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.