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10 Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries

My flight back to Moscow was without incident. I slept most of the four hours to Atlanta and some of the ten to Moscow. Believe it or not Delta has direct flights from Atlanta, of all places, to Moscow. I guess its one of the perks of being a main Delta hub.

Ilya, my driver from Sheremetevo to my apartment, was a friendly guy. A bit obsessed with cars, though. I spent the whole one and a half hour ride listening to his various takes on cars. He’s a big Nissan fan (he claimed that he was buying a new one next week), and thought BMW and Mecedes were good in band only, while the cars themselves were shit. When I asked him if Russian cars had any merit, he went on a rant on how they were total shit. When I jokingly suggested that perhaps Russian car companies might disappear in ten years, he added that this would be a good thing.

Yes, cars are the shit in Moscow. They clog the streets, freeways, alleyways, and sometimes, even the sidewalks. Compared to four years ago, the last time I was in Moscow, the auto problem is out of control. Before, it made some sense to save time by taking a car rather than the subway. Now, that logic doesn’t make any fucking sense. My friend Greg astutely noticed a few months ago, that Moscow had fewer tramways than before. Many of them seemed to have been removed probably due to the increase in car traffic.

To really experience the congestion and to know makes traffic in Moscow more unbearable than from, say, a car addicted place like Los Angeles, is the fact that there are no emission laws here. At least it doesn’t seem like it. More than once have I had a walk spoiled by an inhale of car or truck exhaust. Or worse, riding in a car with your window down is just asking to have car exhaust from a neighboring car to blow into your window. Many Russian big trucks have their exhaust pipes on the side of the truck which blow poison gas out sideways rather than up.

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Pimp My Ride just came on Russian MTV. “Pimp my ride” in Russian is pronounced “Tachka na prokachu.” There is nothing special about the Russian version, except that it is apparently really popular.. It is just the regular Pimp My Ride dubbed in Russian. The Russians just aren’t as inventive as say the Germans, who have their own version of the show, but it’s called Pimp My Bike. Makes sense since few German youths have cars.

Tonight I’m having dinner with a friend from Illinois. She’s leaving Moscow in a week to go back home. I’ve been honored with meeting her girlfriend, .. An honor I probably shouldn’t take lightly. . (and I use . . because she is pretty closeted) needed a lot of convincing to allow me to meet her girl. When she came out to me, I wasn’t too surprised. My gaydar was on a medium buzz around her already. What I was a bit surprised by was her hesitance to be “out” to many of her friends and colleagues. I understand being in the closet to family, but to friends and colleagues? After she explained it to me, I understood. After all, who am I to tell a gay person how they should publicly handle their gayness. I don’t have to worry about any possible “repercussions.” E explained that the reason why she isn’t out at school isn’t because she’s afraid of any discrimination. Academia is filled with enough gays for it not to be a problem. What she feared is that if she was out, people would only view her as a lesbian. Her homosexuality would become the center of her life, whether she wanted it to be or not. Her identity would be reduced to a singularity determined by what gender she likes to fuck. Her sexuality would become the alpha and omega of her being not because she expresses herself that way. No. Because people, even good tolerant liberals, have a tendency first reify and then ascribe identity, whether it be race, gender, or sexuality, onto that person. Such is the dialectic of identity politics: our identity is reduced to this or that, black or white, straight or gay, etc. There is rarely any room for hybridity, let alone play of subjectivity. And people say Michel Foucault was wrong when he spoke to sexuality and the productive discourses around it.

Speaking of Foucault, the conservative online newsletter Human Events just published its “10 Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries.” Foucault’s Madness and Civilization only got an honorable dangerous mention. The 10 Most Harmful Books according to Human Events are:

10. John Maynard Keynes, General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, 1936.

9. Freidrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, 1886.

8. Auguste Comte, The Course of Positive Philosophy, 1830-1842.

7. Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique, 1963

6. Karl Marx, Das Kapital, 1867-1894.

5. John Dewey, Democracy and Education, 1916.

4. Alfred Kinsey, The Kinsey Report, 1948.

3. Mao Zedong, Quotations from Chairman Mao, 1966.

2. Aldoph Hitler, Mein Kampf, 1925.

And the number one most harmful book of the 19th and 20th century is:

1. Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto, 1848.

Not bad for a newsletter that features the rhetorical Manichaeism of Anne Coulter and the conservative crust of Robert Novak. Not surprising either. Notice how if you remove Hitler’s Mein Kampf, all the books deal with liberalism, sex, feminism, or anti-capitalism. It is clear that Nietzsche only makes the list because of the Nazi “affinity” for his philosophy. To think that such reductions of great thinkers of the modern era would be old hat by now.

The list makes me wonder about a few things. First, why include Hitler at all. Given the general trend of the list, it makes me wonder why give das Fuehrer a shout out at all? Clearly the conservative scholars and right wing think tank fellows think that Hitler is just a token evil compared to the real evil words of Karl Marx, Alfred Kinsey, Betty Friedan, and John Dewey. I think Hitler is listed more because to not do so would make the whole list a complete joke. The truth is when tabulating texts that harm, Adolph bring credibility. The fact remains however, that Marx only wrote books and Hitler wrote a book and started a world war, invaded and occupied several countries, and, and was directly responsible for the extermination of 8 million Jews, Slavs, Romi, mentally ill, homosexuals, and others. By placing the Communist Manifesto over Mein Kampf is to suggest that Marx’s text is more horrible that Hitler.

As I wrote that last line I can already hear the conservative response. Yeah Hitler was responsible for a lot of people’s deaths, but compared to killings inspired by Marx’s writings, Hitler pales in comparison. Hence Hitler’s second most harmful and Marx is first. Okay even if I buy this argument, my point isn’t about rehabilitating Marx and further demonizing Hitler anyway. Let’s remove Hitler and Marx from the equation. How the hell can you explain the presence of figures such as Alfred Kinsey, Betty Freidan, Auguste Comte, Jonh Dewey, and John Maynard Keynes? (I leave Mao and Nietzsche out purposely because they can be collapsed into one point for Marx’s team and one point for Hitler’s)? Clearly their sins are liberalism in economics, education, thought, sex, gender. I think that their real ire is not so much directed against the radical left or right, but at the five liberal texts that standout as a bit strange and, frankly, paranoid of the perceived specter that is haunting our present existence: the specter of liberalism.

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