, it is the individual human and his or her greediness. But if I am correct that this “no obligation” results in a collective self-centered behavior, then such a practice contributes to that greediness, perhaps unintentionally, but nonetheless, it does. That brings us to the issue of ” intención”, una muy importante palabra o concepto. De hecho he oída estas palabras a menudo “el amor esta por encima de cualquier cosa”, pero si no tenemos ninguna obligación de la otra, al contrario de lo que se podría esperar, el amor dado o se expresa no es profunda ni profunda. Es en el mejor de temporal. Can it be trusted or believed? Will it really support you when needed? So if we don’t intend someone to be hurt, by our actions or decisions, then we have no responsibility that our actions might have created some of that hurt. Hence the mantra,”I did not say that.” or the siempre presente “that is your interpretation.” Then whatever is done is almost random in the most profound sense because nothing is really intended. I guess there is a profound freedom in such a process. (I should note this previous passage was a point of some debate. Again if taken philosophically, that need not be the case. However, if seen personally, as it was, it could be seen as a personal attack. I understand that and take responsibility for the consternation it has caused. I do think the larger conversation about how a philosophy and its practice has consequences is an important one. I should note that a philosophical argument does not take into account as clearly as it might the individuals and their own specific personalities. It is certainly  the case that one does not mean malicious intent or even hope or want such things from their actions or choices. What I am arguing is intent does not always match consequence. I do not believe free will trumps societal responsibility, either individually or corporately. That is my fundamental argument here).

This brings me to a second point, and then the consequence of these two considerations. BTW, progress is being made, clothes, sheets are in the dryer. Suppose for a moment that I have, in a miraculous moment of clarity, actually discovered how this all fits. If it is cultural, how is it that two cultures of the same species are so fundamentally, and maybe diametrically opposed? Or is it just my experience with just one element of it? That would be the easy way out, but the fact that others have noted it is likely cultural, and their statement appears experiential, seems to indicate there is a larger issue. I cannot change, nor should I want to change, someone’s culture. Perhaps cause them to examine just as I need to examine my own. What I need to attempt to do is understand from where that mindset or cultural practice comes. If I understand that, then, just maybe, I can get over the sort of “shock and dismay” when I am given another AFGE (I have used this acronym before, so you will have to look it up) in being around it. I will be researching this amazing Latino heritage both for my conference paper, but in an attempt to make sense of what seems non-sensical for a “simple white boy”. I also realize there are contextual factors in all of this. ( I have edited here and deleted three sentences that were too pointed and as such unfair in my part.) Perhaps the title is true about this culture to which I have introduced. However,I am yet to be convinced because others from the same culture have struggled and have questioned some of their experiences (This is in reference to the third person who also read this posting and took exception to my wondering if this is a Latino cultural characteristic. He or she, in fact, asked to meet with me, which we did, and we had a lengthy and helpful conversation. It is really already something I expected to hear in that conversation). I need to understand more, but if you have been reading this blog regularly, that should not surprise you. It is 5:15 and I am going to try to get a bit of sleep after remaking a bed. I will be in school shortly and then until after 8:00 again tonight.

Thanks for reading,

Michael (Martin) (DM)

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