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April 4, 2012

Ask an English Major

Welcome once again to “Ask an English Major about Political Science,” the column that puts the Hume in humanities. We’ve got lots of interesting questions, so let’s get right to it:

Dear English Major: With communism in retreat worldwide and neoconservatism literally in flames, liberal democracy seems to be the only viable political philosophy remaining in the world. And yet, never has the middle class seemed so marginalized. How can you reconcile those facts? —Preoccupied

Dear Pre: While many parts of the world are in flames because of it, neoconservatism is not literally on fire. The correct usage is “figuratively in flames,” or the simpler, “fucked.” For info on the middle class, please contact a computer science major.

Dear English Major: I had a dream the other night that I was in a super-naughty three-way with Condoleezza Rice and Fareed Zakaria, but all I wanted to do was eat baba ganoush and discuss the Arab Spring. Should I cancel my subscription to The Economist? —Tempestuous Tory

Dear Tory: No, but you might want to supplement it with some Gawker on occasion, just to cleanse the palate.

Dear English Major: In his provocative foreign affairs essay called “The Future of History,” Francis Fukuyama called on both the left and the right to abandon two obsolete assumptions: 1) the sovereignty of individual preferences, and 2) the notion that aggregate income is an accurate measure of national well-being. Regarding the latter, is Fukuyama correct? —Centrist

Dear Centrist: Yes. When used as an adverb, “well” is not hyphenated (“Her glutamate receptors were well lubricated.”) But when you use “well” as a compound adjective, you need a hyphen (“She’s rockin’ some well-lubricated glutamate receptors.”) In Fukuyama’s usage, “well-being” is simply a compound noun meaning “prosperity” and therefore requires a hyphen.

Dear English Major: The ongoing assault on women’s rights seems like a major mistake by Republicans and an unnecessary gift to President Obama. Republicans are foolishly alienating a vast majority of voters, as well as subverting their own libertarian propaganda. Is there a hidden strategy here? —Safely Sexy

Dear Sexy: Nowhere is this nonsense more perplexing than in the English-major community. Not only do English majors rely on Planned Parenthood for reproductive health services, but English majors get 37 percent more action and are 23 percent more likely to vote than non-English majors (don’t get us started on those horny, civic-minded librarians)! What could be more rational and responsible than safe sex, family planning and stewardship of one’s own body? If the Republicans want to have a chance with the coveted English-major vote, they’d be wise to STFU about contraception and ultrasound wands.

Dear English Major: To which modern American will Machiavelli loan his legacy — could future political treachery be “Rovian,” “Powellian” or “Holderian”? —Adjective Lover

Dear Lover: To most sticklers, “loan” is a noun and “lend” is a verb, so Machiavelli would “lend” not “loan.” Regardless, Machiavelli is a keeper. History will not remember those other clowns.

Dear English Major: America seems to perpetually flirt with libertarianism but never actually jump in the sack. With the left and right both addicted to government spending, is libertarianism simply unachievable? Or is libertarianism’s blatantly anti-Christian desertion of the weakest among us simply too coarse for the American Way? —No Taste for Tea

Dear Tea: In “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” John Keats portrays two lovers frozen forever just out of reach: “Bold lover, never, never canst thou kiss/Though winning near the goal — yet, do not grieve/She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss/For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!” So Tea Party jokes predate Stewart and Colbert by about 190 years.

Dear English Major: How do you anticipate transhumanism’s effect on political theory? As technology shapes humanity to its core, can political science keep pace? —Do These Jeggings Make my Butt Look Posthuman?

Dear Posthuman: In David Foster Wallace’s “Infinite Jest,” a character commits suicide by cutting a hole in his microwave, sticking his head in and firing it up. Does that help?

That’s all for now. Join us again next time, when you’ll have a chance to “Ask a Death-Metal Bassist about The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.”