15.II.2014: This page and thread were originally “What is a Scholar?” — notes for a non-corporate research agenda — and then became “Ponder,” self-healing notes for me. Now they are “Books,” so I can note in the comments thread the books I want to get hold of one day.

I have assembled the series of posts on scholarship from my old site here, for purposes of further thought. I will add the new posts on this topic as I write them, and I also recommend this related post by Oso Raro. I intend to boil this text clear.

What Is A Scholar?


Having turned my Dolce far niente post on ‘procrastination’ into a scholarly article, I am planning a sequel, entitled “What Is A Scholar?” As I developed the first article, I realized the extent to which the malaise which besets academia can be attributed to the loss of scholarly skills and values, as universities have become increasingly corporatized.

I have been thinking about this for some time. In this profession, I often feel as though I am trying to drive square pegs into round holes. I used to think it had to do with the students I happened to have, or about the state of my discipline(s). Upon further consideration, I have realized that a big piece of it isn’t about either of these things, but about the faculty. Scholars, it seems, have been gradually replaced with ‘academics’, and true academic training has given way to ‘professionalization’.

This began happening about thirty years ago, from what I can discern, about the time the plans were made to lead us into Reaganomics and the national situation to which I allude in an earlier post. A friend says that instrumental value has replaced intrinsic value, and that academic values have been replaced with academic lip service. It is disconcerting to live and work in this situation. The “What Is A Scholar?” article should, at the very least, help to clarify the discomfort.

Is it the rapid proliferation of fast, thin Ph.D. programs on the model of corporate training which has produced a generation or two of poorly educated, yet overly ‘professionalized’ people who are certified academics, but not scholars?

A scholar, for example, knows original sources and standard editions, and cites these. It is one thing to cite someone’s study of, say, the Ramayana, if it is the study which is in question. It is another thing to cite the study when one actually needs to cite the Ramayana itself. I wince when I read articles which take the former tack, and which in their torpor tend to reveal that the author didn’t know the Ramayana before beginning work on the article–and still doesn’t, even though they are now weighing in on it.

I do not mean to sound like the prescriptive E.D. Hirsch, although I do concur with David Kaufer that the problems Hirsch attempts to address are real. Part of what I mean is that scholars are not here just to repeat information. We are here to look at things from the ground up, or as the articulate Hans Sluga told us years ago, from their roots.



Great, insufficiently known poets for today are Rosario Castellanos (Mexico, 1925-1974) and Nancy Morejón (Cuba, 1944-). They were chosen by the students.

It is time to give some positive examples of scholarship, and I will offer one from my own experience.

We did not have Advanced Placement English at my high school. I did not even take English for College Bound Students, as the course schedule conflicted with French. I thus soon found myself in a college class in which the other students had skills I did not.

We were to write an essay on the Odyssey, as was the custom at my university. It was to be a free essay; no citations from secondary sources were required. We had a set of problems to consider, but I did not know where to begin, or even where to begin asking questions. So I set out for the library.

There I found some interesting books, from which I garnered ideas. One of the books, I realized, was by a professor at my university. I knew this because I had seen his name on an office door. The book, however, was seven years old. This is interesting, I thought, but is it still current? Luckily, this man is at my university, so he must have an office hour.

I duly discovered the office hour, where I found the professor. Your book is interesting, said I, but it is seven years old. I would like to know, do you still agree with it?

In substance, yes, said he, but that book is an incomplete discussion of the matter. I have this offprint of a more recent article on the same text, which you may have, if you would like. I have this other piece, in page proofs, of which you may have a copy if the Xerox machine works.

If you are interested in something really new, which I must ask you not to cite since it is just a draft, I can give you a copy of this manuscript. If you would like to speak with someone who has disagreed with me vehemently in print, you might consult [Professor B]. Her office is across the hall.

The entire transaction lasted about five minutes. I went away satisfied, now having enough to react to so that I could write a paper.

This was a scholarly interaction, and it took place at a large state institution. Say anything you want about how this was a fifty year old man, flattered that a seventeen year old blonde who wasn’t even in his class, came to ask about his book. It was still a scholarly interaction on all sides. From it, I learned that a scholar will answer your questions seriously, no matter who you are. To put it a little differently, a scholar assumes that others might also be scholars.

Now we will light candles for our role model, Paulo Freire, and remember a randomly selected, very good professor, Peter Brown. He is still living, thanks be to Allah.



As the faithful reader may know, I have been trying to feel my way towards a description of good scholarship and scholarly values by looking at examples of poor scholarship.

Some readers have noted that many of the examples I have tried out so far are about teaching, not about research and publication. However, I am not trying to define research productivity, but to come up with a working list, if you will, of scholarly traits and values.

I have talked about teaching to the extent that I have because it is one of the first places where symptoms of better and worse scholarship show. I do not perceive a dichotomy between teaching and research. This may be a point I should develop further.

For now, though, I have an example of poor teaching as a result of poor scholarship. I have just come from a library where an advanced undergraduate I know asked me questions about bibliography for a paper she was writing in a discipline related to mine.

I quickly came to realize that the question she had been asked to answer was poorly informed and terribly out of date. It had been framed in such a way as to interdict almost any analytical point of view. Indeed, the question as framed could only have elicited sterile, opinion-based debate. Finally, the student had been given some very vague ideas about sources and focus, which spanned about a thousand years of history.

It became clear that her professor was teaching something he did not know much about, and that he did not realize he was so poorly informed. Worse yet, it became clear that he did not have a good grasp of issues having to do with defining the scope of a project, formulating research questions, designing a study, and so on.

This does not mean that the man does not publish, nor that what he publishes, is devoid of interest. It does suggest, though, that he is not the best of scholars, and that he is not really treating his students like scholars.



Seeing my earlier “What Is A Scholar?” posts and the comments they elicited, an emeritus professor writes:

Scholars have to be educated in some fundamental way, educated as opposed to trained, though they can and perhaps should be trained also. Training without some amount of real education to start with will produce the results you describe, and which I encountered at times among fellow graduate students and, to a much greater extent, among fellow assistant professors when I first went out to each at that level.

Education can be the result of dinner-table conversation or recreational reading as much as of what is learned in the classroom and it will surely be a mixture of these and other elements, but without it training will not create scholars. Therefore I agree with you and am not surprised that some ex-trainees are annoyed at your remarks.

In the humanities, as they were once called, the damage was done in part after the second world war (in the U.S.) when streamlined Ph.D. programs modeled on those in the sciences were introduced. An A.B. degree from a school you thought was cool followed by three years of course work and a quick thesis produced narrowly focused people ignorant of closely allied disciplines. Of course this was not the only cause, and the decline of the high school probably was an even greater problem; but enough.

I would add that the emphasis on ‘professionalization’ and ‘training’ over actual education undermines integrity. The appearance of productivity is valued more than productivity itself, and actual productivity is not necessarily recognized. One of my commentators on an earlier post asked how I expected people to give a deeper, more scholarly feel to their work, given what our workloads are nowadays. This commentator has a point about the workloads, but the reference in his comment to scholarly ‘feel’, not substance, is telling.



When academic work loses sight of scholarly virtues, it veers toward ideology and propaganda, and away from any form of clarity. Here are some examples, taken from my office hours this week.

My stalled dissertator confuses me because he was an undergraduate in my department in an earlier era. At that time he did not have the problems he is experiencing now. The other day I asked him point-blank: what has this graduate program done to you? Why do you seem to have lost, rather than gained research skills in your time as a graduate student?

He said our graduate program does not permit independent thought to the same degree as does our undergraduate program. As an undergraduate, he was expected to formulate his own arguments, and justify and support them. As a graduate student, he was only expected to choose theories and apply them to texts. This, he said, interdicted thought. Now he is expected to design and execute a project of his own, and he feels at sea–despite having done an excellent job on his undergraduate honors thesis, for which he undertook independent research abroad.

A colleague in Computer Science to whom I mentioned this problem said that applying a theory to a text did sound to her as though it would take some thought. I know exactly what my student means, though. Theory is theory, and is meant to be used as such, not as a recipe or an algorithm. It can help to describe, explain, and illuminate, but it was never meant to prescribe or assign meaning in a mechanical way.

I have a struggling honors thesis student, too. Her project is historical. Her data comes primarily from written sources, which are housed in archives. Her topic, however, is of current interest, and it inspires conversation and controversy. Many of the people she talks to think her project is or should be an ethnographic one. Rather than read what people wrote in the eighteenth century, they say, she should be interviewing twenty-first century people about what they believe happened in the eighteenth century. They seem not to realize that this would be an entirely different study, in a different subfield. It would give different results, to be sure. But it would not address the same question.

A very senior colleague says he enjoys this sort of confusion. To him, it means the field is still ‘alive’. Indeed, confusion can be productive, and it can be a sign of change. The sorts of confusion to which I allude in this post, though, are signs of stagnation. They make me tired. In these cases, training does not complement education, but blocks it. Scholarly work should increase energy and enhance perception–not drain energy, nor blur the view.

Tomorrow is Sunday, Oxalá’s day. Stand in the light.



Now the emeritus professor has struck again. A detective, he has cracked my identity and comments outside the site, so I am posting his comments here.

You have been skirting one issue about scholars on the altar of political sensitivity. I hinted at it in a previous message when I referred to ‘dinner-table conversation’. Those who have no dinner table in the sense referred to, and no conversation, are legion nowadays. Everyone complains about it. Children raised in these circumstances are not ready for preschool and certainly not for prime time. And some of them get doctorates. And it is not something you can say at a meeting, or in a letter or memorandum.

I just finished reading a book that involved the great eighteenth century English naturalist Joseph Banks, who sailed with Captain Cook and brought back wonderful collections to dazzle the Royal Society. He, and later Darwin and so many others, were gentlemen in the traditional sense, landed gentry who did not have to work for a living. Their scholarship was a hobby, so to speak. Each worked in his field of interest for the love of it. The professional classes of the 19th and early 20th centuries inherited some of this attitude, which also, by the way, existed in the field of sports, at least some sports.

In my childhood the greatest tennis players and golfers were amateurs, though some of them turned professional before they retired. Track and field was all amateur. People who came from families, rich or poor, where ideas and books were prized were said to have ‘background’. It is obvious that many present-day professors do not have it. They come from people like the members of Ronald Reagan’s kitchen cabinet who believed, like him, that a university was nothing more than a place you went to get a diploma entitling you to a better job. . . .

It sounds terrible, doesn’t it…and it needs ‘unpacking’…but there’s something to it. My Arabic teacher, whose English was imperfect, used to refer to ‘the bourgeois aspiration’ (in the singular). Perhaps those who have the bourgeois aspiration should go directly to professional schools and be done with it. I have an excellent colleague in my very own department who actually is landed gentry, and some other really good ones who actually grew up in tin shacks.

But we’re not in the nineteenth century any more, and I don’t believe we should have either landed gentry or tin shacks. Given the simulacra that are able to pass for scholarship nowadays, however, we do need to re-place education ahead of ‘professionalization’. Hence this series, “What is a Scholar?”


Excursus A: In A Trans-Discipline

This post ought to be entitled “What is a Scholar? VII”, but I would like to give that title a brief rest. Today’s ruminations are deep and diffuse, and I am too tired to craft a coherent post. I will therefore make a few notes, each of which will be developed more fully in due time.

+ The emeritus professor of yesterday’s post complains of Ph.D. programs which are too narrow. I have doubts of my own, however, about B.A. programs which are so broad as to be superficial.

+ The School of Education at my university offers a course called “Reading”. When I first saw this, I was shocked, wondering whether this institution actually taught basic reading for college credit. I then realized that it was a course on how to teach reading. Ever since, this has been a course I wanted to take, since the teaching of basic reading is often what goes on in my office hours. I would really like to know how to do it more systematically. I do not understand well enough what students at this skill level need to know, or what sorts of awareness(es) I need to unlock for them so that they can read.

+ Some of the more important elements lacking in my students’ linguistic capabilities are:
1. Basic vocabulary;
2. Adequate control of syntax;
3. Ability to draw inferences;
4. Ability to handle ambiguity;
5. Capacity to grasp the fact that a word, a sentence, a text, or a problem may be complex.

+ I do not give a grade higher than D to a paper which does not contain, explicitly or implicitly, some form of a thesis. I do not understand how it is that my advanced undergraduates have made good grades in sophomore level courses in English without having learned to formulate an argument. Even in graduate school, it appears that many students learn how to write reports on or summaries of other peoples’ arguments, but not how to interpret their own data or make their own arguments.

+ I find imprecision confusing, and I am not comfortable with it. People are sometimes surprised by this, since both my office and my house are adorned with aesthetic objects; I appear to be ‘arty’. Such people believe that ‘art people’, and ‘language people’, tolerate imprecision well. But it is actually ambiguity which we tolerate. Art and language require as much precision as anything else. And, as I suggested in my Dolce far niente post, high standards (and high degrees of precision) make things easier, by making them clearer.

These were the thoughts that distilled themselves in the back of my mind today, as we moved into finals week. My title came to me as I wondered, where are the tools of my discipline?

I do not have only one discipline; I have managed to spend most of my time studying in interdisciplinary programs or, since I started taking jobs, teaching on split appointments between two or more departments. So I am hardly opposed to interdisciplinarity, and I am well aware that the traditional disciplines are artificial constructs, with limits that can be arbitrary and constraining. Disciplines, however, do have traditions, and they offer tools. It is fun to be interdisciplinary because you get the tools of more than one discipline. To undertake interdisciplinary work should not mean one is denied the tools of any discipline. This happens all too often.

Interdisciplinary programs are in fashion. They are cool, and they are attractive in an era of budget cuts. If you cannot justify two Ph.D. programs to your Board of Regents, you may be able to throw them together into one, which you will sell by calling it ‘innovative’. This can work well. It can spell disaster, however, especially when ‘interdisciplinarity’ dispenses with rigor and offers a smorgaasbord in its place.

At my institution there is a strange cohabitation between literature and the social sciences. It is strange because while it is a cohabitation, it is not really a relationship. People seem to slide from one discipline to the next in a promiscuous manner, but not to bring the disciplines together in a rigorous way (or a ‘deep, meaningful’ way). Recent results include a Ph.D. student who got a degree, but is not employable, and an M.A. student who, similarly, got his degree but was not admitted to any doctoral program. Both students are intelligent and could have done far better than they did, had they been allowed to. It is most unfortunate.


Excursus B: The Bourgeois University

Does this weblog impinge upon my research and writing time? Not at all. It helps me gather my thoughts; it causes me to write more quickly, and more clearly.

Some reading for today is Stanley N. Katz, “Excellence Is By No Means Enough: Intellectual Philanthropy and the Just University,” (Common Knowledge 8:3 [Fall 2002]: 427-438). I will not summarize the article here, nor will I repeat its useful list of references in its entirety. I will, however, make a few notes.

+ As the title suggests, the article is a critique of the drive to “excellence” of which we have all seen evidence in the propaganda of our respective universities.

+ In the current age of market capitalism and budget cuts, the liberal arts have taken to defending themselves by arguing that they provide measurable economic and social benefits (as I did, blatantly and successfully, in my most recent grant narrative). Such arguments are attractive to legislators, but higher education “has gone too far in the direction of such functionalism” (Katz 432).

+ Bill Readings’ The University in Ruins (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1996) is a strong critique of this trend. He says that the centrality of the humanities in the university has been displaced because the university is now a “transnational bureaucratic corporation.” ‘Excellence’ means performance in the market, and part of the cognitive dissonance academics experience is the result of the clash between the pre-modern origins of the university (i.e., the university as “the home of ideas, the archive of a people’s culture” [Cohen 433, cit. in Katz 432]) and “the force of the market” (Readings 38, cit. in Katz 432).

This means that the ‘scholarly values’ I have been seeking to define really are an endangered species. I have decided to fight back. In his story “The Bourgeois King” (1888), Rubén Darío insisted that a poet is not an organ-grinder. If the university is transformed into a combination of a technical school and a research and development think tank in the service of industry, I might as well work in the bank.

I do realize how ‘conservative’ this sounds, although a more descriptive term, I think, would be ‘traditional’. I espouse a few more traditional values and activities. Anarcho-syndicalism, for instance, is very traditional.



What is a scholar? Only now, arriving at the seventh post on this question, have I come to a simple answer. A scholar is someone attempting to learn something. If scholarship takes place within an institution such as a university, the scholar will normally get degrees and promotions along the way. If degrees and promotions are the primary (or only) goals, or if the activities leading to these achievements come into conflict with the goal of learning, scholarship falls by the wayside. The best teachers are those who are themselves in the process of learning something. To be in the process of learning something is to be engaged in research.

I will not go into detail on the fact that my sophomores’ largest problem is not understanding the material at hand, but acquiring reading skills I already had by the sixth grade. Nor will I spend time lamenting the fact that too many of my graduate students still have this problem. I will not point out with any great vehemence that the graduate student the university has in its employ to rewrite the incoherent theses and dissertations of other graduate students, so that documents can be filed and degrees produced, assures me that these problems exist campus wide. I will merely note the fundamental immorality of the policies which have given rise to this state of affairs, and move on. The lack of integrity here is a central problem.

I cannot recommend the Katz article, to which I referred yesterday, highly enough for its brief, yet incisive excavation of the decline of learning. Observe one of the titles to which he refers: Julie A. Reuben, The Making of the Modern University: Intellectual Transformation and the Marginalization of Morality (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1996).

Heirs to the Enlightenment like John Stuart Mill believed that the university was not a place of professional training but of liberal education, for those destined to direct the multitudes. The mere expansion of an elitist structure, and the simultaneous exposure of this stucture to the forces of market capitalism, has created institutions which do not promote actual learning, but a simulacrum thereof. Such institutions reinforce, rather than close the ‘thinking gap’ to which the systematic underfunding of primary and secondary education and the erosion of civil society have given rise.

Unlike some of my undoubtedly scholarly interlocutors, I believe in organic intellectuals and popular education. In other words, I do not believe learning should be reserved for the traditional elites. I have no nostalgia for Mill’s time–or Rousseau’s, or Plato’s. I work for an institution of whose existence Paulo Freire might approve. I doubt he would approve of what it is doing, however. I see that we are striving for style; I find that we lack substance.

The issue is not the intellectual weakness of the professors, or of the students. The issue is place of learning in this society, within and outside of universities.



A friend who did not know I was taking notes for an essay on the nature of scholarship, adds to these notes that scholars form and test hypotheses, and seriously consider opposing points of view. She has trouble with graduate students who only want to cite sources which agree with their own preconceived notions. These students say that since they are not in the sciences, they should not have to make hypotheses.

Another friend reminds us that a way to discuss hypotheses without mentioning them as such is to ask, “What question will your project answer?” This is a fair point, except that I have found it to work only with undergraduates. Graduate students either don’t need this hint, or are far too confused to take it.

I say we are all in science. Science, or scientia, means systematic knowledge. There is no scholarship without science, understood in this sense. I also note that many students and some faculty appear to believe that a paper should not have an argument of its own, but rather be a kind of extended report based on secondary sources. A student of mine errs in the opposite direction, mistaking description for advocacy.

My friend in prison, meanwhile, speaks of being a teenager in Shreveport, Louisiana. He had a good voice back then, before all those years of smoking and drinking. Down at the corner, men would buy him beer to sing. So he would sing, and make up songs. “It was all blues.”



I am amazed to hear from the Graduate School that we are ‘no longer’ to permit students to cite the Wikipedia in theses and dissertations. They have just discovered that it is not a definitive source. I, of course, do not even allow undergraduates to cite any encyclopedia as a definitive source, except in those unusual situations in which it is appropriate to do so. That the Wikipedia has been considered a definitive source by our graduate school up until now, explains a good deal of my confusion.

A curriculum related question to consider is whether the existence of academic coaches, how-to manuals and self-help books, marketed to graduate students and assistant professors, are good things or not. Are these aids actually helpful, or do they provide (mis)advice and (mis)training to people who are not getting the level of advice and orientation they need from actual professors in their fields? Is this phenomenon helping to convert universities into their own simulacra?

I am now located in the extreme West, where the waves crash.



I added this final paragraph to my post Male Privilege II:

Men expect complicity in the maintenance of male privilege. If complicity is not granted, they will attempt to extract it outright. They will turn any intellectual and emotional tool available to this purpose. Some of these tools, although they are presented as neutral and universal, and can be used, by many different people, for a variety of purposes, may have in fact been designed with this violent purpose as one of their available attributes.

Then I read this paragraph in Black Amazon/Guyanese Terror’s post Generation Me:

Class privilege and recognition of play space (space where you can be incomplete or ‘off’ and not receive soul crushing or legal response) is parsed out very differently. Those girls got to have the space of both being morally superior but scientifically protected.

At the same time, I am still trying to get into some kind of reasonable shape, a paper which deals in part with Enlightenment thought and the cultural and intellectual worlds of peoples living at the margins of modernity.

The presence of these three thoughts at the top of my mind at the same time, with Lisa’s post On Why I Think Graduate Students Should Publish backing them all up in at least an oblique way, and some recent conversations, with various parties, on the relationships between ‘facts’, memory, thought, intuition, feeling and the issue of validity, in addition to the imminence of the fall semester, have, in their precipitous conjunction, made me realize it is time to continue posting on the question of “What Is A Scholar?”

My first nine posts on this matter were reactions to frustration with some of the poorer teaching and research I have encountered lately. My frustration was not so much with the quality of work – nobody does their best work all the time – but with the fact that it seemed to be considered adequate and even good. Being the tolerant, open-minded sort, I am receptive to many different readings and approaches. Poor work confuses me because I think, initially, that I am missing something. It takes a while before I realize that no, I am not – the problem is that something is missing. I decided it was time to go back to my hard-ass roots and stand for serious, as opposed to fluffy scholarship. Those posts emphasize rigor.

I wish to remind everyone that rigor should never be deployed in such a way as to stamp out what Black Amazon calls ‘play space’. We are all familiar with stories of famous scientists, who came up with their brilliant hypotheses while playing. It is interesting to note that intellectual exploration undertaken by minorities and women, is often uprooted as ‘illogical’ at the point where it is, and should still be growing in the more freeform area of ‘play space’.



[Cross listed with Male Privilege III. And, since scholarship does seem to be imbricated with male privilege, here is Male Privilege I.]

Now, as Melquíades’ manuscripts had probably already foreseen, the “Male Privilege” and “What Is A Scholar?” series of posts are converging. It is time to highlight one of the many thoughtful comments made on this weblog. I refer to comment 3, below, written in response to some other comments (1 and 2) on my post What Is A Scholar? X.

1. At the end of this post, PZ remarks that,

It is interesting to note that intellectual exploration undertaken by minorities and women, is often uprooted as ‘illogical’ at the point where it is,…

Although this view is widely held, especially in the Liberal Arts and Humanities, it is not, as a matter of fact, entirely historically accurate. For instance, L. Pyenson and S. Pyenson’s (1999) book Servants of Nature has an extensive discussion of the scientific contributions made in colonial regions, that had a significant impact. There is also significant evidence of the impact of women in the sciences. The National Academies Press has a good selection of publications detailing the facts. Women Scientists in History also provides a number of useful resources, albeit in a more popular form.

2. PZ, I was just trying to demonstrate that the claim that,

“…intellectual exploration undertaken by minorities and women, is often uprooted as ‘illogical’…”

is incorrect.

In the cases I cite, these groups were not “…uprooted as ‘illogical’…”. In fact, these individuals made significant contributions that were acknowledged both at the time and now. The point here is a scholarly one. It is scholarly to get the facts right, even if it goes against the certain kinds of ‘received wisdom’. It was also for this reason that I provided the citations.

This commentator would like us to think he is offering constructive criticism and useful information. It appeared to me, however, that he in fact wished to engage one’s energy and time, without really putting in the effort it would take on his part, to understand the post and its contexts. I did not feel like engaging with that. Another commentator written a useful critique of his strategy.

3. I was not sure what this commentator’s point was, in relation to the argument of the post, so I went back and read the entire paragraph (always a useful scholarly activity).

I wish to remind everyone that rigor should never be deployed in such a way as to stamp out what Black Amazon calls ‘play space’. We are all familiar with stories of famous scientists, who came up with their brilliant hypotheses while playing. It is interesting to note that intellectual exploration undertaken by minorities and women, is often uprooted as ‘illogical’ at the point where it is, and should still be growing in the more freeform area of ‘play space’.

When citing a text for the purpose of making a point, it is always useful to cite the entire passage rather than half a sentence. If one reinserts the phrase this commentator cites in order to critique…something? (I’m not quite sure what the point is) into its context (the last paragraph of a post on one of the nastier forms of misogyny in academia), one may see that the statement about attacks on the intellectual exploration of women and minorities (”uproot”) is not about whether or not such intellectual explorations exist at all or have even been valuable or influential, but rather about the fact that quite often (so-called) “rigor” is used to denigrate those efforts, and especially in “play space.”

Or, in other words, I’m not sure why this commentator has isolated a quotation, marshalled a few minor examples that do not pertain to the larger idea being expressed, and then made a somewhat snide remark about PZ’s “scholarship” as a response to the idea of this post, which is about the ways that an intellectual culture expresses hostility to the free play of ideas-in-process. If one is expected to waste one’s time marshalling the extensive anecdotal and scholarly evidence that exists about the history of misogyny and racism in the sciences, in academia, or even in the blogosphere (yes, such scholarship exists as well, and no, I’m not going to cite it here because this is not an academic publication and I don’t have to do your work for you) simply in order to refer to its existence at all, then we never get to our own ideas at all; we are simply doing work that others choose not to do when they refuse to see what is under their noses.

Or, to go back to the beginning of this post:

Men expect complicity in the maintenance of male privilege. If complicity is not granted, they will attempt to extract it outright. They will turn any intellectual and emotional tool available to this purpose. Some of these tools, although they are presented as neutral and universal, and can be used, by many different people, for a variety of purposes, may have in fact been designed with this violent purpose as one of their available attributes.

I would like to thank the first commentator for providing such a clear example of a ’scholarly’ attitude which believes itself to be objective, but is not, and whose non-objectivity appears in fact to be rooted in white/male privilege. Yet more, I would like to thank the second commentator for her clarity, and for her more truly objective scholarship.



In the late 1980′s, I was finishing my dissertation and listening to the Iran-Contra hearings, 24/7. A satirical song came on the radio, to the tune of the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby”:

Elliot Abrams
lied to the point of a question
and nobody heard.

True scholars do not lie to the point of a question.

As Queen Latifah said only a few years later:

By the tone
of my voice
you can tell
I’m a scholar.

All o’ y’all feel me, now. The semester is starting.



Now I am on my way to give a presentation on United States immigration policy, as part of a panel. This is for a college honor society, and I am articulate on the matter. I am doing it as a favor to the faculty advisor of this organization, since few faculty are interested in performing this kind of service, and fewer students are willing to speak up on immigration in public so close to September 11.

I should not necessarily be doing this, however. I am informed in a general way on this topic, and able to speak and engage with an audience, but I do not conduct research on immigration policy, nor do I teach it. That means that as a scholar, I am not competent in this area, strictly speaking–even though I do have some expertise on it, and even though I can justify speaking on it as a public intellectual.

If an honor society I were advising, wished to hold an event on immigration policy, I would not respond by rounding up informed, but yet random faculty members and students to speak extemporaneously on the matter, as the advisors of this organization have done. I would suggest we approach a true expert in the field.

I would advise the students on how to locate, choose, and contact such a person. I would then help them apply for internal funding to get that person here. Students would then be honing actual academic skills, learning new things, and meeting new people. They would not (as they will this evening) be listening to their professors and classmates speak to each other in the same echo chamber, one more time.



One of my former universities has just declined the opportunity to have Dustin Hoffman teach a theatre workshop there. The reason given was his lack of scholarly publications. Who do you think has the most impressive record scholarly or creative accomplishment – Hoffman, or the members of the committee who turned the proposal down?



In many institutions teaching, research, and service are ranked in that order, although with my R-1 mentality, I tend to value research first. This having been said, I will now expound briefly upon three banes of my academic existence.

1. Those individuals who claim a primary interest in teaching, when what they really mean is that they like to pontificate, wield power over students, and avoid learning anything new themselves.

This is a relatively small Bane, as it need not affect my own life, except when such individuals also become really lazy teachers, doing an actual disservice to their students, with whom I then have to deal in some manner; or when they rise to positions of power, from whence they are able to oppress researchers.

2. That standard advice whereby one should spend as little time and effort as possible on teaching, since it is not rewarded, and focus all energies on research productivity which will “move you up and out.”

Out in this context means out towards the wider world, not necessarily toward a different job – just out to a broader perspective than that of one’s usually dysfunctional and claustrophobic department.

This appears to be pragmatic advice, and I fully understand the spirit in which it is given. However, it is a major Bane. I object strenuously on two grounds. It is irresponsible to students, and it doesn’t work. If you have classes to give, they will inevitably take up a certain amount of your time. It is possible to save time on any given day by letting up on something, in some manner. However, the bottom line is, it is less stressful and time consuming to do a decent job, and to plan for that. You then come away refreshed, unworried, and even inspired. “At least we got through it” is a draining thing to have to say. It is the kind of statement which makes me want to watch the television I do not have. “Well, now that’s done!” is more chipper. If I can say that, I am also motivated to use the gym membership I do have. “That was fun and interesting,” on the other hand, is the sort of reaction to class that makes me want to sail home and write.

3. Arguably the worst Bane of all is the perception that service and administration are worthless. People seem to believe that in order to prove their identity as intellectuals, they should be unable to accomplish anything practical at all. This means in practice that others must carry this burden for them. I do not know how these individuals imagine that the great universities were built, if not by up to date intellectuals who could in fact think practically about how an institution of learning, or a worthwhile degree program, could be effectively designed and run.

I could, of course, say a great deal more about all of these Banes, and tell colorful anecdotes about each. Perhaps I shall do so one day. In the meantime, I will point out that many of the better Professori are good at all of these things. They go together, b****** (as my students would say, outside of class).

No, no, go not to Lethe, neither twist
Wolf’s-bane, tight-rooted, for its poisonous wine . . .

While the Banes I have discussed here may be in some senses Three Capital Banes, there are others. And all Banes are based upon fallacies. It is, for example, a fallacy that all institutions are equally problematic. It is a fallacy that it is possible to do exactly the same things at all institutions. It is also a fallacy that all meritorious individuals can work themselves “up and out,” except after the manner of the bodhisattvas. (It’s the economy, for one thing. And to get a dollar, you have to have one. And gaps, once created, often tend to expand. Note, however, if everyone left, we would only create gridlock around Harvard Yard, and reap illiteracy elsewhere.) The fallacies that “speaking up” can get you fired just like that, and/or that it is pointless as it will get you nowhere, are particularly widespread.


1. That which destroys life, especially poison of a deadly quality.

2. Destruction; death. The cup of deception spiced and tempered to their bane. (Milton)

3. Any cause of ruin, or lasting injury; harm; woe. Money, thou bane of bliss, and source of woe. (Herbert)

4. a disease in sheep, commonly termed the rot.

poison, ruin, destruction, injury, pest.

oe. bane destruction, as Bana murderer; akin to Icel. Bani death, murderer, OHG. Bana murder, bano murderer, murder, OIr. bath death, benim i strike.

Finally, with respect to the putative, eternal battle of teaching and research, or teaching versus research (and I will remind you, Carnival and Lent go together), what about asking a different question, about marking time, going through the paces (and publication, by the way, can be like that; I speak from direct experience) versus engaging intellectually in some way or another. It could be a magnum opus one year, an interesting seminar another, and a creative administrative stint at yet another moment. In the end, they still go together, and one way or another, is good enough for me.



One of my students wrote an honors thesis on the controversy which surrounded Rigoberta Menchú after David Stoll alleged that there were false statements in her testimonio. This student read virtually every book and article then in print about the issue. She said to me, “This is the academic Jerry Springer show! It started out with a disagreement between two people, and now the entire audience is slugging it out on the floor!”

I will not attempt to summarize the entire debate here, but it was somewhat unnerving to those who had an interest in the literal truth of Menchú’s narrative – the first paragraph of which contains this sentence: “I’d like to stress that it’s not only my life, it’s also the testimony of my people.” I never thought veracity in a ploddingly literal sense was testimonio’s cornerstone. Stoll’s interest in discovering Menchú’s “untruths” is primarily political. He disagrees with her politics, and wishes to discredit her so as to discredit these.

In Nebaj, Guatemala, I had a conversation with a man who put it slightly differently. “Stoll is just envious. He is a man, a Euro-American, a Ph.D., and a professor. She is a woman, a Native American, and a Guatemalan, with very little formal education. But her book has been very well received academically in the metropolitan countries. She achieved First World academic success without preauthorization. This he cannot forgive.”


184 responses to “Books

  1. LP

    “He said our graduate program does not permit independent thought to the same degree as does our undergraduate program. ” — Sadly, this is the nature of the beast. Graduate school is about the perpetuation of the species, not about the fostering of creativity and innovation. Students are often surprised to find that the same professors who were so welcoming of strange new tangents in their undergraduate classes are suddenly much more rigid and defensive in their graduate seminars. This is because what is at stake is now the next generation of professors and the question becomes one of paternity and faithful reproduction, rather than innovation and change.

  2. Sigh: you may be right, although I still do not want to believe it, and I am still resisting it after all these years, and so on. This phenomenon did not happen to me until late dissertation time, and then assistant professor time. Perhaps that is why my culture shock was so severe, and I got so depressed about academia for such a long time – I was totally unprepared!

    What I have not yet figured out is how to be as conformist as one needs to be, and also produce original research. It seems such a schizoid kind of life, and I have not yet been able to pull it off!

    Thank you for your comment, it is helping me think about this.

  3. P.S. and so now I have thought about this some. And I could now say volumes. A note toward that:

    I think I now know what to do with this piece: sew it together as a personal essay on this paradox, of the imperative to create original, useful, creative work within the context of an Establishment which is interesting policing ‘knowledge’ and reproducing itself as an authority. I say personal because the lead-in would be my experience of these things: we did learn how to do both at once in graduate school, but this was at an institution which allowed for it in a way only a ‘public Ivy’ can, or could (I do not know whether they still can. I have been in shock ever since, because I did not feel the inescapable oppression in my own flesh until I became a professor. The upshot of it all is, you have to be really aware and strong and committed, all of these 24/7, or you do get eaten up by the machine.

    Much more to say, but this is a start.

  4. This point of Amy’s, from another context, on professionalization, is key:

    She says, working ‘professionally’, you have to believe in the power structure, etc. – to be professional is to be co-opted, essentially.

    My friend and I were talking the other night about universities we liked working for and those we didn’t. We came up with two classes of universities: those which were about production, and those which were about kissing up.

    The production oriented ones were the R-1 publics, generally speaking (with exceptions on both sides).
    They’re the ones we (in our parlance) would have called professional: i.e. competent, no nonsense, let’s get something interesting done here, period.

    The others, where production only matters superficially, and the key activity is kissing up, are oddly also the ones where the administrations, although very hokey and not all that competent, keep talking about professionalism. ‘Professionalism’ there means coverup of incompetence, loyalty to the institutional power structure, and so on.

    My friend and I felt much freer and happier at the ultra-demanding places, which said produce produce produce, precisely because they wanted your expertise, not your soul.

  5. Fascinating and quite the best thing I’ve ever read on the subject of academics.

  6. Really?! So it is not too pompous or anything, or too whiny? This is great to know. I’ll do something with it. Thanks for reading.

  7. What thoughtful writing on a very tough subject. Will take me awhile to digest all of this! I have some very strong feelings on the subject myself that pertain to the particular nature of my academic field. My academic field is in some respects “in crisis” I think due to the economics of higher ed these days (my field is at the low end of the feeding trough). We are especially vulnerable to what you refer to – academia/corporation.

    Academia does not like to honestly assess itself though this is what is sorely needed.

    I love your insight into academia veering towards ideology when scholarship, integrity start to drift.

    Yes – you have touch more than a few nerves! Thanks for the wonderful post.

  8. Hi Anna and gracias! There’s also this:

    “…one of the functions of educational institutions, is two fold: Quarantine a small minority of radical or potentially radical intellectuals into tenured positions and push them farther and farther away from communities struggling towards a more desirable system; while the rest of us, public intellectuals—people who don’t need buildings to think—many of us who have fought to get here, we get saddled with debt, huge amounts of debt. I have undergrad students that I work with who are three years into their education with $60,000 of debt. So we internalize the belief that we have to get a job. You know, “there aren’t any other options.” That’s what we’re told. “What would you do other than get a job out of college?” And this process—getting the job, paying off the debt—serves to estrange us from the communities that we may have been connected to in struggle before we became indebted, or prevents us from being able to connect with those communities. That is why I’m so excited about the notion of having passions at all, of being in an incubator enough to figure out what my passions are amidst the system. To be able to survive in the system with our passions is one thing, but many of us don’t know what we want to begin with. So these processes, the miseducation and the debt that comes with them, is one complex way to keep us from even figuring out what we want, let alone act on those desires.”

    That’s from here:

    via here:

  9. Z

    OK, I haven’t posted here for a while; this was about the corporatization of academia and also about the way in which, when I started getting panic attacks around academia, it was seen as “procrastination,” and how I, by trying to “learn not to procrastinate,” exacerbated the issue.

    Now I would like to repurpose this thread for a while to talk about these continuing panic attacks and about Reeducation. I’m tired of writing posts on these matters, it takes too much time and it is too draining; also I think that anything new I have to say will come in sentences not whole posts.

    So, statement for today: I have a lot of nostalgia for the person I was before Reeducation. I see why I fell prey to Reeducation but I do not think it was necessary, or inevitable; neither do I think it had any secret value or was worth it. Yes, I learned some things. However, I could have learned them more easily and less destructively; I also learned some things I would rather not know, and I would rather have spent that time and energy learning something else.

    Note for today: one thing Reeducation took from me were the positive reasons, the truly positive reasons, I went into the academic field I went into, which were not about pain but about love. Reeducation was as destructive as it could be about that and this is what I most resent about it.

    I hereby officially reclaim that part of my old self.

    I think I’ve been saying “oh, Reeducation killed that, but I didn’t want it anyway” as a sort of defense which isn’t really true — the truth is that I could and can make the best of it, but not that I didn’t want that part of self, and certainly not that it was a bad part of self that needed to be lopped off, as Reeducation appeared to believe (I don’t even like writing that).

    Since I didn’t like writing that I will repeat the opposite: it was a great part of self, created with care by me, for good reasons, out of love, and I wanted it, even if I also wanted other things. It wasn’t right to have it trampled upon like that and I refuse to say there was anything wrong with … well, my having gone to graduate school, my having a PhD, and the person I had become because of having had the chance to do that.

  10. Z

    Who benefits from my panic attacks around academia:

    * the Reeducator
    * my parents and my brother who were all against my doing a PhD
    * my friend from graduate school who believes in Reeducation and who, I see through a glass darkly now, saw me as her competititon and wanted me not to do well
    * anyone else like that who may exist

    Nobody else!

  11. * my friend from graduate school who believes in Reeducation and who, I see through a glass darkly now, saw me as her competititon and wanted me not to do well

    This is an odd one, isn’t it. But it is very common. [N. Ed. -- there was more here but I'm editing it out since this isn't a discussion or "sharing" thread right now.]

  12. It’s the state of the culture. It’s not rational, but competition as a metaphysical principle, gone primal. For instance, there are those who have “competed” with me when I was actually protecting them against the worst elements of the system. But they decide that it is natural and primal to compete, and so they find that I am no longer their ally. How were they to know that competing wasn’t the best choice at the time? They have developed a primal principle, and they must obey it no matter what happens. This is now the contemporary norm.

  13. Z

    I guess you are right. It’s chilling! But it explains a lot.

  14. Z

    OK. For right now, despite all the valuable things other people say, I’d like to use this as an introspective thread for me. So I’d like responses, if any, to go on the TALK page instead, por favor. It’s not that I mind input, it’s that I also want a meditation space. I’ll discuss this thread as it is now with anyone who wants to discuss it, on the TALK thread.


    On affectation. To be cool in our family one had to not like this, resent this, feel above this or misused by this. So I never, for the longest time, felt all right about liking this and not having a problem with it, because of the uncoolness of it.

    Then later, in another phase, there was so much I genuinely didn’t like, but nobody believed it or if they did, they thought I deserved it.

    The thing I would like to bring back, before the my unit is cut and my so-called career ends not as I planned to end it earlier, but as it may be ended by default, is the pleasure in the things I originally liked.

    Because the fact is there were things I always liked. I felt guilty about that as it was uncool, and never really allowed myself to enjoy things quite as much as I could have. And then there was Reeducation.

    But I would like to enjoy things now the things I always liked, and say it.

  15. Z

    And then there is this post by Feminema, who was Didion, whom I should read more, that Hattie pointed us to, and it is important, too:

  16. Z

    In any case many of my issues are about gender and freedom, my famously masculine voice, the way in which tradition and freedom coincide in my case but not quite. Did I refuse to speak during that era because I was refusing ventriloquism or because I was refusing to claim my own voice? Either/both, really; I succeeded at the one, perhaps, but not at the other; and so on, but one does not know, and Feminema, ex-Didion, is right about nerves.

  17. Z

    Good idea/point! :-)

  18. There is a wistful tone in that paragraph (and in your recent writing) that could carry a whole book.

  19. Z

    You mean, that’s not the tone throughout? Or rather: it’s the tone I have the blog to practice for, for the novel.

  20. I think the retrospective, mysterious tone is very effective.

  21. Z

    Interesting … anyway, I appreciate your thoughts but I’ve deleted some conversation from this thread because I was and am serious about reserving it as a meditation thread. Everyone, please take comments on this to the “Talk” thread.


    The conflict, it seems, was over land, having enough of it for subsistence agriculture, let us say, and over the right to exist. How could one exist. To survive one must produce a large quantity of high quality work, and at the same time not exist or speak at all. These were the two positions, corresponding to perhaps to two genders, and they were mutually exclusive; yet one must be capable of occupying both at once if one expected to survive.

  22. Z

    The other really important issue was also based on a duality. The question was how much pain you could take. Because your accomplishments were required, but you would not be paid for these but for taking pain. So it was important to conjugate these things: which accomplishments could you maintain while in pain, and how much pain could you handle while also maintaining at least some accomplishments.

    This wasn’t true at school, of course, but it became true in Reeducation (that point in time at which home life colonized the free zone which had been school); on the knife edge of accomplishment and pain, those things which worked against each other; on that knife edge which was not enough land upon which to maintain one’s farm, there one must also work to conjugate heavy production with one’s own non existence or non being.

    (At school one was given a piece of land, and nobody noticed whether one was a being or not, so it was possible to be a being and work one’s land, so as to produce the required amount or more. Afterwards, though, the contradictions came into play once again.)

  23. Z

    And there was the question of the patroness, supposedly a wicked entity who had denied being to others, but who had actually made the school and the piece of land available.

    And that of the guardians, supposedly virtuous, who required production of a certain kind, but only up to a certain point, and who affected a sort of pride in their own technically rebellious, underachieving (yet ultimately conformist and self protective) attitudes.

    These were the issues back then, or so it seems from my outpost now.

  24. Z

    And individuation and separation were selfish, one was told, but one did not realize this was gender based and in general, did not understand at all. Yet from this sprang many paradoxes.

  25. Z

    And we have been through all these things before, and the breakthrough paragraph is still this first one, that I reproduce now so as to take up the thread again:

    In any case many of my issues are about gender and freedom, my famously masculine voice, the way in which tradition and freedom coincide in my case but not quite. Did I refuse to speak during that era because I was refusing ventriloquism or because I was refusing to claim my own voice? Either/both, really; I succeeded at the one, perhaps, but not at the other; and so on, but one does not know, and Feminema, ex-Didion, is right about nerves.

  26. Z

    …nerves to stop thought… stopping thought that feels like boredom…

    people told me it looked like I hated writing my dissertation, did I? it did not feel that way, they said I was in denial, were they right…

    nerves that stop thought, stopping thought that feels like boredom but might not be…

    stopping thought because one is trying to apply “Boycean” rules when they don’t apply…

    (I have been acting “Boycean” since the sixth grade…)

    Rebellion. And that decision on the Santa Monica Freeway still in the 80s, I would act for myself now. A decision I didn’t act upon for long, or act upon 100%, but that was important.

    “…the way in which tradition and freedom coincide in my case but not quite. Did I refuse to speak during that era because I was refusing ventriloquism or because I was refusing to claim my own voice? Either/both, really; I succeeded at the one, perhaps, but not at the other; and so on, but one does not know, and Feminema, ex-Didion, is right about nerves.”

  27. Z

    Or it’s about: jobs in forsaken faraway desolate towns where half the teaching load is community college style and the library doesn’t have journals, and there isn’t travel funding, and you don’t have a living wage, but you have R-1 research requirements and you know that if you’re just good enough and work hard enough you can get out.

    It’s about: having agreed to do this so your mother wouldn’t cry, and as punishment for having hurt the family so by doing a PhD.

    It’s about: the agreement to stifle oneself.

    It’s even more about: trying to say this is just something one did due to one’s defects; trying not to see that this really is something that happens to people because of gender.

  28. Z

    And it is about: having lots of desires and dreams and having renounced them; having done so because even having had them had been so hurtful to the family (and had turned out to be so dangerous).

  29. Z

    All the things I have said before on the Reeducation threads but mostly: the idea that you should renounce everything, that you should be willing to become so thin, as it were.

    * New realization: what caught me was the accusation of not being serious: if you are not willing to renounce everything, then you are not serious. Having always dreamed of being believed one day, of being taken seriously one day, of having rights and being almost a full person one day, I was not willing to risk not being considered serious, and this was an error. *

    And it isn’t true that living somewhere you are happy and having enough money not to be nervous don’t matter; they matter and matter.

    And I don’t want to give up this my last outpost (or so it feels it is) but I am afraid I must or I will be forced to it soon, and I am afraid I will be dependent upon family money again soon.

    And I so resent it. The guilt I grew up with, that I was costing the parents money; the guilt about having used money they felt they should have inherited to go to college; the guilt about being someone who wanted to make money and have money when this was not genteel enough and not rebellious enough. The way these things combine so that my life is as precarious as it is, and and so that I am as sad as I am so much of the time about what I wasted.

    The fact that one must remember, nonetheless, the horror of it all and realize one was lucky to escape this much intact, and realize that these things happen and they just do happen.


    Key for me, though, is this era: “…the way in which tradition and freedom coincide in my case but not quite. Did I refuse to speak during that era because I was refusing ventriloquism or because I was refusing to claim my own voice? Either/both, really; I succeeded at the one, perhaps, but not at the other; and so on, but one does not know, and Feminema, ex-Didion, is right about nerves.”

    There was that but I had entered Reeducation already; this was the golden moment and I do believe that had I not entered Reeducation I would have become free. One can be proud of this.

  30. Z

    And dependence was what those people were trying to foster. They didn’t actually care about the money, they cared about the loss of control.

  31. Z

    And: it really is about emotional and verbal abuse and manipulation: in the family, in certain venues in academia, and in Reeducation. Like being ganged up on. Being ganged up on. Remember the diagnosis that got me to that Reeducator, and that I do think was correct: “You are enmeshed in a family system [that overlaps and is imbricated with the academic industrial comples] and you fear EXTREME violence, probably with good reason.”

  32. Z

    Which means it is not just a failure of nerves (i.e. it is not just that I was not strong enough and so on, although Didion’s point isn’t that one should be stronger and that would solve things).

  33. Z

    For me one of the pitfalls of obedience has been, seeking wisdom in what were really just the confused ramblings of authoritarian individuals.


    My early decision never to be as cold and dismissive and silent as the older generation, or to project the way they did, meant, paradoxically, that they were the first beneficiaries of this program; I listened too closely and empathized too much.


    Lots of people — Reeducation and parts of my first education included — willing to propose contradictions and paradoxes not even because they want to teach these things, but only because the confusion they induce will engage one as an interlocutor while preventing anything real from getting said.

  34. Z

    So it is not just a failure of nerves, me losing my strength; all the attacks and siege from the outside wore me down and so on and this is important in the feminist analysis of these events; yet still the paragraph Jennifer liked is the most advanced one and is the novelistic one:

    “…the way in which tradition and freedom coincide in my case but not quite. Did I refuse to speak during that era because I was refusing ventriloquism or because I was refusing to claim my own voice? Either/both, really; I succeeded at the one, perhaps, but not at the other; and so on, but one does not know, and Feminema, ex-Didion, is right about nerves.”

  35. Z

    On this site I like, that parodies one aspect of Reeducation, someone wrote of the obfuscating terminology used in the 12 step groups my Reeducator turned out to be part of:

    “My favorite is Spiritual Tool Kit:

    “1) A group of learned coping mechanisms designed to shrug responsibility, make others responsible for your problems, or otherwise manipulate others into giving you what you want.

    “2) Cult speak for ‘adopt and make our dogma your own.’

    “See Alanon tool kit…
    “Language designed to crush your opponent….”

    All of these are just verbal abuse techniques and in an unrelated realization today I realized that a certain individual started working on convincing me I was being mean to him almost from the day we met (although I didn’t notice he was doing this until much later).

    I suppose my point is that people eventually succumb to verbal abuse.


    “In any case many of my issues are about gender and freedom, my famously masculine voice, the way in which tradition and freedom coincide in my case but not quite. Did I refuse to speak during that era because I was refusing ventriloquism or because I was refusing to claim my own voice? Either/both, really; I succeeded at the one, perhaps, but not at the other; and so on, but one does not know, and Feminema, ex-Didion, is right about nerves.”

    I think either/both are true but all of this is only one level of the thing. I also lost the ability to speak due to Reeducation.

    There are so many layers of this. (Someone told me this weekend that a single/small traumatic event really can affect you for years or forever, and I was relieved to hear it because I tend to feel I should have been able to get over this faster.)

    I have tended to think more about the Reeducation thread but really the other is more interesting, and Reeducation is really part of the patriarchal structure that is also a problem in the first layer.

  36. Z

    “In any case many of my issues are about gender and freedom, my famously masculine voice, the way in which tradition and freedom coincide in my case but not quite. Did I refuse to speak during that era because I was refusing ventriloquism or because I was refusing to claim my own voice? Either/both, really; I succeeded at the one, perhaps, but not at the other; and so on, but one does not know, and Feminema, ex-Didion, is right about nerves.”

    Mystery/paragraph 2:

    Was the Goose, when he introduced me to the Club and convinced me to stay on the market, returning to me the right to voice the patriarch of Reeducation had taken, or pushing me back to the Word of the Father when I was, once again, just about to break free? Again, either/both, and the Goose as person is diametrically opposed to my Reeducator in both ways, but each pushed me back to the void: Reeducation, to the maternal anti-matter, and the Goose, to the paternal mold.

    (Of these options the paternal mold has always been preferable to anti-matter, but the point is that I met both Reeducation and the Goose at moments when I was just-breaking free. Now it appears I am just-breaking free once again and this time I will not be deterred by any guide.)

  37. Z

    To the extent that one discusses Reeducation it can be about the question of trauma, now. We have already deconstructed Reeducation itself but I have not forgiven myself, really, for letting it traumatize me — yet there are good reasons why it did, since it tried to invalidate everything and asked me to self destruct.

  38. Z

    So we could start:

    In any case many of my issues are about gender and freedom, my famously masculine voice, the way in which tradition and freedom coincide in my case but not quite. Did I refuse to speak during that era because I was refusing ventriloquism or because I was refusing to claim my own voice? Either/both, really; I succeeded at the one, perhaps, but not at the other; and so on, but one does not know, and Feminema, ex-Didion, is right about nerves.

    Was the Goose, when he introduced me to the Club and convinced me to stay on the market, returning to me the right to voice the patriarch of Reeducation had taken, or pushing me back to the Word of the Father when I was, once again, just about to break free? Again, either/both, and the Goose as person is diametrically opposed to my Reeducator in both ways, but each pushed me back to the void: Reeducation, to the maternal anti-matter, and the Goose, to the paternal mold.

    Now, the paternal mold was preferable and preferred … [explain] but … and then back to the nerves theme, and there are three good paragraphs to start.

  39. Z

    [Also: on the Reeducation result: the self hatred I caught from it was so bad that I had to run from myself, hide from myself; this is what made it so hard to get anything done.]

    But stop about Reeducation already, it’s more interesting to think about what happened ANYWAY.

  40. Z

    There is important information on Jesus in this post on my favorite anti-Reeducation site. (One component of Reeducation was 12 stepping although I did not realize these ideas were was being presented to me.)


    Anyway, patriarchal insertion: I believe I refused to speak because I wanted to come to power in a non patriarchal mold. I really think this was at the bottom of it all. And it is in any case possibly the most interesting reading of it. I will think about this.

  41. Z

    In the world of budget cuts, 14 foreign language faculty have been cut in my zone so far, with more to come.

    I think the reason academics are unhappy is that the situation is so unstable and you have these huge authorities over you shaking their fingers, and trying to make you think it is all your fault.

    The reasons we got into it was, it was fun and interesting, but the more you get into it, the more you have to hold back, it seems, because you may be committing to something that isn’t there … or that you “shouldn’t” for various other reasons.

    The privileged get to continue to enjoy it and we should all claim that right while we can.

  42. Z

    The feelings of sadness and repressed rage that I feel around academia. Rage at always having had to repress my better judgment, so as to be respectful to the family. The feeling of violation: constantly violating my better judgment, allowing it to be humiliated, and so on.

    In Reeducation: the issues are letting self be scolded, learning to scold self, learning disempower self.

    I think the family, Reeducation, and the academic jobs I’ve had (although not the education I had) were all about being punished for being seriously interested in school (as opposed to just “performing well”).

  43. Z

    And so also, perhaps it is not that I don’t do enough but that I do too much, something I always forget; and that really and truly, the system is built to sabotage one; and that really and truly, it is all set up so that only certain people get the materials and situation they need; and so really, although one does all one can and so on, the truth reveals itself when one actually gets an academic job and realizes that due to gender/race one’s academic job will never be a real one, and so that then explains why among new assistant professors there is so much weeping; had one had the faintest idea, one says, one would not have; and then the directors say in their self satisfied way, you made your bed and you must lie in it!

    We told you, YOU would fail! And yes, this is not about you not having been given conditions in which to do your job, and this is not discrimination, and this is not you having been misinformed, this is YOU FAILING!

  44. Z

    Being punished for doing the Ph.D.

    While it was happening: the family, it hurt them, and it still hurts my brother, he should have been the one to get one. I should not be doing that and I should not be developing myself, it was hurtful to them, they said they said they said.

    Afterwards: I was a research oriented intellectual and it was hurtful to the people at the college I worked for. Then it was hurtful to Reeducation. Then, to the instructors at the university I work for now, and to the male professors who were their friends and protectors (and who had hired me).

    Catching hell for it all the time. And those who would be my peers not being able to understand the situation, and the situation not being one one would want to raise with them. And it being hard to imagine even for me.

    And so we come up with: the shame and guilt about doing, and then having done a PhD, and about being the person who would be able to do that PhD and the person who one became because of doing it and having done it.

    My college roommate asked: are people proud of your accomplishments, do they congratulate you, and I was surprised because I wouldn’t criticize people for not being proud, I would only ask that they be neutral, this would already be such a great gift.

    Anyway I always feel I am atoning, and this is a problem, I should give that up, and maybe then I would no longer experience the rage I must constantly sit on, either.

  45. Z

    And yet we got into it for fun, because it was fun and interesting and joyful, and then at some point I lost my voice, and it is important to re-find the tone I had way up thread.

    I am using this thread now to dump negative emotions so I don’t write posts about them, I am done with that, but I would like it to develop into something lyrical and not into a mere junkyard.

  46. Z

    The idea that “this is not for you.” The difficulty of standing in one’s life given that it was not for me.

    This is still my problem.

  47. Z

    The importance of allowing oneself to be central (this was always a sin, I was taught, both in my first education and in Reeducation).

    Having always been punished for being an intellectual.

    Having always been directed to stifle myself.

    The constant feeling of drowning or of not being able to breathe.

    My parents on the other hand appear to have been pushed to achieve and apparently did not like this.

    For the novel: my father’s intellectual and working class roots and my mother’s aristocratic dreams. Their uneasy compromise in the middle class.

  48. Z

    The most destructive of all the things I learned in Reeducation: that because my parents drink, my perceptions are bound to be off and I am destined not to know it.

    The most destructive thing I learned from M. Scott Peck, whose book was the first I had to read in Reeducation and which I did not realize was really just conservative and religious pop psych: that the therapized lie and are dishonest, and that I would have to go through great contortions to prove to any therapist that I was being “honest” and that I was “open” to therapy.

    I.E.: no right to reason, no right to any defenses, no right to one’s own perceptions, no right to self.

  49. Z

    And also: I keep saying I get nothing done and don’t work enough but the opposite is true: I get a lot done, work too much, and am asked to do too many disparate things in too many inconvenient circumstances.

    When you add to that the Reeducated idea that I should not prioritize my own way, and the oppression of women that goes on — i.e. the totally weird instructions about what is most important in a particular job that I have often gotten — you can see why I feel as I do.

  50. Z

    And having renounced voice and belief in one’s perceptions, and having given up the right to speak.

    Having given up one’s will and the idea that one had the right to enjoy one’s life.

    Being sneered at for having the idea that life was exciting and wonderful.

  51. Z

    It is 100% clear that I am trying to lead 3 or 4 lives at once and that it is very unrealistic.

    When I started Reeducation, I substituted understanding it for research, and torturing myself with it for relaxation.

    This left me, at work, with nothing but all of this other-oriented teaching and service, and at home, with suffering.

    That explains the drudgery. And having renounced my self meant renouncing most research and relaxation, and having renounced Reeducation has meant taking on more other oriented projects, primarily, although I also took on Art.

    So this is why I am so tired, behind, depressed, and so on, all the time, and I really ought to clear a space and allow myself to come back into it.


    More on drudgery. I always wanted to be overloaded with responsibilities, to prove that I was a person. To have rights and not be made fun of, or not be envied and therefore hurt in some way, you had to already have a great load of onerous responsibilities, you had to be suffering.
    Then you would not be perceived to be hurting others by not suffering, or taking food from them by not starving, or other things like that; most importantly you would be considered a Person and not a Worm.

  52. Z

    This inability to concentrate, I have had for some time and the first time involved that course and that paper in Baton Rouge. Course: intimidated by material; paper: didn’t allow myself time because I felt it was out of field. This all was pure inexperience, I think.

    I think since then, in addition to Reeducation, it’s been the contrast of suffering in daily life and then the great difference between that and what I would like to be, do, and think about, and the prohibition against seeing how different these are — even in terms of tastes.

    And what I do NOT give myself credit for is how much I DO do, how many things I DO know, and so on, and so forth. And yes, none of it is to the center (as per my dream); that was originally because in Reeducation I had to destroy myself, but now it is because I do not want to center myself on this ground.

  53. Z

    All the energy that goes toward trying to be who one is not and trying to SAY THAT THIS IS WHAT ONE IS when it is not true. I’m not one for novels and foreign language teaching, I’m one for theory and poetry; I’m not one for student services and event organization, I’m one for high level planning; and yes it DOES matter a lot what kind of activities one wants to do in one’s academic job.

  54. Z

    It really is all about fitting in, cutting oneself off to fit in, in the family, in my first academic job and this one, and in “reeducation.” I want to escape entirely to be myself — foreign countries, foreign professions — but it seems the task at hand is to be myself under certain constraints. Friends in my late 20s to early 30s all said, it was important that I do what I want, and I did not understand what they meant (they seemed to see that I wasn’t, and I did not see it; I thought they didn’t realize the danger I’d be in if I did not clear things with: MY PARENTS, whose attention was difficult to get since they were in some sort of dream world most of the time).

  55. Z

    Loss of concentration according to Feminema is failure of nerves and is connected to self sabotage and self doubt. Women are not supposed to have power, so we sabotage that or accept sabotage of it.

    That, of course, Reeducation really exacerbated, since it said power was a bad thing.

  56. Z

    Also: do I have workaholic traits? YES. That’s what the drudgery is; it comes from not doing the things one really wants to do at work, and so on.

  57. Z

    I’d also say that the reason for me it was hard to find voice, or that is, make voice public was that I was so often and so much told one had to be false or quiet to survive. It was not true, school and graduate school and publishing and everything were not nearly as hard as I kept being told they would be and were. Yet I was told how hard they would be so often that in the end I became terrified.


    The Emeritus Professor and all his warnings, well meant I am sure but having nothing to do with me. Or were they well meant, or were they actually competitive and destructive? Was he afraid of me? He is after all the one who said he did not want to make it in his career; seeing someone so ambitious and so comparatively bourgeois as myself must have been really alienating.

    And the other chilling thought — Oscar, my original colleague in this job, our decision to run things in the way we did, my knowledge that this was against all sane advice normally; was what we decided was our real situation, really real, or did he only want to convince me of it so that he could keep me from my path? (Both possibilities are probably real, and it’s not part of one and part of the other, it is all of both.)

  58. Z

    No voice. The warnings were that if you did your own work, it would not be seen; if you did good work, it was too much since the value would not be recognized and it might as well be mediocre; and finally, if you were a girl and worked at all, it was a sin because you were not taking care of your mother.

  59. Z

    Also: the mistrust. You can’t do anything, you will fail, you just want our money. The same in late graduate school: you are blond, you can’t do anything. And from family: you are scheming to take our money. And they never trust you in academia. And then in Reeducation, they said one cold not trust oneself. And this was the coup de grace.

  60. Z

    And: a sheet on domestic violence. Consider it and its relevance; this is a good one.

    “I had my identity amputated” (a critic, on the character in Valenzuela, Cambio de armas)

  61. Z

    OK, from Reeducation but also the hierarchical and infantilizing strctures of academia, and also the condescension from childhood and the reaction to any legitimate grievance that it was just some sort of toddler tantrum, plus a few more elements from current life so we have all of this:

    - living a life in which one cannot be an adult
    - living a self tortured life or a life in which one does not resist torture
    - “I am living in a dungeon and I don’t know when I can get out” is the phantasmagoria related here

    I actually seem to, since Reeducation plus being here, have turned into some sort of slave or zombie … it is too bad I neither enjoy it or consider it inevitable … HMMMM but I learned all these ways to contribute to my own imprisonment and it was through all sorts of exhortations not just from Alanon/psychotherapy but from academics, which is why I call it Reeducation;

    many of these had to do with investing money one didn’t have in The Profession so as to reap mysterious future awards; the whole thing is deep, I want to get out of this mental trap, I really do.

  62. Z

    Vocabulary word: the undermining. We were guilty because we went to college; thinking we could do something would cause shaming and condescension; undermining was the name of the game … there was no work, we would not be employable, we were ridiculous, and on, and on. My question is: WHO these people thought they were, what they thought gave them the right, and so on. We know the answers to that, of course, but STILL.

  63. Z

    OK, here’s a really interesting article; these 2d wave feminists are only 20 years or so older than me:

    Like them, I was not raised to be equal

    I got rescued in my teens and twenties by Valeska, beneficiary of feminism she wouldn’t cop to explicitly, and the results of this 2d wave feminism

    Although you still had to become somewhat male identified then

    Then I got, you have to become more female and not have the skills which correspond to men

    And so a lot of self harming, and my self harming attitudes and my desire to immolate and so on is really just how I’ve been taught and coerced to perform gender

    And on the one hand you have to be a man to get ahead, and on the other a woman to not be killed by the Taliban, so to speak, so it is an unresolvable contradiction

    And this is worth remembering; it’s a political problem and not a personal one

  64. Z

    Learned to associate academic work with acute pain, the pain of self annihilation
    Feeling that if I do it my physical survival is threatened
    Must do to survive and at same time must not do to survive
    This is how the child feels with Bateson’s [schizophrenogenic] mother
    But there was something feminist I read today, something that suggested a sociological explanation, was it Ti-Grace Atkinson, was it someone related, or was it the reading I was doing re sadism for my Valenzuela class?

  65. Z

    Seriously, it is being a torture victim. Not like being one, but being one. The feeling of having been separated from your former life, as your body and personality structures break down. (This is an insight from the Scarry book.)

  66. Z

    Fear of work: fear of the pain of dissociation. Fear of engagement, too, because at the moment of engagement one will be executed. Confusing these things with the intense feeling of engagement itself. Having been taught that all engagement is bad, as intense feelings are to be avoided (now that is an Al Anon precept, but it also reminds me of the Yellow Wallpaper and 19th century ideas in general about how women should avoid intense things).

  67. Z

    OK, it is time to think about: writing now, and my issues around that infamous book contract. Think about these things together with the Reeducation issues, but also separately from them.

    My root problem with all of this: since getting exhorted so much that my disagreement with that book project was just a lack of confidence and procrastination (it wasn’t, it was a disagreement), I associate yelling at myself with writing, think I have to do it to write, don’t want to write because I think it means I must also yell at myself.

    This advice on what my “real” problem with the book must be was like the Reeducation advice. Both assumed a Hysterical Girl and not a competent person. Both insisted I was in denial if I did not conform to their image of what I “must” be. And, Eureka: both come out of the self improvement movement. So.

  68. Z

    So, in order: the money, the not being trusted, the book. Instructions: think about book issue INDEPENDENTLY of what the Reeducator said. He said that my interest in the topic proved I “must be” a sexual abuse victim (in infancy) and “need” to “recover” those memories. So I felt I couldn’t continue working in that field because I didn’t want those memories imposed on the ones I already had — I’m willing to believe I survived murderous desires in infancy, but I’m not willing to perform any new drama just to entertain a therapist.

    This is all bad enough but I think it’s was a cover story for something simpler: I didn’t agree with the book plan and didn’t know I could get out of it, so I had to accept that Reeducator’s outlandish claims to get out of it.

  69. Z

    Oh, yes. The other idea I had was about the Emeritus Professor. He was convinced I could never be an actual intellectual or scholar, but just come up with a good, desperate imitation of that, enough to survive. So, he taught ventriloquism. This is key.

  70. Z

    Although you have to realize this was NOT his intention, he wouldn’t put it in those terms, etc. That’s not how these things work; this was his actual belief, I think, although not the belief he would (in his good moments) want to have or want to pass on.

  71. Z

    There’s a blog I’m obsessed with, by people who have escaped Reeducation. Someone comments there now: reeducation taught her
    * not to trust her own mind.
    Formerly she believed that
    * work begets results,
    but Reeducation took this from her.

  72. Z

    More from that site:

    “Taking away someone’s identity is one of the first steps in brainwashing.”

    “@Lucy: “Taking away someone’s identity is one of the first steps in brainwashing.”

    Yes, important point. What I remember being told is, essentially, that everything I knew was wrong and I was not who I was.

    If you listen to that with an open mind and agree to consider it for at least six weeks, then you need a program.”

    ***AND, re the program, remember: it’s not what abusive people do to you that is important, it is what they get you to do to yourself. That is why it is so important that you get with the program and so on.***

    So, once again, despite conciliatory remarks above re the 12 steps, Dat Shrink, etc., I still think it’s the steps and the theories justifying them that are so pernicious.

  73. Z

    And, it’s time again to repeat:

    What I fell for were the twin ideas that everything I knew must be wrong, and all my achievements were products of denial and my happiness was based on happinesses must be illusory. That I must be lying, that I had to be dishonest, that nothing I thought was true, could be true.

    But the real issue was and is that I feel that anything I do to individuate and particularly to go against the ideals for women of a certain class and time will inflict such great harm on the people who expect certain desires of me that I will have feelings of guilt too painful to bear. So I want to rein myself in and self harm then very quickly, because I can self-harm well enough that they will relent in their plan to kill me. I do not want to engage in self harm or give up my dreams, but I choose to do both because the alternative seems to be murder, death, or perhaps both, or murder-suicide.

    (I have to escape my introjected mother, it is clear.)

  74. Z

    Dat Shrink was a denizen of ACOA and had I realized what that was or what it meant, I would have run in the other direction. Here is someone quoting from the anti 12 step website of Agent Orange, and this is very smart:

    “[Analysands] are shamed and made to feel small, weak, stupid and sinful by constantly making lists of all of their faults, wrongs, moral shortcomings, and defects of character, and confessing them both privately and publicly. [Analysands] are taught to beat up on themselves: the slogan is ‘You can’t save your ass and your face at the same time.’ And if they don’t do a good enough job of it, their [therapists] will fill in the gaps in the “ego deflation,” which is really destruction of the new member’s self-confidence, self-esteem, self-respect, and ability to think and act independently.

    “And members are definitely taught to distrust their own minds and their own feelings.

    “‘… no [analysand] … can claim soundness of mind for himself.’”

  75. Z

    Work in atmospheres that violate me and the work. Being asked to betray my professional skills and ethics.

    Reeducation: being trained to distort interests and professional skills and ethic so as to use these as a weapon against myself. This is key.

  76. Z

    Reeducation did not want one to hold a thought, turn it over. Yet it had all these precepts that were contradictory and held one in place, thinking without progress. The point was to get us all to give up and stop dreaming of progress at all. I am trying to reclaim long thoughts but I think I should be moving ahead quickly as in capitalism. The thing to do is to release the vise on thought and just let it flow without thinking of the end.

  77. Z

    In the Reeducation system you have to become an open wound – it is inevitable, given the terms they set out. Victory or overcoming is denial;
    healing is dishonest; sickness is health. I see.

  78. Z

    Haunted by three things that I would in fact call primal scenes.

    1. “We have no money/you are so expensive” accompanied with what I would call extravagant spending on my behalf. When I feel a financial pinch I am actually tempted to buy luxury items, and I am used to the idea of being in debt/on the edge of ruin. Since early childhood I have felt overburdened financially and powerless to do anything about it/told my job was to do well in school.

    2. “You have to be really good, superior/you may be out on the streets.” Following instructions to the letter, being in the first percentile, all of this in hopes of maintaining a C and not ending up in death.

    3. Invasions. Having to allow invasions. Knowing one must be able to show damage before they will cease and desist. Having to wait until there is damage, and then put up a very great resistance, hue and cry. Allowing mistreatment and then utterly annihilating the perpetrator.

    There were a few other key scenes but these recur every day. They recur every day because in Reeducation they were to be the “real me.”


    The right to exist; my existence and difference from them was so harmful; I owed them so much; I should be so grateful to them; I was so selfish. I wonder if they felt invaded by Valeska and that is why they so invaded me.
    Perhaps they felt Valeska had stolen us.

    The advice we got in school about how any academic job should be acceptable, one should be grateful for anything, how patronizing it was.

    Thinking about these things and all the absolutely inhuman pain I was put through. Sadism. I don’t want to think about them.

  79. Z

    Come back to this: anorexia as a way of satisfying one’s own desires and others’ at once. As a way of defining self when no other way is available.

    I would have said as addiction, as an external support that is taken on for positive reasons but ends up being destructive and vampire like, and that obfuscates (protects you from dealing with) actual problems.

    I would theorize on it in a way that incorporates this view and the book’s view. I was anorexic from 13 to 19 and didn’t dump the attitude until I was 27 or so and I think I still have some of it, or transferred it elsewhere, or that it cropped up again elsewhere in some negative form.

    Also note: it is only 11 AM and I have already been searingly angry twice today although I have said nothing (and this was wise, the anger is misdirected and should be addressed but not with its immediate objects who aren’t the actual culprits).

    AND note: my students noticed which my favorite sentences were in a certain set of texts and said: you have a violent imagination … all your favorite sentences have words in them like “hostage,” “cannibal,” and so on.
    This was very interesting.

  80. Z

    Oh, my God. I have been discussing it for years but I did not realize what it was I was taught. The message is very simple:

    Abuse yourself. Show us you are doing this. If you do not, we will abuse you in ways you may find yet more disabling than what you choose.

    This is why I only feel free when I feel unseen by the authorities. If I am unseen, I do not have to undertake self abuse and I need not fear for my life if I do not.

  81. Z

    So then this means: it is really not procrastination and this is why anti procrastination doesn’t work. Or it is, but my avoidant behavior is about avoiding going into a state of self abuse.

    I have said for years that the problem was that by Reeducation — all its elements — academia and in particular my field got turned into a space of pain.

    But more importantly it got turned into a state of self abuse (about research) and acceptance of abuse (about teaching) … suffer enough, serve enough, and THAT will be what you are paid for, I learned from my mother, who has always literally used that method.

    I dissociate because I am trying to preserve a pure part of myself or a healthy part of myself for later. I have realized this since the late 1990s.

    But it first started in early 1990 I think, and then got worse in late 1991. One knows in response to what: preparing courses and some research that went against the family’s beliefs, and a book that went against my own.

  82. Z

    Also: anorexia is a hunger for life; one is not just trying to diminish oneself but to express that hunger.

  83. Z

    What I just said on this anti-Reeducation site:

    The thing is that in my case the one that got a broken heart out of therapy was me myself, not some Illness I allegedly had — although they sure were interrogating me a lot to find an Illness, and they kept accusing me of having one.

    What struck me today, thinking about all of this, was the idea of endurance. When they tell you you you have some incurable problem over which you are powerless, and that you must accept this and not try to do too much about it, since you can’t, my reaction is to get stuck. It’s sort of like getting shot: you fall down and maybe struggle for a while, but then eventually you are still. The message I got with the “don’t think” dictum was to freeze my mind, send it elsewhere, and then to sit in place and endure, wait for things to pass somehow. It seemed really odd to me, why should one essentially opt out of life, but I think this really was what they were saying.

  84. Z

    God. I think I am now at last ready to mourn.

  85. Z

    Oh, yes. The anorexia book also says that disease is about the right to exist. The disease, oddly, is an effort to CLAIM this right, not about relinquishing it.
    This is very interesting.

  86. Z

    Do I really dissociate, or am I just disoriented? Or is it both?

    Anyway, the word is to decide to get rid of the idea that I have done something bad to the family.

  87. Z

    Dream 12/30/10: that I am recovering from cancer, and it feels good. Warm.

  88. Z

    The way I feel if I allow it — the primordial way I feel, after a certain age such as perhaps 2 or 3 — is SHAME. Hanging head and feeling awful. I didn’t feel that way in school but it is how I felt in the family.

    And still do. And felt in academia after the family got their teeth into me.

  89. Z

    The idea that perfection is to let yourself be a sacrifice. I do not mean a martyr, I mean a true sacrifice. This is a trap. But, the idea that you should let people run roughshod over you, any old way, this is what I had learned from the family and not at school, but it the family and Reeducation managed to turn school into an instrument of torture as well.

    THIS IS IT: it’s like having been raped with an object you love, so that you want to leave it, but then also told, but you love that object and it needs you.

  90. Z

    Also, oppression: trying to work below level, the oppression of it … must work below level so as to stay alive. Saving all the good ideas for later.

    This, and nostalgia and desire for the time before I started doing that.

    Add: pressure to manage to do that while also working above level.

    And the next ingredient: the idea that it is all one’s fault, that one should have been able to control one’s destiny, that the forces which are and also the instructions given were not detrimental.

    I really, really renounced self determination and pleasure, not once but several times, falling down a level each time. It is shocking.

    And every time it didn’t work I got instructions to repeat: perhaps this time it would work.

    I used to have far better habits of thought and I must retrieve them, they are all habits but also perspectives. It is really important to remember how many of the ways I frame this stuff when thinking automatically are based on oppressive ideologies or ideological moves.

    (Ideology: imagined relation to real conditions, etc.)

  91. Z

    “I had to watch others being verbally pummeled into submission before I realized how I had evaded such treatment by being so readily ‘willing’ to accept what a diseased, defective wretch I was.”

    THIS WAS IN REEDUCATION but also in the family. And in some parts of academia, as well. Avoid this, avoid choosing ANY form of torture, avoid the idea that it is bad to be talented, that research is a selfish game in your case because you are not really qualified to do it (because of gender), etc. etc.

  92. Z

    And: being given all this advice and direction from people who were always to be respected and not always right but never wrong. The most important thing was not to upset them and not to become independent. One had to listen to their beliefs as one would a sacred book, trying to find and understand the pearls of wisdom, trying to aspire to be their perfect guardians and adherents.

  93. Z

    The sadness and shame of it. The heaviness in my heart. Having let them get to me like this. I having allowed the mistreatment I did after I finished graduate school. I am so glad Valeska made it possible for me to go to college away from home, and at a place I chose myself.

  94. Z

    I just thought of something else. The way the Emeritus Professor always said, don’t read theory or write papers, just memorize literary history. So this was ALSO undermining, I really think.

    And no, readers, I am not looking for “people to blame,” I am looking for sources of my violence against myself so I can shed these. So be calm.

    All these things the adults and older people kept saying, that I would listen to for scraps of guidance … they were speaking of me but not to me, perhaps they thought all these things applied to me but they did not bother to get to know me.

  95. Z

    All right. The tragedy or whatever it was, 20 years ago almost, started with two things having to do with authority.

    In Reeducation, I didn’t know myself and this was by definition. Someone else had to tell me how to live life.

    Those authoritarian ideas, already internalized by me for a different sphere, but self helpy authoritarian ideas, were what led me to say my rational objections to the terms of that book contract were just neurosis of some kind.

    [So it comes down to, somehow, treating yourself as an adult and not some sort of prisoner trying to mitigate circumstances as much as possible. Being told one too many times I was a silly child, couldn't know anything (and was probably dishonest). Attacks on integrity. And on and on, we have talked about these things already.]

    But the new idea is: internalization of authoritarian self helpy ideas that really don’t speak to the matter at hand or the person at hand, at all. You can’t be a person, you have to be a subject of self help, so you have to have certain characteristics (and if you say you don’t, you’re in denial or arrogant).

  96. Z

    And of course the new idea isn’t new. The newness of it is, at that point: the point of Reeducation and of the book: the idea was the same, don’t trust yourself, you may not see yourself as an adult, you must be a fractious child. The newness of it also is: it was about time and judgment. I knew how to judge time and all sorts of things but this got eroded and it was by self helpers … with problems I didn’t have.

    Another new idea — me and my penchant for safe atmospheres. What I consider psychically safe is different from what the suburban Americans think of as “safe” (physically safe, white, “nice”, etc.). The freshman teaching situation we have here isn’t psychically safe for me. I have to de-scarify it. But it’s one of the reasons I’ve always wanted a “good” job — it’s not that I’m arrogant or something, and it’s not just that I’m urban and research oriented, and it is not really that I am shy – it is that I am afraid of the freshmen.

    I sometimes really feel as though I am going in circles on this. I want to break out and it is all about feeling I am in charge, feeling safe to be in charge.

    It is also about recognizing abuse. I am afraid of the freshmen because they are so belligerent. I tend to think: this is my punishment for getting the PhD it hurt the family that I got. Or I tend to think: I need a thicker skin so I can take this without being so rattled by it. I do not tend to think: this behavior is outrageous and I must stop it. I tend to think I must make a really good petition requesting that it stop, and decorate it really well, so that they might consider not being so rude.

  97. Z

    And: re Reeducation, the anti-Reeducation affirmations I need are:

    I am powerful, with good judgment and character.

    As opposed to powerless, with poor judgment and a character defect. (And MY GOD, what a poor definition of me that was.)

  98. Z

    From my random notes: the terror. Feeling of terror and tension / anxiety at home. School was a relief but also stressful because one had to conceal the home situation. Trauma later, multiple traumas, when school also became a site of terror.

  99. Z

    The burden of sin of having done this PhD.

    * It hurt the family, they kept saying. STOP WORRYING ABOUT IT -
    - Meanwhile I was doing something wrong according to my dissertation director: not stressing enough and not asking the family to support me so I could stop working and move through the program even faster (hey: I wasn’t slow as it was!).
    - (And check this out: the family now believes they paid for the PhD, so I suppose I might has well have asked them to.)

    * It hurt the people at my job that I was research oriented and that I had a degree from a public university. I was shocked because I discovered that they had the power to prevail with this irrationality. It was really frightening and I have been afraid to be who I am since.

    * It hurt Reeducation.

    * It hurts the instructors here, who would be much happier if we PhDs weren’t there; I feel guilty about this and also scared since the instructors are married to the administrators.


    Reeducation was so backwards. One was supposed to drop: recreation, health, meditation, and research, so that one would only have the drudgery of life left: the boring parts of work, housework and son on. This was because everything of fun, depth and interest was a way to “hide”. Next, one was supposed to discount any problems except alcohol related problems in family of origin. And one was supposed to believe these had affected one in certain ways and not others, etc. etc.

    The point being I really did these things. So I am filled with guilt because I did the PhD and am research oriented, but also because I once had health, recreation, and meditation. All of these things, I either had no right to, or it was hurtful to others that I had them, or both.

    I swear I will honor the disappeared cat by dropping all of these ideas. I always admired the cat for not having them, for being so thrilled to be himself and so hopeful (yet also sure) that others would be similarly thrilled if he were himself and enjoyed himself.

    I am very upset that he is gone and I think the only way to get over it is to be him. Seriously take the opportunity to drop these things, seriously.

  100. Z

    ON having positive things in your life.

    Our parents’ idea was that life was bad, but there were vacations / weekends / escapes you could undertake. Having positive things in your regular life was selfish. And they seemed to be the angriest at me when positive things were happening.

    In reeducation one wasn’t supposed to have positive things in one’s life, either.

    Nor in academia, where we must show how much we could sacrifice.

    I always thought I was in the professor job to atone for having done the PhD.

    But I would rather have positive things in life.

  101. Z

    It was pointed out to me tonight that rural American Catholics have the most authoritarian mindset and that explains a lot about Reeducation.

    And I was thinking about following gut feelings, following my own advice, and all my errors in life involve not doing it (which of course is what Reeducation recommended).

    So it all makes sense…

    I miss my cat and I really want to take the opportunity of his disappearance to emulate his strengths, he who did not suffer from these kinds of self doubt.

  102. Z

    And I wonder whether all of my issues do not have to do with submerged grief. Grief is not sad actually, if you do it, because it allows you to focus on what you love.

  103. Z

    So tired of suffering, so tired of thinking the problem is not having made myself suffer enough. I wish this had not become my default mode. I wish I did not feel so guilty about not wanting it as my default mode.


    I love the lost cat and nobody is perfect, nor is life. The same applies to much else but I have been called “unfeeling” for being this philosophical, and also “cold.”


    It is entirely unnecessary to suffer as I do, as I make myself do. Y / pero estoy tan p… triste. Triste.


    I love the cat and nobody is perfect, nor is life, really is the perspective on anything I think best. But I am so afraid that if I take this perspective, I will be shamed or abused to such a degree that I won’t be able to work at all.

  104. Z

    But I can’t afford to treat myself in these ways, nor is it decent to impose myself upon the world as an unnecessarily impaired person, even if according to some the only decent thing to do is hurt / wound / impair myself.

    My God I am so losing it right now. “I love the cat and nobody is perfect” is the only way to get through classes this afternoon.

    I am so tired of pain and emergencies and allowing myself to be battered in life.

  105. Z

    On my ideas about quitting academia:

    ORIGINALLY, it was because the family thought it was a bad idea to be in it. I wanted t0 be hip and cool like them so I had to want to escape as they did, or something along these lines. These weren’t my ideas, but ideas I thought I was supposed to have, I think.

    THEN, it was real but it meant things like, at one level, not having the desire to teach freshmen and live in suburbs and so on that most people turned out to have, and at the more important level, not wanting to be in a situation where one was abused and expected to take abuse and call it normal, or rise above it, and so on … and the way pettiness takes control. Perhaps these are the things I mean when I say I want to quit.

    I also do not like the loneliness. I say this as an introvert and a loner … having so little access to the things and places I love, and the people who mean the most to me, is still difficult, not to mention bad for my work.

  106. Z

    So tired of suffering, so tired of thinking the problem is not having made myself suffer enough. I wish this had not become my default mode. I wish I did not feel so guilty about not wanting it as my default mode.


    I love the lost cat and nobody is perfect, nor is life. The same applies to much else but I have been called “unfeeling” for being this philosophical, and also “cold.”


    It is entirely unnecessary to suffer as I do, as I make myself do. Y / pero estoy tan p… triste. Triste.


    “I love the cat and nobody is perfect, nor is life,” really is the perspective on anything I think best. But I am so afraid that if I take this perspective, I will be shamed or abused for it to such a degree that I won’t be able to work at all. So I self-harm as a type of insurance: if people see I am already hurt, then they will help me or at least not injure me themselves. The advantage to this is that I will have chosen some form of injury that I can tolerate better than what they might choose to do to me if I seem healthy and strong.

    I am so tired of living in this way.

  107. Z

    …and, all my worst declines have had to do with new forms of undermining my mother invents, when it isn’t some weird alcoholic scene involving Dad, or of course, both.
    …this Christmas, my “viciousness” of not wanting to be pulled into the morass of lamentation || Yes, it’s true that my brother doesn’t speak to me, and yes, it’s true that I don’t have a successful career || These are situations my mother has worked hard to create and they are not situations I appreciate her taunting me about ||
    … eight years ago, their drama about my car: “she does not trust you” || total projection, I am not the one who tries to manipulate others out of money, but she speaks openly of having had this mentality
    … many other occasions, trying to stir up conflict, trying to knock people down, trying to turn ease into discord … while at the same time trying to compose pleasant/luxurious situations in which the family will look nice

    *** meaning of this: protect self and in particular, protect from Christmas; they are to be seen in late summer when they are blissed out on the weather, or in fall.

  108. Z

    What I have to remember: it is within my power to have academia, and life in general, be less a space of pain than I allowed these to be come. It is in my power because I can take more authority than I do and because I can decide to feel less guilty than I do.

  109. Z


    That core idea that only if I am suffering enough already will I be safe from outright lethal levels of abuse.

    This is the idea that I still have to work on.

    [In the past school was the place where one could be rational with impunity and what devastated me was the moment at which it no longer was.]
    30/03/2011 at 18:03 (Edit)

    And, look how common one level of my heavy neurosis is:

    One common way of manipulating the self to stay blocked from healthy contact with the environment is the self-torture game labeled by Perls as “topdog vs. underdog.” The topdog aspect of the personality is the demander-of-perfection, the manifestation of a set of introjected “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts”: “I should be on time, I should keep my house clean and should always do perfect work. . . .” The topdog, speaking only to the individual from within, is an introjection of societal, familial, or authoritarian demands. Opposed to the topdog is the underdog, the manifestation of resistance to external demands. Essentially, the underdog agrees that the topdog’s demands are appropriate; however, internal sabotage assures that the demands will never be met: “I’ll never be able to be on time, I’ll never be able to do everything right, poor me, I’ll always be neurotic.” In the topdog/underdog encounter, the underdog usually wins, triggering incipient depression or anxiety.

  110. Z


    Or. Is my whole thing just some strange adolescent rebellion trip, or some form of acting out against Reeducation, or to what *extent* could that be true?

    And what would I be rebelling against? Warnings, carefulness, safety. Against achievement (given that that is save)? Conventionality?

    It’s like fluttering around in a cage that I also don’t get out of because I want to be in it, but in by choice and calmly, not stuffed into with the door locked … hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
    31/03/2011 at 01:45

    It’s: against being the child, against infantilization, against being good, against constantly seeking and applying for approval, against arbitrary authority … it’s: acting out because of being ready for adulthood yet being imprisoned as the baby … I am not sure any of this is true or makes sense but it’s the: you have no power and you are only here by our grace, not due to any legitimacy, and if you try to move out of that position you will lose big time … or something like this. And part of that situation is real but part of it is just early childhood phantasmagoria melded onto so many peoples’ assistant professorships. It’s as though I had already lived all of that before college started, and could already not handle dealing with it in one more cohort … even if that cohort were my own … ?

  111. Z

    Or not. Many of the rungs I’ve fallen further in terms of sanity and career has had to do with a new sally by my mother.

    All of this destruction.

  112. Z

    OK, now I see better, perhaps. I don’t like academia because:

    a) My parents were angry that I went into it and didn’t think I could do it, or should do it … and I chose it because they were even more negative about everything else.

    b) In my first real job and this one, being an academic meant, primarily, satisfying fractious freshmen, placating them so that they won’t complain.

    c) In this job, the guilt. Being asked to undertake major service so as to prove that my discipline, is one. Being asked to be everything for everyone. In this job and my first one, being told the research orientation “isn’t what pays the bills” and so on.

  113. Z

    Also, the thing about Reeducation was that according to it:

    1. My research could not be valid, and it was arrogant to think I could write except as a personal hobby, for self exploration, as on this blog;
    2. I did not deserve recreation or to be the one in control of my time; I was not qualified for adult life and judgment.

  114. Z

    And so my question, what is the root cause, may not have a root answer.

    Am I in extreme emotional pain? Yes.
    I am I situationally unhappy? Yes.
    Am I in a state of nerves about money? Yes.
    Would it alleviate the other factors if only one of these were addressed? Yes.

    Why am in emotional pain — because I am not succeeding at doing what I was supposed to do, according to my parents and everyone.

    Why am I situationally unhappy — because to enjoy life here, I think I would have to give up trying to do the things I am supposed to do.

    SUPPOSED TO DO. I liked college, graduate school and my little R1 job because what I was supposed to do fit with the things I wanted to do.

    When it all blew up: when Reeducation said that precisely the area in which what I wanted to do and what I was supposed to do coincided, was what I should not do. So my safe zone was gone.

    And then, there was the choice between that book contract and that Fulbright. What I wanted to do: take the Fulbright and put off the book contract. I tried to do the opposite because those were the correct priorities, but this of course did not work out.

    So, it comes down to, refusing exactly the things I most want, on the idea that these things would upset too many people / cause my immediate demise.

    What would help with all of this — to have a cushion of savings, so I could feel really independent / not on the edge. But that was one of the things it was considered too crass of me to want (or so I understood, so I learned).

  115. Z

    Anyway managing emotional pain in a situation of on the edge finances, staying right at the edge of complete non functioning and complete zero cash, seems to be what I am all too used to / what I think is normal. “If you have perfect grades you can stay another semester … to get perfect grades you have to totally concentrate on that, though, nothing else including especially nothing that would allow you to build savings. After grades are in you can think about alternatives (but there’s never time, then the next semester starts).” Hmmm. That has been going on my whole life.

  116. Z

    OK. So it comes down to, my issue with academia is not getting to be an adult and make one’s own, informed decisions — which you need to do if you are on an obstacle course, which it is.

    And my general rant: all the problems I try to think of as academic problems, aren’t. It’s not academia, it’s what I transfer onto it.

  117. Z

    Or yes it is academia because of some of the situations in which I’ve worked.

    But it’s guilt and terror. Guilt about doing the PhD. Terror about teaching early levels. Guilt about being research oriented. Having been told I wouldn’t do research. Having been told I couldn’t teach. Having been told I shouldn’t do research. Not having had enough tools to combat all of this.

  118. Z

    I have often tried to frame my academic struggles in practical terms, with practical solutions, and been disappointed in myself when the plan turns out to be off the mark. “Just work and play on a flexible, yet ordered and well prioritized schedule, as you used to do and well know how to do,” is what I say. And it doesn’t address the issue(s). The issue(s) involve guilt — about having the personality and priorities I do.

    That is to say that my academic struggles have nothing to do with not knowing how to do an academic job or being interested in my research field. I do not control the life I lead well enough, but even if I did, it would not resemble the kind of life in which I am interested. The disquiet I want to shed is really unnecessary in terms of immediate practicalities, but I keep it with me because it is a sign of where I would like to be — somewhere completely different.

    A hard driving city, a lot of social contact, and a hard driving career is me. I am afraid to say this because it lays me open to a common insult, namely, that if I am not willing to work on my research in just any circumstances, then I cannot be serious or I am not really a scholar. I am afraid to say it, but it is true. And I remind you that this hard driving career could be an academic one.

    I was intrigued by this post from the Female Science Professor, on an awkward situation, and by the comments, where opinions differ on what she should have done. I am not sure what she should have done but what she definitely did one good thing I do not always do: recognize that it was undermining.

    My typical response would be to feel guilty. I think then of how my choice of an intellectually oriented undergraduate program and my doing well in it brought so many complaints and so much mistrust from the family, of how my doing the PhD and enjoying the program brought more. I know they felt betrayed on all kinds of levels, and every time I am mistreated in academia I feel I deserve it for having hurt the family like that.

    I want to apologize. I dream of being forgiven and having the pain stop. In real life I despair of their ever accepting my apology for having had tastes and attitudes different from their own, and for having had a small inheritance that prevented them from choosing a different kind of college for me. I have to figure out how to find this absolution in my internal life.

    I had almost achieved that many years ago. Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel inspired me to seek the help of Reeducation to pull me to the end and into that brightness. Of course, I made a near fatal error then, in that Reeducation supported the family’s ideas on who and what intellectuals were and girls should be. But my project remains the same.

    I have the strange feeling I have said these things before, framed the mission statement of the blog this way before. Every time I try, every time hard work on a post gives this result, I realize this must be the project, and that coming to it again and again I may be inching closer. Despite everything, I had enthusiasm and strength before Reeducation. I did not feel nearly as guilty about the family as I did after Reeducation had insisted so strongly that those feelings had to be the real me.

    I had enthusiasm and strength and, most importantly, autonomy before Reeducation and I am taking them back.

  119. Z

    P.S. am I unhappy being a professor, or where I live, or because of feeling guilty about being who I am? This last is the most important. Then I feel guilty that I would leave research for the sake of living in a city — it would mean I wasn’t serious, which would be a sin. *Being a professor means to me feeling guilty about being urban and intellectual and professional.*

  120. Z

    Yet I reacted very poorly the other day when someone asked:

    - there isn’t faculty at your university you can hang out with? (oh God – no, not in the sense the asker means – they’re at other universities – and does he not remember everything I have explained already … come on)

    - so you just somehow don’t get enough work done to become a star and be able to move somewhere you’d like better? (oh God – not “just somehow,” I know exactly how and I have already explained)

    …how I reacted: explained what it was like to live in this town generally, with the income I have which means that to get out of town more often, I’d have to run further in the red. I felt really violent saying these things, violent toward myself, disempowering actually, as I was emphasizing the evil … and I feel guilty that no, having a few friendly colleagues isn’t enough, and that life in Maringouin is as demotivating as it is and that my attempts to rise above it have not worked so far.

  121. Z

    AHA – the analogy to make here, that might land, would be: would you tell an African-American in Mississippi in 1900 that his inability to vote was all in his mind?, or was a result of his attitude toward voting? NO.

    And when I put up my post on Evelyn Fox Keller, about discrimination and its effects, this will become yet clearer.

  122. Z

    Also, what my friend said about herself – that she did not feel she had anything to prove any more – I realized I do feel that I do. It’s, prove to my parents that I am a valid person. I seem to think the only way to do that is to make tenure at Yale or something. Alternatively, get them to approve of my doing something else. To stop looking down on everything but academia and humanities and so on.

  123. Z

    But tell him this:

    Yes I have time to myself and this is a great luxury to be appreciated.

    But I have needs unmet (research, cultural, social, emotional) and the problem with that is trying to deny these needs, deny that they should be met, or say that they can be met here (I think they could be better met here, but only if defined usefully and only in combination with looking elsewhere).

    And I also deal with a lot of harassment — which, again, is more difficult to the extent that I try not to recognize it as such (in a misguided effort to be “well adjusted”).

    So I think the way to go is to *recognize* harassment and be *realistic* about needs — as opposed to trying to say all problems are internal to me — which will just drive me back into the ground with excessive self examination and self doubt.

    Also perhaps bring up the characteristics of emotional abuse victims and PTSD people, here:

    For me it is all a question of giving myself authority and respect and the right to make my own decisions and care for my own self. Everything comes back into perspective if I do these things.

  124. Z

    And the person I am complaining about is my current shrink, who asked a discouraging question about work (“it just doesn’t get done?”) in response to my saying I don’t get enough done.

    I did not like this because it leads to the questions I’ve gone around and around on for years: am I lazy, etc. … and the answer is NO, it’s that I associate my work with emotional abuse and I have to work through that to work; I do not feel I have enough authority in this work and that is what makes it hard; these are the reasons why I want a different work … I just don’t feel like explaining all of that AGAIN. Or going through the cycle of doubting myself and calling myself lazy, AGAIN.

    I am there to strengthen, to learn to take authority again, to believe in myself, not to pick away at myself and sow further self doubt (or deal with a person who doubts me and defend against that … by the way).

  125. Z

    Points to discuss:

    - the issue of proving things (to doubters), proving self, etc, *so* other oriented, *so* approval seeking really, *so* mistrustful of self
    - every problem I ever had or have always comes down to some kind of boundary invasion and verbal/emotional abuse
    - everything is always clearer if I remember these things

  126. Z

    The things I have been saying for years in all versions of this blog:
    – it all becomes clear if one realizes that what I am doing is recovering from abuse … it’s not anything else
    – it also all becomes clear if one realizes this is a political problem, not an idiosyncratically individual one

    All the slogans I’ve always liked come down to the declaration of independence … right to have a life (an autonomous life, i.e. liberty), right to be happy if I am happy … the idea of having the right to exist, the idea of being freed from jail, these were my themes as a child.

    Recovering from Reeducation they come up again and what I am trying to turn inside out are the ideas that I don’t
    - have the right to be (I do)
    - have the right to autonomy (I do)
    - have the right to freedom / to make my own decisions (I do)
    - have the right to pleasure / a pleasant day / my own ideas (I do)
    - have the right not to choose suffering (of course I do)

    …life, liberty, happiness, the key American words, but they were not allowed in the family or in Reeducation, and are only partly allowed in academia, so that is it, but I am taking them all…


    Cults, I have been reading a little more on cults; Reeducation was like a cult and CHARACTER ASSASSINATION was a key tool it used.

    I am tired of continually thinking to come to the same conclusions, basically, but each time I understand it a little better.

    In terms of both academia and Reeducation, having them sold to one using high pressure sales techniques — like being sold something via a sales cult.

    I have to think about this but I am tired of thinking, I only want to practice life, autonomy, and non suffering!!!

  127. Z

    For meditation tomorrow:

    1. avoiding people who are like crabs in a barrel.
    2. me avoiding work because of its association with abuse and also my grief over it (which seems to be mixed with guilt/shame) … i am not sure what to do about this but one thing is that i must actively reconceptualize myself …
    3. to think about with this … distorted self image, i think that i think i am worse than i am
    4. yet really and truly, i don’t get done what others do and it is because i do not commit as they do, and this is because i do not commit to myself as they do
    5. and as i always say, it is important to look for what i am getting out of this, what am i trying to get out of it … i think what i got at one time was positive (not turning into certain kinds of negative people) and also negative (not challenging such people by turning into something they weren’t) … so i stayed safe by staying static … it wasn’t the best then but it was comprehensible … now there is no reason

    * I might be afraid that I *cannot* get back but I should dump that fear since I have plans B and C anyway.

  128. Z

    These paroxysms of pain around academic work. Guilt/shame. Having been intimidated and guilt tripped about it for so long — all my life — and then having being invited in and not having been able to accept the invitation, and feeling guilt/shame about that as well. And feeling angry because the subject, the subjects, were and are things I am so interested in.

  129. Z

    OK here is an idea — I am throwing out old post-its and one of them reminds me not to yell at myself about academic work and not to shame myself. It says the reason I procrastinate is that if I start doing academic work I also start yelling at myself. I have to separate those things, it says.

    Originally I thought I was procrastinating on writing, but then much more recently I realized I was doing so on all academic work — it’s just that the writing is where it shows. I think more accurately, I started procrastinating on LIFE when Reeducation started, on anything that had to do with myself and most anything that was positive. We know why — because Reeducation was destructive — but it is an interesting insight.

    The things that have worked this summer: reminding myself I have the right to treat myself right and not to abuse myself with any weapon (I realized decades ago that I could turn anything, no matter how ostensibly wonderful, into a weapon against myself if I did not watch out); remembering to wake up “with my mind stayed on freedom;” remembering that I am the one who gets to decide what to do; remembering that I have power.

    These ideas really work when I focus on them. I have had weeks of looking forward to getting up in the morning, looking forward to the next day, because of having reclaimed the right to enjoy these things, the right to make them mine.

  130. Z

    Anyway, it’s: training myself out of self abuse, that I learned from Reeducation, and in order to do this or because of it or along with it, allowing myself to be at the center of my life. I cannot believe how hard this is, especially since I once knew how.

  131. Z

    From the film Tree of Life, cited by several reviewers: “Mother. Father. Always you wrestle inside me. Always you will.”

  132. Z

    AHA. One more insight and I can finally sleep.

    The issue I always had, that if I do what I really want/need to do, jump out of my box, I can get killed, isn’t just a phantasmagorical one about individuation: it’s concrete, like the dilemma of the abused spouse who is concerned about getting killed if she leaves.

    And it is what I was always threatened with: we don’t really like you, there is something wrong with you, but we are putting up with you because it is our duty, so you should be appreciative, and also realize that things are much worse elsewhere…


  133. Z

    And again it’s amazing how fast I can change the perception that someone is abusive to the decision that I am inappropriately angry. The right answer is not “I’d like to learn not to feel this degree of rage,” but “I’d like to learn to stop people from behaving outrageously before I start to feel outraged.”

    I think the answer is to feel powerful and laugh at them and that this is different from laughing it off.

  134. Z

    Hmmm… I’ve just realized, both my parents are underachievers and proud of it, and that may be why they were always so upset with me.

    I am an underachiever now and embarrassed about it — embarrassed about the opportunities I have missed and keep missing.

    It’s because of the abusive work atmospheres, the abusive/jealous parents (so jealous that I went to college), the abusive theories of Reeducation, I know, but I still feel bad about it.

    But, seeing the idealization of underachievement, the guilt not over achievement but over not suffering and also over the work that it takes to achieve (time spent working is time spent not ministering, and all time not spent suffering is a sin), that I was raised with … this is a new insight. And hard to see because at the same time as one was to underachieve, one was to do prestigious things. Like you were supposed to be a rich playboy or something. Hm.

  135. Z

    …and, I feel guilty about everyone who is working so much (I am not, I work on getting myself un depressed) and at the same time envious that they seem to be grownups and not depressed.

    While I still try to recover from childhood and still feel as though I were in my late 20s, working a holding pattern job after college, hoping to get a life and a career!!!

    People say I should blame academia for this but I blame the family and Reeducation. They were SO jealous that I went to college and did well and I am not over the guilt, not over it … and I recently read that jealousy is the main component of an abusive relationship, or the first sign or something like that, and that was interesting.

  136. Z

    …and, being ridiculed for insights, achievements, desires … or having these non recognized … or having massive praise lavished for doing something ordinary while something major is ignored.

    This is because they really don’t have faith in one … I’ve been mistrusted by my parents since forever, accused as a fairly small child of scheming to get at their bank accounts, and so on, and so forth. So I was taught not to have faith in myself from early on.

    But ridicule is one of the main weapons of abuse.

  137. Z

    It’s my fear, startle reaction, about academic work, the pain of the guilt and the shame will kill me and the punishment meted out for success and competence will be lethal.

    THAT I’d like to get hypnotized to get over, and I’d like to have more immediate reactions to abusive behavior, not to have to figure it out for days until I understand what has happened.

  138. Z

    On the motivational academic sites today they are talking about having a vision. I did have a career vision but the advice about how to get to such a one was false … and it was, high level research, inside or outside academia, and that was considered arrogant, traitorous, and so on.

  139. My colleague’s comment today: “You can have all the motivation and vision you want, but if the University does not give you what you need, you cannot really fight that.”

    I’d add, of course, “…and if they also sabotage you or your field/discipline…”

  140. Z

    And I’d also that I am complicit in that sabotage — of course. Assignment for the week in this self psychoanalysis thread: be aware of self sabotage and about denial re this, resist both. (That may help make sabotage from without easier to identify, too.)

  141. Z

    Aha I see something though: what abused wives always think: they can fix it by “trying harder, putting more energy into the relationship, and taking better care of him.”

    This is what we were always told about academia, we must not be working hard enough, doing it right, committing fully enough, and so on.

    There is something really wrong with that logic — it presupposes such servility, puts you in the position of trying to move a mountain that you worship or something like that, rather than sit at the center of your work and make decisions about it.

    That actually is what I don’t like about academia — it’s sort of like the old testament God or something, you are supposed to worship and also be bandied about by it and never quite know what the weather may be, and so on. And that is supposed to be normal — you’re supposed to like it. Hm.

  142. Z

    Part of my problem trying to work at home really is chair and table height and work space in general. And equipment. This is kind of an extreme situation, I think and I think I am going to have to bite the bullet and work more in the office, it’s the least expensive solution.

  143. Z

    That feeling of not being real — do others experience it? We were not real because the real people were our parents.

  144. From my therapy notes, scribbled down in the office a few weeks ago:

    - to survive you must let yourself be pushed around was what I learned
    - I think you need more than one visions, not just one vision for what you’d like … but it’s good to have a long term vision
    - You need circumstances that support work; that includes materials and not being condemned for what you are doing

    - When was I done in? Who held out their hands so I wouldn’t be (there were people, but I was being done in by others)?

    I feel longing: longing for who I was before Reeducation;
    I feel guilt: about not having been able to accept the help offered;
    I feel mega-pain: about the love for work which I felt but was exhorted to suppress rather than honor.

  145. Z

    The other thing I figured out some time ago is that I *do* procrastinate, it’s just not on writing … it’s on everything in life that could be considered “selfish.”

    I’ve been told before that I put too much pressure on myself and I have heard it, but not seen / understood it. As of this morning, awakening, I do. It is why I do not get more done (paradoxically, but actually comprehensibly).

  146. Z

    My: not allowing myself to live life, enjoy life, accord myself self determination at work.

    Why: because Reeducation said it was pathological to do these things and to do well. I should be less functional … and the only way to accomplish that was to engage in the forms of sabotage in which I engage.

    Also: some work situations I have had taught me that it was actually dangerous not to self sabotage.

    And: transferred onto all of this I have my father’s terror, and my mother’s disapproval, and my brother’s envy, all of which I feel terribly responsible for and guilty about.

    And: I also feel guilty about wanting to do other things with my life, and about wanting to do what I am doing now, differently. Why do I think I have the right, etc., is what crosses my mind constantly.

    So: I have to always go back to paragraph #1 in this comment and realize that I have the power, the right, and so on to live, and enjoy, and work, and be a grownup. It is really hard to remember this given the training I have, but it must be remembered.

    I have to remember my sentences from the beginning of the summer, before I lost my way: “Woke up this morning with my mind stayed on freedom,” and “Everything I do gon be funky from now on” and things like that.

    For a few days I actually felt free, as free as I felt before Reeducation. I wasn’t just able to catch a vivid flash of memory of how I felt before Reeducation — I could actually feel the freedom.

  147. Z

    “…maintaining low emotional arousal.” See

    I started being avoidant about work and life when it began to appear that it was such a high emotional arousal situation. I wasn’t that way before. I do note that I associate academia with high emotional arousal from early on, because the academics surrounding me in childhood were drunk and saying impassioned things about the difficulty of it all.

    But it’s the high emotional arousal that scares me, hampers me, and so on, now.

  148. Z

    Consider the dream I had last night / this morning, the pain over academia, the torture chamber I expect it to be. Once again, I did not use to have these feelings, but I do now.

  149. Z

    They shouldn’t have put me on overtime this semester because it has pushed me to so much fatigue that I am having to throw off all my chains.

    I am not willing to wait until the others catch up any more. I am not willing to be condescended to any more. I am not willing to be discouraged any more.

    Things I am not willing to apologize for any more are: being American, having a PhD, being research oriented, not looking forward to retirement, not always voting Democratic, being AAUP … look at that list and how ridiculous it is to have been pushed feel so apologetic about such things!

  150. Z

    To study: that feeling of being asphyxiated. What is that paradigm, so old, that I am so oversensitive to.

    In quotation marks, any or all of the above:
    - I know more than you
    - I know what you think
    - I am more deserving than you
    - So you should adopt my views
    - And realize your friends are leading you astray

    Something like that although I haven’t fully understood it yet but I really react.

  151. Z

    What’s the mechanism that gets me feeling coincee, and that I so react to?
    Roughly, a combination of enough of these elements (all are not necessary) -

    “You have no authority to know because of who you are
    “and I do because of who I am
    “and because of past suffering
    “so my views rule
    “and I know what you *must* be thinking, I know what you are thinking and your ideas are wrong
    “and your friends are misleading you”

    Something like this. It is one of the things I find asphyxiating – .

  152. Z

    Freedom. What were the words I was thinking as I woke up this morning: innocence, joy, unburdenedness, the feeling of having space.

    (The peace of St. Francis. Redwoods.)

    The post I was going to write: I learned that the key characteristic of conservatives is that they believe human nature is base. This is actually quite profound and says a lot.

    “Reeducation” thought the same and many academics do. It is a very different way to think than the way I think — I am also not concerned about meaninglessness in life; I think the people who think human nature is base are the ones who are concerned about that. These are the reasons I didn’t understand Reeducation; yet I learned to feel burden and I still have to be careful so the load does not come creeping back.

  153. Z

    From another thread on another blog, on how not to make yourself suffer -

    I think you have to not treat yourself as your parents treated themselves and you

    And I think I have to stop trying not to be the things my parents accused me of being and that I wasn’t – or was, but it wasn’t a bad thing

    And the same for Reeucation

    As in: I’m not incompetent, grandiose, usurping, wrong, self indulgent, unrealistic, unworthy of being here, unable to do things, unable to live on my own, all of these things and more… I think I really think of myself that way, as though I were some kind of supplicant in a castle, someone who is allowed to stay on out of charity and must find little ways to try to earn their keep, since I don’t really have a trade and wouldn’t be able to have one, etc., etc. ….. These are the things I really do think, it seems, and I feel completely different, so much less anxious and so on, when I remember to consciously think the opposite.

  154. Z

    Panic attack at hairdresser. I was not there to have hair cut but he had called me the day before to talk about cutting it. Then hovered over the coloring person saying he wanted to cut it. Insultingly claiming that my current haircut was a hack job done by myself.

    I barked at him enough to scare him off and then felt vaguely dissociative for hours. What I want to do next time: just keep saying no, I am not here for a haircut. No, I am not here for a haircut.

  155. Z

    Remember the key things. It is about breathing space around oneself; it is about considering the possibility one might be right, not instantly making a move to cut veins, so to speak, in atonement for others´ intrusive desires and pain; it is remembering one does actually have expertise and rights.

  156. Z

    Having a negatively oriented person and feeling it is one´s duty to put them first.

  157. Z

    Meanwhile: the project is to decide to feel well about one´s work. I need to stay in better touch with it and to that end I must, it seems, forgive myself for the abandoned projects.

  158. Z

    I must remember this for my other blog and novel: «they are trying to remember back to when they felt things.»

  159. Z

    Upthread I made notes about repressed rage I should review. This is the topic again — my not liking to write the things I really have to say because of the rage I feel. I associate rage with coming out with one’s own ideas, and this has to do with the family, I understand it perfectly. Hmmm it is an issue I would have had without Reeducation, although it is also one Reeducation made it hard to address (I was so busy dealing with Reeducation itself that I could not also focus on this issue).

    Remember that diagnosis: “fear of extreme violence.”

  160. Z

    This thread has some key ideas from me and also musteryou, and there is another thread on Clarissa with very interesting ideas from musteryou on when communication fails and why.

  161. Z

    And this might be for the novel. *Is* for the novel. To be in relationship was not to please and to serve, but to mollify and to serve, or to perform, mollify, and serve … always to serve.

    (I feel panic asserting myself in any way. I associate anger with it: because I only finally assert myself when I have no choice left and am already white hot with rage from what I have already put up with, and because I think that if I am asserting myself, I must be that angry; so I think that if I assert myself, I may be doing so inappropriately, and so on.)

  162. Z

    AHA the last of these panic attacks was in July. This one was in November, that is five months later, and it *is* about the same thing: asserting oneself.

  163. Z

    I am really tired of talking about possible ways of reframing things such as not to feel pain or finding ways to stop pain but I wonder about this: what if I just stopped doing all things that make me feel bad, or doing things in ways that make me feel bad/worse? I am not in the same job I was during Reeducation but the experience of that job went from quite good to mediocre based on how I treated myself as worker before and after Reeducation. Let us look at that.

    This, of course, was not a truly fancy job but it was at a well run place that was comfortable with itself, so I had the power to make things go well and in particular, a reasonable service load. Before Reeducation I did everything right. It was not my first job so I did not have to go through new faculty workload shock. I had things under control and published and had recreation time.

    After Reeducation I was blocked on research and kept trying to get more research time by cutting corners on teaching and service. This did not address the problem, particularly since it was not a time problem; all work turned into drudgery.

    But before Reeducation I did not “cut corners” as one is advised to do; I was merely efficient and enjoyed working, which is better. I believed in myself and did things right, which was a great deal better for confidence than is “cutting corners.” The key difference was not engaging in so much self-questioning, self-doubt, and self-defeating dialogue as I did after Reeducation.

    In Reeducation you could not trust yourself or believe in yourself, because that was wrong. I am still trying to shake this. I will spend a whole week without doing it, I think. Learning to do it took a lot of time out of each day, doing it does, and learning not to do it does.

    Before I learned to do all the extensive self-criticism I had time and energy for research, I allowed myself to enjoy and be interested in teaching and service, and I considered myself worthy of recreation. The first things to go, during Reeducation, were research and recreation; I was no longer worthy of these and also, Reeducation was jealous of them and took the time that had been theirs.

    I really, really want to live more as I did and to resemble more the person I was.

  164. Z

    A post on how long it takes me to process certain things. Before psychotherapy I could distinguish between what were or were not rational propositions but afterwards, when I had been convinced reason was bad and my perceptions were not good, I could no longer trust myself.

    How close it got me to pain or to not being able to get out of abusive situations, how it reconstructed me as that person too small to leave, how it kept telling me I had no power and that to imagine I had any power to do anything was delusional.

    How this hampers me now, still hampers me. How it keeps being said to me that the damage is my fault. The thing is that I have become who I am by following instructions.

  165. Z

    “We will waste a lot of your time and subvert your efforts, insist you do one thing against your better judgement and then ask why you did it. And if you say because ordered, you will say, GOTCHA! And laugh.¨

    That is what I am used to from time immemorial and it is also what Reeducation did. I think it is also what they do here although they do not. But, I do not think it is done everywhere and that is why I think I am right when I recognize it.

  166. Z

    It is this, or it is also this:

    - I had come to see it as a torture chamber
    - I knew this was disabling and I was disabled
    - I knew I was only disabled for this
    - That was why the solution was to do something else: even if this had been the first choice and could still be, it was no longer the only…
    - And I was “guilted” into staying
    - I felt so guilty about wanting to leave, but also about staying when I knew I was disabled for it or when at least it appeared to me I was
    - That is why I have been willing to serve people so much, give so much, compensate so much
    - The guilt seems endless and the torture endless, and although it was that psychotherapy that really killed me, the original issue was all that scolding about having gone to a university for college, having had good grades, having gone to graduate school, it was all so bad and it hurt people so much, this is what I keep coming back to.
    - I was just finally getting over this when that therapy said it was really true and doubly true and also that I needed to “feel” it.
    - So then all this atonement for having done the Ph.D, and then getting here and being told it was something we had done to hurt the instructors … just as before it had hurt my sister in law allegedly, and before that, my mother mostly but also the men in the family … and always it hurt someone, yet always it was the only thing I could do.
    - The message “you are incompetent generally and mean and unlovable, and you have done something wrong by being intellectually oriented although we insist on good grades, and you should get away but stay here” … etc. … seems to be so strong, and I was getting over it but it was reinflicted twice as strong, and I needed to leave the scene of all these crimes but could not find a way, and so I feel caught.
    - This all may be true but it is also incredibly negative. I want to stop allowing it to stage itself at the center of things.

  167. Z

    (What an intense post and thread, I must say. For one thing, I should write more. For two, it is disheartening to see, in the thread, how much insight I have and how I keep forgetting things I have perceived, and have to relearn them. Is it because I am so deeply traumatized and angry that it is taking this long, or because all these traumas keep getting reinflicted, I wonder … or both … ? Quelle drag in any case.)

  168. Z

    What I am realizing now, seeing the irrationality of the generation up in the current situation: I was always right, they were irrational. They have had amazing delusions based on anxiety in certain periods in the past.

  169. Z

    So I have not posted in this thread for six months, because I am so improved — it all seems so far away, yet I was still working these things out as recently as last fall. Jobs in self-analysis for now:

    1. The original burden, lift it. It is: enslavement to someone else’s irrational world-view. Antidote: that world-view really was irrational.

    2. The academic burden, lift it. It is: what others think is more valid than what you do. I have claimed not to carry this, but I do; I just have not integrated it to myself as well as some … this is ultimately a great strength but it makes me uncomfortable and will until I drop the burden completely.

    3. The idea that things come about through discipline, habit, practice. It is not that — they come about as one allows oneself to do as one wishes.

  170. Z

    4. That color test. It always says I subject myself to too many limitations.

  171. Z

    …and do not appreciate myself enough. AHA. I have control over this.

  172. Z

    Books I need and/or want:

    González, Borges and the Politics of Form, 1998.
    Molloy, Las letras de Borges.

  173. Z

    Borges, This Craft of Verse.

    And Eva Illouz, Why Love Hurts.

  174. Z

    The Return of Comrade Ricardo Flores Magón

    In this long-awaited book, Claudio Lomnitz tells a groundbreaking story about the experiences and ideology of American and Mexican revolutionary collaborators of the Mexican anarchist Ricardo Flores Magón.

  175. Z

    Jean Franco, Cruel Modernity.

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