On Getting By

With some effort — not inordinate effort, mind you, but some — I have put together a two year long speaker series for my other department. That is eight outside speakers a year, four per semester, for two years, for a program that has no budget of its own.

I have done this for the sake of the students, the program, and the accreditation board, but my immediate motivation was the complaint of a whiteman who is cross appointed as I am and is bored. My own remedy for boredom involves visits to libraries, conferences and symposia elsewhere, but I decided we might also upgrade our activities here. Partly in the hope that this whiteman might learn to do the paperwork necessary to invite some of his alleged famous friends to visit and thus spend his energy productively rather than in hostilities against his least favorite colleagues, I created the series.

The whiteman enthused for several months that he “gave the series his full support” (as though he were in any position to pass judgment upon it) but he has lost interest in it because it is actually happening and does not need to be discussed by telephone at the midnight hour. Due to the whiteman’s loss of interest, the series does not include any of his special, famous friends (he has not contacted them, which it was his job to do). I am already aware that he may at some future time use this fact to claim discrimination.


I have realized that this whiteman is one of those people who like to complain about things, but do not want their stated issues addressed in any way. And then I realized that that is what various of my advisors, when I was younger than I am now, assumed about me when I had questions about the general situation. They did not realize that these were serious questions — they thought I was just having a bad day. They told me then how to get by on a bad day, and I thought they were giving global advice on living.

It was never quite clear to me how they had achieved so much in life if they were in fact following the advice they gave me, but I understand now. They were not giving serious advice, only instructions on how to get by. Were they doing this so as to conserve patriarchal equilibrium, perchance?




Filed under Da Whiteman, Questions, Theories

10 responses to “On Getting By

  1. Although “getting through the day” was how “getting by” was phrased to me. (Days being horrible things, to be gotten through, I suppose?) Anyway, those who said it were definitely “just getting by” in giving it, or teaching it, I do think.

  2. P.S. Whiteman: well, now we know he is just interested in taking up my time. If monies can be applied for without it causing us to have to spend social time together, it’s not worth doing for him — or so it seems.

    Getting by: this perception is based on my earlier, more morose writings. I cannot believe this is what I was taught, but I do believe it was. I still find it unbelievable.

  3. I think a lot of the problem is that in general, in the overall ideological scheme of things, the concept of merit has been coopted by the fat cats to mean “person with an incredible amount of dough.” So now nobody can claim to be superior and to give genuinely superior/useful advice. Perhaps those who are humble and left wing will go no advice at all (or obfuscating advice, that is really a kind of anti-advice) whereas those who think they know what is what will advise you happily on how to get rich (you need to take on the characterstics that they deem themselves to have) but will not advise you at all on things that do not matter — ie. academic work or success in that field.

    My view is that everything has become totally corrupted. Seek no advice but your own.

  4. Perhaps this is what it is / was. Which is quite interesting re the culture in which one may have been raised and the nature of the orders one received.

  5. “Whiteman: well, now we know he is just interested in taking up my time. If monies can be applied for without it causing us to have to spend social time together, it’s not worth doing for him — or so it seems.”

    Of course I haven’t met this person, but I’m wondering if his goal is not actually to socialize so much as to grab credit for other people’s work. He doesn’t want to do the work of applying for grants himself; and if you apply by yourself that doesn’t benefit him; but if he stays in the room with you and chats with you while you fill out the application, then he can say that he ‘participated in writing a grant proposal’ and claim it as a personal achievement.

  6. You are more than right — and his conversation is all about that. He tells you all the things he accomplished for other people and, I suppose, things he claims to do but that really, others did.


    Getting by. It still amazes me how much and how often I’ve been told to just get by and how destructive that is.

  7. Getting by. It still amazes me how much and how often I’ve been told to just get by and how destructive that is.

    There is another way of explaining this that, like all things shamanistic, can seem like a “pseudo-explanation” (the expression that a Cambridge professor used recently to confess the doubt he felt about giving certain British poets a shamanistic reading).

    I’ve come to see many more of the problems we face in a shamanistic light having read this book, which is by no means “mystical”, but has a last chapter that veritably sheds light on how some people in society can become somehow afflicted with a static, unresponsive and (fundamentally) unplastic nature, in a way that robs them of their power to be themselves. Although the paradigm is Freudian, the issues being dealt with here are explicitly shamanistic, for one is dealing with “soul loss”, the loss of ontological integrity.

    So, is it a suprise, then, that among the soul dead, the advice they give each other runs much like this: “You can’t change anything. You are stuck. Your vital forces have been depleted, so don’t try. Reality sucks, but none of us can lift a finger to make it any different.”

    It is, in effect, that people have become afflicted with Thanatos, and that there inner condition is one of devitalisation — and that is why they give each other this kind of advice.

    I was brought up in a context that was almost entirely unafflicted by such a heavy wave of Thanatos, so it never ceases to suprise me how little most people these days feel that they can do for themselves. But the chains that bind them, to prevent them from reacting more effectively, are invisible. They accept their debilitating condition as simpy “reality” and “human nature”, and can’t imagine how the rules imposed by an embrace of Thanatos do not apply to you.

  8. Also, I think what psychologically jolts people, in a way that makes them feel most offended, is if you implicitly do not accept the limitations that are imposed by their experiences of “reality”. They feel very offended by this, and will call you unrealistic and lots of even more horrible words.

    • Yes, I have experienced this. (Although at the moment I am dealing with someone whose reality isn’t as limited as mine and who expects me to feel as I would if I lived in theirs.)

  9. Yes — I saw this in your blog, too — I should get the book (more books to get, of course)….

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