On Self-Respect

As we know, authoritarianism is a Bane. Masked authoritarianism is a particularly insidious type of Bane. I have made progress in the construction of my diaphanous screen, but the reason I have become so allergic to academia is that many people in it are primarily interested in destroying the self-respect of others and being supercilious to them. This is why one I do not trust people who say they “love teaching.” Too often, what that means is only that they love holding authority. In the worst cases, it means they are sadistic and have found a socially acceptable outlet for this.

Although academia seroconverted into a space of pain for me the first week of my first job, my excellent general health and and strong antiviral defenses permitted me to convert it back. All too soon, however, I began laboring under the burden of Reeducation. It too was an attack by supposedly benevolent authorities on the integrity and self-respect of everyone else, cleverly presented as a health-enhancing measure.


One of my department parties for the beginning of this semester, a pot luck which will take place in our building on an afternoon – when there is no air conditioning – on one of the hottest days of the year, involves a “free store.” We, the faculty, are to bring for the graduate students the items we would normally sell in garage sales, toss out, or give to the Good Will.

I did not come up with this scheme and I was horrified to hear about it. I am embarrassed, or would be, to be associated with it. Do the graduate students really want our old stuff? Do we want to be involved with each other that way? Most of all, must we treat them like charity cases or serfs? I mean, one of them, who moved here from abroad with four very small children, did in fact put up a sign when he first arrived seeking cradles and cribs. But he asked.

I do not want to go and in fact I hope I am in Florida, or something, that evening. I do not want to be rude to my department, however, so I called my mother to see what she thought of this matter. When she heard of the “free store” concept, she wrinkled her verbal brow and said emphatically, that is so condescending! If the students take anything, are they going to have to say, “Thank you, Massa!”?

She also had a very entertaining story about her CR group forty years ago. Apparently the white women in charge decided they should go down to the barrio and ask the Mexican women what they could do to help improve their lives. My mother said, you cannot in good conscience condescend in that way.
And condescension masked as solidarity is a bane of both academia and of liberalism.


A principal tenet of Reeducation was that self-respect was a sin. An overblown sense of humility was the order of the day. We the students were necessarily lying, irresponsible, unaware people. If we stood up for ourselves, that was further proof of our guilt.

I, in particular, was continually told that I was not feeling enough pain. I needed to find ways to open myself to that. I must prove my humanity and vulnerability by allowing small things to get to me more. I was handling life all too well. This was a very serious failing on my part, for it was, as we know, a symptom of “denial.”

I, of course, told Reeducation that this was very poor reasoning. This mention of reason only furnished further proof that I was alienated from the “true feelings” I ought to have. Naturally, Reeducation knew what these were, and I did not.

Reeducation meant the complete erosion of self-respect. It principal rules were, you cannot know what you feel, and you may not take authority in your own life. This was a common technique of manipulation and oppression, and the same sort of paternalism exists in academia.

Reeducation mistook self-respect on the part of us Reeducands for grandiosity. We were assumed to consider ourselves inappropriately powerful – godlike, even. We were constantly exhorted to doubt ourselves, and to become more humble. The actually grandiose beings, however, were the Reeducators themselves, who said: “You cannot be who you are, because I have decided, based on a small piece of information you have given me, that you cannot know who you are. You must necessarily be someone other than the one you believe yourself to be.”

For this year, however, I have expelled Reeducation from my system almost entirely, and I am constructing a diaphanous screen.


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Filed under Banes, What Is A Scholar?

10 responses to “On Self-Respect

  1. sabamd

    I am very confused here. I see where you are going with this..but am not sure that antivirals would help you with allergies???? perhaps excellent cell mediated immunity….I totally could be wrong here…..would like to understand the analogy…

  2. I’m being quirky and arch, and maybe the analogy just doesn’t work! If you seroconvert, you can’t go back – you’ve got HIV whether it develops into an actual illness or not. You can keep your antiviral defenses strong, but you can’t seroconvert back – although I am claiming to.

    Then there’s the allergy reference in the earlier paragraph, which I hadn’t connected to all of this. You’re right – I need to come up with a more unified analogy or metaphor, or else drop the attempt, which was really just a stab at decoration.

  3. sabamd

    right…about the HIV thing… and i think your analogy could work, with HIV….what is intersting about HIV is that although it is a very nasty virus there are certian people who just can’t get infected…these are the long term survivors…maybe you have this “receptor” to “academicviremia”

  4. sabamd

    correction..maybe you don’t have the “receptor” for academicviremia, thus cannot get infected…..(b/c those long term survivors are lacking a particular receptor necessary for infection by the virus)….okay back to studying about fungal infections….

  5. I think that’s it, or rather, I will decide it is true: I do not have the receptor for academicviremia. It is clear that I did have an overly sensitive receptor for reeducationviremia, but I am disabling that forthwith.

    I should rework the text a bit, but then these comments wouldn’t make sense.

    Meanwhile, an amusing anecdote: I talked to my brother C., the one with the degree from that department. Told him about this party and “free store” … said, is this weird or what? … he said, yes, but not weirder than the rest of what they do! He’s a wise young man… :-)

  6. Very much of a weirdness. It is a nuisance, one may believe, to deal with the HIV virus. Even thus, it’s not possible to guess it’s a new topic, or not very new. I believe these appreciations.

    ? – Here, though, it’s just being used as a metaphor, and not quite successfully. –Z

    P.S. Andy – I’ve deleted a couple of your more recent comments on this thread – they sounded loony, were distracting, and seemed disrespectful to another commentator, even if you didn’t mean them that way. Sorry. Z

  7. As a side note, a considerable number of studies have found that people with lupus are largely immune to HIV. Investing more money in research on lupus, a disease that women are nine times more likely to have than men, should be something that men are interested in because it may eventually lead to science finding ways to treating/curing people of both genders who have HIV/AIDS. I’m sorry to go off on a tangent, but I know you are a committed to women’s causes so I thought you might be interested in that little tidbit of information.

    I understood your analogy, Professor Zero. I have really grown to appreciate my time away from academia. I eventually want to teach but mostly because it would give me a way to encourage women in the sciences and perhaps do my part to give back to what I’ve benefited from so much.

    We’ve both bemoaned the way that most schools fail to teach students basic reasoning skills during their formative years. I think this results in the general population not valuing logic as much as (I believe) they should. In this context, I’m not surprised that your ability to cope seemed abnormal to Reeducation. However, I would say that maintaining your sanity is much more important than assimilating. My heart goes out to you.

  8. Gracias, Bint! And yes, that is quite interesting about lupus. Logic, underrated, yes. People seem to mistake reason for rationalization and that is a real misconception – logic can also unpack rationalizations.

    Interestingly, Reeducation, despite its official disrespect for thinking and reason, and exaltation of feeling, also mistrusted intuition. If you were in Reeducation, it was because your intuitions and “gut feelings” were wrong. Thus *everything* you knew, thought or felt was automatically invalid.

  9. This reminds me of a story. Back in spring 06 we had a well-known author come to campus, we usually had at least one each semester for the English department. I was no longer taking classes but was still connected because I was to march in the graduation ceremony in May. My friend who had been mostly poor her whole life volunteered to help the professor responsible for overseeing the event. After it was over and she and the one professor was closing up there was a tray of cookies left over and the professor turned to her and told her she can take the cookies home to her children. When I heard the story, I thought my friend was being a little too sensitive but I did not tell her this. Anyway, my friend did not take the cookies but threw them in the trash behind the professor’s back. When she was telling me the story she kept inserting (screaming) at me about how she was wearing TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS BOOTS AND SHE HAD THE NERVE TO GIVE ME A TRAY OF COOKIES! I had to laugh to myself because there was so many dynamics in play.

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