anotherlongshot (anotherlongshot) wrote,

Bad Hubris

I ought not be surprised by the petulance and ungraciousness that human nature is sometimes capable of; after all, I am old enough to know that the world is full of people with ugly personalities, and even people who don't fall into that category are imperfect. Such is the truth of being human, of life.

Yet, an email - which later became two emails - that I received from the author of a rejected article for the journal of which I am managing editor managed to surprise me anyway. I sent out the rejection emails last night, and I immediately received a response from one of the authors. I copy and paste here the email in its entirety:

Was it at all sent to peer review?
What is the reason for rejection?

Flummoxed and annoyed by the rudeness - note the lack of greeting, the complete absence of the customary if insincere 'thank you for your email' - I put off my reply to the author while I sussed out the editors-in-chief on how I should proceed. Due to the time zone difference, I didn't read their reply, sent at 7am my time, until about 9am today. They agreed that the article should be rejected because it didn't fit the focus of the journal, but they said that I should be polite and professional in my reply to the author because the author is an academic in a relatively well-known university.

I had plans this morning, such as tennis; and I also had plans to get some work done in the library in the afternoon. As such, I didn't plan on replying to the author until this evening, but within 24 hours of receiving the initial email.

In the library this afternoon, midway through a chapter in David Miller's On Nationality, I casually checked my Cambridge email at about 3pm and saw the second email from the author. Again, I reproduce it in its entirety:

Could you please provide me the answers to my questions:

1) whether my paper was sent for peer review?
2) what were the reasons for its rejection?

Note again the lack of a greeting, of any attempt at civility. I was so put off by the rudeness that I couldn't focus on what I was reading; that was how irritated I was. I decided to get the reply done and over with, and spent at least 20 minutes of the time that I could have spent on my own work writing a response to the author, even attempting to provide some feedback on where I thought the article was lacking.

It has been 8 hours since I sent the email. Guess what response I have received from this person? Absolutely nothing. No 'thank you'. Nothing.

This entry should be a reminder of the kind of person that I do not want to be once I reach a position roughly similar to this author's. I do not want to be choking on my own self-importance, my head inflated with undue and misplaced hubris, thinking that I am above basic professional courtesy simply because the person that I am writing to is 'just a student'. This is the kind of attitude that I never want to have, and I would be utterly disappointed in myself if I ever displayed such petulance and ungraciousness and rudeness towards a junior. When I was a lawyer, I always tried to be courteous and polite to my subordinates, so at least I am naturally disinclined to be rude and haughty. I hope that doesn't change.

Besides, it seems to me to be basic common sense not to unnecessarily antagonise yourself towards others like this, for it may come back to bite you in the ass in ways that you didn't originally envision. You don't know who you are offending. You don't know the extent of the impact of the offence. The person who is 'just a student' today will not remain 'just a student' forever, and even when this person is 'just a student', you don't know who he or she is, the people that he or she knows.

Sometimes, I think that academics tend to be too cut off from the real world. For this reason, I am quite happy to have had some practical work experience in commercial law firms. I definitely learned about meeting high standards and producing quality work under pressure; but beyond that, it gave me a really useful insight to how people think and behave, how important it is to make good impressions; sometimes, what gets you the job isn't your CV alone, but the impression that you make. And because people always talk amongst themselves, and because people will never be free of prejudices, a bad impression can have consequences beyond offending the immediate party on whom one leaves a bad impression.

As for the article, I really just didn't think that it was very good. Even if it'd fit the Journal's scope I wouldn't have recommended anything else. I found that the most interesting point of analysis was only superficially dealt with; and because the article talks about a private law issue in Asia, I couldn't look past the too-general treatment of the subject. Maybe it was just the author's tough luck that the article was reviewed by someone actually from Asia and who knows a thing or two about the region, and the obstacles to Asia having something akin to the European Union.

Anyway. Let's not waste any more time on this unpleasant subject.


I have been quite disappointed in my tennis these days. On Sunday, I played two sets with CSW and I couldn't hit a single forehand in the sweet spot. I didn't even have game points before getting broken. I have generally lost the sense of timing on the backhand. I don't know what I am doing. Basically, my tennis sucks. It is very sad.


Mag and I went to Sentosa on Saturday, and it was great fun. Swimming in the sea remains one of the greatest pleasures of life, and it was nice to hang out with Mag in a relaxed, no-rush manner. She was a bit under the weather so I really appreciated her coming out to the beach, braving the insanae 34 degrees heat while I cooled off occasionally in the sea. Best friends are so awesome!


I am quite looking forward to going back to Cambridge, but as always, leaving my parents induces a melancholic sense of reluctance. But such is life, and I will keep on trucking on.


I am so sick of the NUS Law Library! I haven't finished the last bit of the paper. I will do that tomorrow.

I had a French assignment due in a couple of days. The task was to write about myself using the materials that have been covered in the course. I worked on it when I came home from the library today; 15 minutes or so later, I submitted it.

I went to the kitchen and talked rubbish with my mom. She asked, 'Aren't you doing your French assignment?'

'It's done,' I said.

'So fast?!'

'Yeah, it's easy.'

Well, it is. I can't wait to claim 50% of the fees back from Magdalene when I pass!


Lastly, this issue between Singapore and China is really, really aggravating. It seems crazy that Singapore seems to be on China's shitlist, but that's just one more reason for me to utterly dislike China as a political entity. First there is the perennial Taiwan issue (which I have recently realised is more and more compromisable as I age; ideals eventually give way to reality); and now, it seems to be targeting Singapore. Is it unhappy over Singapore's stance on the South China Sea issue? It is the only proper and correct stance to take: that countries should respect the rule of international law. Countries like China and the US who are bent on riding roughshod over international agreements carefully negotiated to serve the purpose of maintaining some kind of peace between so many diverse nations with competing interests march only to the demands of realpolitik. Obvious, right? Obviously, too, I hate it.

I dismiss international law for its lack of binding force, and in the same breath, I criticise countries that don't adhere to it. But the former is a function of the latter. The former is the result of the frustration that I feel when big, powerful countries flout international law simply because they can. That they can do it with impunity speaks powerfully to the feebleness of international law; and so I dismiss it for its lack of binding force. But fundamentally, I believe in its importance; and because I believe in its importance, it frustrates me when China ignores the law of the sea, or when the US violates the absolute prohibition of torture, or refuses to submit to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.

But ultimately, I like principles. I think that principles should govern behaviour and action, not politics. And this is why I have lost interest in international law: it is half international relations. And I simply cannot be bothered with that.


Lastly, for real: I finished Lady Chatterley's Lover and then I read Doris Lessing's introduction. I think she is right that the book has to be contextualised and read as a polemic. I still think that a lot of the sex scenes are rather purple, but one has to admire the thorough conviction of a writer that sex - not the base, pornographic kind, but the passionate kind that can only transpire between two people who are in love - is the key to saving his country, such that he spent the last few years of his life writing the third version of the novel that would eventually become Lady Chatterly's Lover. Lawrence was dying of tuberculosis (I think it was) and apparently expended the last of his literary energy on this book because, apparently, he really believed in the message.

The context, too, is this: a society with a priggish attitude towards sex, pretty much the polar opposite of today's sexual permissiveness. Lawrence's ideal of sex is one that is liberating in that it opens up the soul and the heart to a connection with another human being (and so it also preaches fidelity, not promiscuity); and if we all have this kind of sex in our lives, then we wouldn't need preoccupy ourselves with industry, with making money, activities that turn idyllic English countrysides into barren, industrialised mining towns.

That, at least, is Lessing's take on the book. I think it's interesting and quite accurate. For all the purpleness, Lawrence does convey the intimate connection between Connie and Mellors; and whatever scepticism one may have is a product of our more cynical modern times.

So this wasn't my favourite book but it was an interesting read. I was inspired to read more classics, so I went on Book Depository and ordered some more. I can't wait to read them.
Tags: bad experience, books, current affairs, french, law, literature, mag, playing tennis, politics, weird people

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