academia is wrong because it is in wrong relationship with the resources around it21 Nov 2017
yesterday, my critique of academia crystallized in a new way. i have had this conversation with so many people in so many ways and i almost feel foolish for not seeing it before.
academics are incapable of managing their own lives
the longer i stay in academia, the more i see how many successful academics are incapable of taking care of themselves. some trends i’ve noticed:
inability to respond to emails/texts/phone calls in a timely manner
being literal assholes
having terrible and/or non-existent relationships with their families (“i haven’t seen my child in __ days because i’m too busy writing and/or traveling”)
a systemic conditioning to hog resources. sharing as an academic is mostly non-existent
if these ways of being were infrequent, i might think differently. but i’ve known for a few years that this is the norm, not the exception.
but these folks, regardless of gender, tend to still have families.
how do they do it?
by exporting the burden of emotional and logistical labor to others. often this looks like the other parent stepping up in a big way or paying nannies.
in order to be a good academic, you (with few exceptions) must be in unhealthy dependent relationships with support structures around you.
the signal of inability to manage ones own life is overly complex language
“If it is inaccessible to the poor, it is neither radical nor revolutionary.”
hypothesis: the ability to understand, create, and manipulate language at a high-level is directly related to how many resources you need to manage your existence. the more complex language you have command of, the less it is likely that you can do basic things required to sustain your own existence. the resources (years of food, water, stable housing, safe spaces, etc) it takes to create sentences like the one below is unreal.
“As in painting or literature, the concrete performance of these cartographies requires that they evolve and innovate, that they open up new futures, without their authors [auteurs] having prior recourse to assured theoretical principles or to the authority of a group, a school or an academy . . . Work in progress!” – felix guattari
(more irony: i think an interesting research question would be to dig into exactly how much resource it takes to get a child from conception to getting their first peer-reviewed journal paper published).
so what’s the evolution in my critique? it’s all about resource flows. it’s all about our relationship to the planet that sustains us. academia just takes up too damn many resources. in order to produce academic materials (at least in my maybe narrow understanding of academia in america), an individual, and really the whole construct, must be in unhealthy and unfair relationships with people around them and the planet. the amount of super nice food and physical space taken up by academics is both unsustainable and unfair. if folks in academia had to do more for themselves i think the whole ponzi scheme would collapse.
ps - most of this is actually just slightly tweaked thinking of paulo freire.
pps - this blog post was inspired by a text conversation with spewil.
ppps - i read somewhere (maybe sister outsider?) about the fact that brilliant poetry can be written on the back of a receipt while working a nightshift in a restaurant, but to write a book requires time, space, and resources: luxuries that most people in the world don’t have.
pppps - this critique scales for most of the modern western world. our societies are in wrong relationship with the resources needed to sustain us. i recognize my complicity in this and am working on it.
ppppps - the fact that there are some academics that are exceptions to the above thinking does not mean that the system does not produce these outcomes on average. there were also masters who didn’t whip their slaves (and if you think i’m extra for going there, just imagine how the slaves felt).
words / writing / post-processing
466w / 24min / 20min