Wake-up Call

by rsbakker

Aphorism of the Day: If I have smelled farther than others, it is because I have shoved my head up the asses of giants.

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Take it for what it’s worth. I’ve been camped on the outskirts of Golgotterath for awhile now, and it gets hard, sometimes, keeping things distinct, sorting the theoretical moods from the narrative, deciding what’s besieging what, and who’s storming whom. Besides, I find it plum exhausting not pissing people off.

So apparently someone posted a link to my previous post on Hagglund’s Facebook page, where it lingered a bit before mysteriously disappearing. I certainly understand the impulse, but for whatever reason explicit acts of hypocrisy rot my soul. I just finished reading an entire book by the guy extolling exposure, so I gotta call it. Just what kind of exposure was he extolling? The flattering kind? The self-promotional kind? Or (what amounts to the same) just the kind that keeps the ugly, dishevelled, and uncredentialed at the door?

I know the fears, I suppose. Academic politics, as ‘Sayre’s Law’ has it, are so vicious because the stakes are so low. Rumour and reputation are the coin of the realm when you profess for a living–aside, that is (ahem), from a steady paycheck, summers off, and the obedience of gullible undergrads. The circles are small enough that you always need consider whom might be listening–especially if you’re fool enough to entertain ambition. Everyone is careful to be careful, urgent to be urbane. Ask yourself, is anything more insane than the ‘academic tone’? You pour your thoughts into a sieve, and you shake and shake and shake, not to gather the kernels of genuine individuality, but the chaff, the maximally processed flour, whatever your ingroup peers can use to bake their maximally tasteless bread. Panning for dirt, the way it has to be when you make any bureaucratized institution your yardstick of value and success. Extolling originality only when it’s dead.

Everything alive is safer that way. Dead.

And agreement is so much more agreeable. A degree. A library. An attitude. A skin. A religion. Want to know how much you really ‘appreciate difference’? Just look at the vocabularies of your friends.

I ain’t no different.

But it’s worth marvelling all the same. The hypocrisy, enough to make a fundamentalist Christian blush. Who would have imagined that the academic humanities, in the course of ceaselessly generating more graduates than jobs, would succeed in casting a para-academic shadow more substantial than themselves? Because this, my friends, seems to be precisely what’s happening. I know there’s people out there who feel this way. Plenty. More importantly, I know there’s people out there with organizational skills who feel this way. A strategic handful. I ain’t that person. I’m just a fucking windbag, but I will assist you if I can. They may have the paychecks, but we have the pots and pans…

Okay, I’m not sure what that means, exactly, except that we now have the capacity to be loud in ways they no longer dare. Too much training. Too much droning before audiences both living and legal. And certainly too much striving, toiling, labouring to secure what our disenfranchised numbers have transformed into a rare earth metal. Too much market share to risk risk. You shrink once you attain what you covet. Worse yet, you set out to make good on all that you have sacrificed. All those norms you had to imbibe, they replace you sip by odourless sip, until you begin sweating colour, inhaling white oblivion–until meticulous grooming becomes second nature. You walk across your campus faerie-land, and you walk and you walk until the day comes when you feel more entitled than astounded. You pull your edges into defensive circles. And you talk and you talk, until your voice feels like an ancient and indestructible boot. Your erudition fades into a pastime. Your relevance escapes you. You fuck anything that lets you. Your faculty photo becomes another orthopedic insert. Laziness becomes indistinguishable from insight, so you begin to promise relief, like any other over-the-counter medication. You peer at your eyebrows in the mirror, thinking, Hmmmm

Of course we’re more ‘real.’ Our failure (your success) keeps us hungry. Our hunger (your fat) keeps us distinct, mindful of what once mattered.

Eager for overthrow… or at the very least some bell to signal morning.

Because the frontdesk has forgotten.