So, last night, I finally met my illustrious co-blogger Matt Thompson for dinner at a DC restaurant. We didn’t get a picture — I had to limp/run out of the restaurant to catch a late-night train — but 1) Robin wasn’t there and 2) we weren’t wearing our black paisley vests either, so maybe it’s for the best.
Taking Robin’s place as our guest/facilitator/cultural psychoanalyst was longtime friend of the Snark Rachel Leow, whose blog a historian’s craft you should know. Here are some of the things we collectively figured out:
- The Wire is awesome. In particular, it shows several crash-only institutions at work, albeit at their most dysfunctional. Seriously, a drug gang is the crash-only institution writ large, but politics and police don’t fare much better. This also lets David Simon hammer away at how prioritizing short-term over long-term thinking nearly always results in tragedy. (In these dysfunctional institutions, if good things happen to good people, it’s because someone has made a terrible mistake.)
- Brussels sprouts cooked really well are fantastic, if salty. I think these had bacon or some kind of other salted pork product too, so they were really going for it.
- There are plenty of American pathologies that our Malaysian-by-way-of-Cambridge friend drew out of us for discussion, but here’s one I hadn’t thought very much about. American class ideology, where 99% of people see themselves as middle-class, prospering through their own hard work, without any real inherited privilege, has a pessimistic corollary: at any moment, someone could take it all away. Which, if you think about it, makes a perverse kind of sense: if privilege and status are completely elastic, you could just as easily fall down as well as up. 90% of all public political discourse follows from this.
- Yeah, the American academic/scholarship system is pretty screwed up, reinforcing privilege and throwing up self-destructive barriers to entry and access. So much smartness there, though — so much possibility.