This is worth thinking about. Something I have procrastinated about is leaving academia. In a way, I feel I was pushed out when I started my first job, which had nothing to do with the kind of job, or life I was interested in. So my career change already happened to me, and when I think of career changes it is to begin doing something that more closely resembles the kind of work I was interested in and thought I could find in academia. I have been reticent about asking certain questions, but something I did discuss with friends and family was leaving. They were all horrified and convinced me not to, and I stayed because I was told I owed it to them, they would suffer too terribly if I left (that is another reason I feel trapped and do not work well). This, actually, shows why I do not ask enough questions–I am not accustomed to receiving non-destructive answers.
The Precariat & The Professor
Talking with Jill yesterday about disappointment and the post-ac hustle, I was reminded of Kate Ragon’s chapter for The Precariat & The Professor, “Pleasure & Paradoxes of Organizing in the Corporate University.” We come to academia for a variety of reasons, but so many of us arrived here because we are idealists, we are dreamers– we believed the university was the contemporary City on a Hill, the last remaining one, in fact. Swallowing the bitter pill of the university’s reality is only the beginning of disappointment, which compounds, whether you get on the tenure track, work contingently, or leave for other, better things: Kate Ragon, like Erik Strobl, writes of the frustration of attempting to organize academics who think union labor is somehow below them. Jill, on the other hand, writes of being disappointed that she’s disappointed in herself for willfully walking away from a university who exploited her knowledge…
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“Bien regarder, je crois que ça s’apprend.”
–Emmanuelle Riva in Hiroshima mon amour.
“Change comes first at the societal level, not at the level of the individual. You work to change society, change the relations of production, and this work changes you.” My Marxist boyfriend said this one day in Berkeley during Reagan’s second presidential term, when we were exasperated at the vagaries of the hippies. That was long ago but I remember it because it was true.
I forgot for a long time because of learning to survive the university as it took its entrepreneurial turn, while we were trying to earn tenure in the belief that things still were as they had been. (The vocabulary was still the same, and policies and practices were changing but on their face the changes were small, and most of us lacked the perspective necessary to accurately interpret the shifting panorama.) The cant was that we should work on ourselves, and manage this regardless of circumstances, since the real relations of production had to be irrelevant to rising stars. One was not to recognize the obvious truth that such advice–liberal/conservative propaganda, actually–was only appropriate in situations where the real relations of production were working, at least adequately, for you.
Similarly, change at the individual level does not come from changes in habit: that, again, is liberal/conservative propaganda. Changes in habit flow naturally from deeper change. Deeper change is change in relation to self, in relation to the means of production, in relation to meaning.
All of these things are deeply and definitely true.
It is said you cannot psychoanalyze yourself but I am forced to do it as I have found it to be the best available option. That is why I have this weblog.
There were two breakthroughs this week. It is a breakthrough when you find a simple answer. The first was actually one I had in the 1990s but that took some time to get consolidated; it is about recognizing and rejecting abuse. If I feel strange (panicked, horrified, sad, greatly diminished, and so on) it is a reaction to abuse which must be identified, recognized, and refused. If I do this, I straighten right up, and if I do not, I remain in that state for a long, long time.
The next has to do with my acquired fear of certain kinds of writing. It is about the feeling that this is something you must do, but also must not do; it is required of you but not yours; you are not really worthy of it, although you must do it to prove worth. (These are of course a series of double binds.) But the answer is (of course you are worthy and) this is you. (Anyone can see that language and writing are me, it is ridiculous to question it.) Take it on, assume it, take your place, because yes this is for you, this is you.
In psychoanalysis it is said that seeing the problem is solving it. In behaviorism you must learn how to solve it and form habits around this, and all of that is hard work but it is superficial and will not stem the tide, or free you from the undertow of the past and of every unconscious misconception you have. In psychoanalysis the work comes first, in learning to really see. Because just seeing generally is not accurate enough. You have to hit not just the target, but the bull’s eye. It is when you do that that problems fall away and you change magically. The apparatus that was draining you falls away, and new energies are liberated. It is as in the Communist Manifesto (“All that was solid, melts”) and also “Easter, 1916” (“All is changed, changed utterly”). Everything is easy.
I am quite pleased to have seen the things I have seen, and to know the things I know.
“The common use of the argumentative essay in US schooling dates back to unprecedented growth in higher education and a literate middle class in the early 20th Century. College was no longer the purview of an elite group from similar backgrounds, and more students meant two things: an insufficient number of teachers trained in writing instruction and a more diverse student body, less likely to share knowledge of the same philosophical or literary texts to write about.”
Read the whole thing.
Now my problem is named, I spend too much time in survival mode.
I have learned there are the things you love, and the things you must do to support the things you love, and the things you should not do, or should not do too much of as they are not in your best interest. If you diagram these, you can learn a great deal.
Mayhew has three tiers but I would have a fourth, between the lowest and the middle tier, where I do the things I must do in order to enable myself to do the things I really must do. That additional tier is the survival mode tier. I am forced to spend some time in it, but I am also trained to see myself there, to think of myself as a person fighting for their life and not even thinking about rights … except to think, at a deep level, that the people who have and deserve rights are not those who are fighting for their lives.
I will see what all of these perceptions can do for me, and for us. How can we spend less time in survival mode, and off the bottom activity tier? Identifying them as we have done here is a good start.
A crumbling volume I am putting into recycling is Artaud, Les tarahumaras, in Gallimard/idées, 1971. I bought it used 10 years later. The text was composed between 1937 and 1948, after Artaud’s 1936 trip to Mexico. I marked some passages in it when I read it.
P. 18: Westermers when asked a question react as though they knew it was they who were responding, and not someone else. The Tarahumaras are not like that.
Pp. 18-19: A European would never accept the idea that his sensations, emotions, ideas, were not his own, that another person could have experienced them in his body. The Tarahumaras do make a distinction between what are one’s own thoughts and what are the thoughts of the other, even if one thinks both thoughts oneself.
P. 73: The Renaissance and Humanism diminished humanity because they denied the perhaps superhuman, but natural laws of the earlier period: from the Renaissance forward Man tried to cut nature down to his size, rather than reach up to its size. Nature was denied and only the human was considered henceforth.
p. 131, on ceremonies and priests: Mais il faut surtout entendre les Paroles qu’ils se renvoient de l’un à l’autre avec des signes qui senblent extraits des limbes même de l’Eternité et qui sont faits pour supporter et manifester quelque chose, et ce quelque chose est l’Esprit du Verbe qui roule comme une boule de flamme devant le Seigneur Dieu, et dont eux Tarahumaras se souviennent, disent-ils, d’avoir été et d’être la Volonté et le reflet.
Mais c’est si clair. I feel guilty and nervous about doing work because I know I will be interrupted as soon as I really start.
It all had to do with the self serving agenda of others. “Your work is just play, and you will see that relatively soon. Your real role is to serve me, and I am also the only one who can and will support you when your work becomes serious and you are sidelined from it. Serving me, not becoming expert at something that challenges me, is your first and only real duty — and everyone else already knows it is all you are capable of.”
This is why I feel people have a right to disrupt work. It is also why I do not like to start work — if I start, I will continue, and if I continue, I will experience a very great violation to get me to stop. To avoid repeating this experience of violation, it is best not to start.