Eduardo Galeano´s famous phrase «the system vomits people» could be applied to academia and I need not explain why. I have just had an excellent semester – the best in years – and I fairly exude joy.
But I want to hire and even in this market, which favors me, I appear not to have enough to offer. I also want to look in person at new books and journals, but ought not to squander needed cash on a junket. And I tried to recruit a graduate student. He asked me pointed questions which threw into relief that the reason we could not hire was, it would be fairly reckless for someone to move to that salary given the paucity of basic research tools in field – I will not even say resources – available in town.
My point is that we barely have the things we need to have in order to be who we are and are expected to be. I am not complaining, but merely describing reality; plant something in soil without the right nutrients and it will not thrive. I am not willing to lead graduate students down a garden path saying how wonderful it will all be, or berate anyone for considering (or even simply wondering about) alternatives.
I fairly exude joy but I am not in the kindest of moods today and it is a stage of grief over something else, that I cannot discuss. I will say that, although people complain of the culture of false complaint in academia, I have not heard anyone complain in real life for many years. It is other expressions I most often hear – expressions of feelings including sadness, frustration, and longing.
In the conversation I had with the prospective graduate student, who is now in a competitive field in the corporate world, I realized how lean and practical, and how unsentimental I am in my job compared to him in his. Again I am not complaining, I am merely making some observations.
Sometimes I wonder whether the insistence that academic jobs are the best (and sometimes, the resentment of people who can see other ways of living) is not a sister sentence to the claim that motherhood is the best. Why is so much moral protest needed – if not to cover for a lack of recognition of certain difficulties, and in our society, utterly inadequate support? Galeano might say it is an effort to paper over systemic violence.