I am sensitive like a buzz saw.

On the local news some lady warns of the dangers of caffeine: can cause increased urination, heart rate, and irritability.

Somehow she fails to frighten me.

I had this history professor one semester. Her self-description best reflects her personality; she once said “I am sensitive like a buzz saw.” She would also light up ten minutes before the end of class and ash into her paper coffee cup.

Sometimes, professors say profound things that stay with you. Sometimes, though, you forget what that thing was, exactly, remembering only that moment of the ignition of your intellectual spirit, see Stand and Deliver or Dangerous Minds. I should make up an apocryphal quotation so that I can re-tell the moment with greater effect.

A girl in our class had just expressed distaste for the works of one J.J. Rousseau because of said Enlightenment philosopher’s distaste for women. Our professor, in her I-survived-the-Cold-War Ukrainian accent, scoffed. This is the best I can do. She said something perfect and disdainful of the notion that because a person is wrong-headed about one thing, you don’t have to care about anything else in his or her corpus.

Rousseau was a weak man raised by women who really wanted someone to love him, she said. And if he was a misogynist, so what. Now let’s talk about origins of inequality.

Thus began my buffet style approach to philosophy, eating the warm center and leaving the crusty bits.

Which I bring up only because I have always had a vague to open hostility towards Thomas Friedman, but am compelled to repeat the subject of his latest column as though I have never said “I find Thomas Friedman’s writing to be overly preoccupied with how witty he seems to consider himself.”

According to Thomas Friedman, all one’s individual efforts to save the environment are irrelevant. It doesn’t matter how many energy efficient light bulbs you have in your house, he says, if you vote for the wrong person, because the legislators set policy.

It’s weird because this is exactly the operating philosophy I now work under. We lobby Congresspersons to support legislation with names like “The Clean Water Restoration Act” because it’s the 35th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, which was supposed to have the waters clean by 1985.



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