Sunday, February 26, 2012

Students: Plan your escape from academia before you enter it

The undergraduate degree is a brutal endurance test for obedience. It is an imposed gateway into graduate or professional school where you hope things will be somewhat more sane.

Actually, graduate or professional school will rob you of you. Powerful structural forces will draw you into the profession where you will be pushed to brainwash yourself into accepting an ideology of service to the established order, at the expense of your moral values.[1]

Most of your colleagues will accept this personal transformation and its associated benefits of high social status and financial rewards. They will believe the mythology of the profession because this mythology facilitates preserving a positive self-image in spite of the reality of the oppressive system that they are being groomed to serve and maintain.

They will also increase their class bias (class-ism) in order to cope with the class oppression that they are trained to support. And they will begin to practice ancillary donations of their time (vanity volunteerism) aimed at medicating lower class "suffering", "public ignorance", "poverty", and so on -- by serving on various committees, boards, and with public lectures and conference papers about social problems. All part of the needed guilt alleviation and maintenance of positive self-image.

They will learn to accentuate extreme aversion to in-class injustices (age, gender, race, sexual-orientation, and so on) while doing nothing to address the gross inter-class inequities that dominate the social landscape. The greater the aversion, the better one can avoid the obvious.

They will "think globally and act locally": Perceive sanitized planetary-scale threats and act within their class to address these perceived threats via their every day lifestyle and consumer choices and via weekend political "agency". Or form some other self-supported social network of validation.

If you foresee that you will have significant difficulty with the imposed personal transition required in graduate and professional training, then you can plan your escape before you enter.

Expect to be shocked by the requirements of the profession, by the definition of "professionalism". Recognize that you are being subjected to a cleansing. Know that it is wrong and that you are right. Find friends who, like you, want to survive with their personalities and values intact, rather than "adapt".

Plan to weather the storm without buying into the lies. Cynicism is only a face-saving way to buy into the lie. It won't save you. You need to actively push the limits of your resistance every step of the process in order to discover yourself and preserve yourself. This will also expose the true nature of the beast that wants to eat you.

You won't make friends with the bosses and you won't be rewarded with high grades and praise but you will learn more and be more authentic. You will prepare yourself for a real life in the real world, not a class-secluded life in a superficial world. You will be more able to love yourself and to love others. It's not called "the good fight" for nothing.

You'll get true feedback from your environment. If they are not coming after you then you are faking it.

You can figure out how to graduate while pushing back. That is the challenge; that will preserve you rather than destroy you.

Or, just kiss ass and you will "succeed".


[1] "Disciplined Minds" by Jeff Schmidt.

Denis G. Rancourt is a former tenured and full professor of physics at the University of Ottawa in Canada. He practiced several areas of science (including physics and environmental science) which were funded by a national agency and ran an internationally recognized laboratory. He has published over 100 articles in leading scientific journals and several social commentary essays. He developed popular activism courses and was an outspoken critic of the university administration and a defender of student and Palestinian rights. He was fired for his dissidence in 2009. His dismissal case is in court hearings that will extend into 2012.


Steven Augustine said...

I think the problem is that it's no longer the case that people are raised to be wary of the Faustian pact; quite the contrary. The Faustian pact is now an aspirational meme. If the modern student/ employee/ consumer is not, at some point, offered some kind of "deal" by the Devil, they feel that they've failed or been cheated.

Isn't it the case that, for decades, the young have been programmed with a pseudo "Insider" mentality in which the Ethics/Dignity of the Good Fight are trumped by the weaponized pragmatism of the Will to Power? In the new framework, a course of action is only Wrong, and the depredations it engenders are only Dehumanizing, if it doesn't work.

I don't think it's a matter of fine-tuning the message until it somehow gets through; I think the message is too often wasted on the wrong targets.

Vyse Legendaire said...

I think the best bet would be to avoid the college system altogether. Saying you can protest the system by being a part of it is like saying you will protest the military by joining it. Instead I think people should grasp the zeitgeist, recognize that collapse of the entrenched social paradigm – including the student loan bubble, collapse of jobs and wages, and the death of the perpetual growth model, – and take bold steps toward self sufficiency and independence in the actual world we are entering, a world of decreased expectations but rewarding self reliance. That is if we avoid the classical trap of tyranny and despotism.

Vyse Legendaire said...

Re: Steven Augustine:

I agree that our public morality has been co-opted and transmogrified to such an extent that people generally perceive no ill other than the loss of undeserved gain.

However, I don't think the Will to Power is necessarily a nihilist/trans-humanist ideal and instead I think it can be applied to those willing to overcome the burden of the current entrenched bourgeoise social deterioration in favor of the 'Good Fight' as you say, a move toward genuine sustainability through upright action.

I think the people we need to reach are here, reaching it now on the internet is these new and rebellious outlets. The university is a place where the soul goes to die, so we should caution the youths to outright boycott it, to move past that vestigial artifact of a finished era.

Denis Rancourt said...

The kind of agitation that I naturally practice is that of Mother Jones and Malcolm X: "Awakening this brainwashed black man and telling this arrogant, devilish white man the truth about himself ... is a full time job."

It combines both stirring up and denouncing the collaborators and exposing the vicious crimes of the masters.

Students can choose to practice self-respect, dignity, and resistance; they can denounce those students dedicated to collaboration; and they can come to see the degree to which the machine is criminally pathological.

They don't need to be outside the institution or the economy to turn in this way. Change can be catalyzed from within any layer of the dominance hierarchy.

I agree, however, that stepping out successfully can be a powerful message/challenge for those not resisting from within.

Steven Augustine said...

It's just my opinion that it's not only "youth" that's too often wasted on the young; why is it always the "students" and the "next generation" we focus our attentions on in this battle of (and for) ideas/values?

Wobbly Metaphor: what does the Flight Attendant tell us to do with the oxygen masks in case of emergency? Make sure the mask is secure on *your* (the guardian's) face before you give it to your child, because, you know, the oxygen isn't enough and a fully-oxygenated child isn't much use beside an unconscious adult.

Okay, it's a flawed (or tellingly apt?) metaphor, because the oxygen mask is merely a prop if that plane is going to crash. But my point is: I think one *requires* a few decades under ones belt to really *get*, on a visceral level, the danger we're all in, and what it will take to address the State of Permanent Assault we're under.

I think "the West" is conditioned to ignore (or sneer at) the very concept of "Elders" and, therefore, too much experience and too many time-perfected thinking machines are tossed on the heap; the concept of "The Young" (the favorite consumerist target/ ideal consumerist bait) has been elevated to a status all out of proportion to the relative merits of that condition (youth). Is energy really, in and of itself, the most precious resource of resistance?

There are valuable women and men out there... and they are older than 20, 30, 40. They are cut out of the Info Loop; they are convinced that they are of no use, no value.

I'd like to see more of an effort to contact/ inform/ radicalize/ utilize a demographic which is, to be honest, less likely to be gulled by empty offers of "Hope" and "Change" from charismatic figures who are *experts* at appealing to the intrinsic (though necessary, I believe) vanity of youth. Because, even with truly *right-thinking, well-informed* radicals of the baby-faced persuasion, there is often too little patience and too much of the romance, the sex, of "revolution"... leading to inevitable (classical) tactical blunders.

I'm not casting aspersions, here: we, "here" (I'm assuming) were all once 17, 25, 33, etc. I'm merely being blunt. And I'm suggesting that we've fallen for a trap so pervasive that it's all but undetectable in Late Model Capitalism: the hyper-veneration (cognitive-dissonance of this particular word choice is intentional) of 15-20-30-somethings.

Is it really an accident that the "Culture" has us thinking this way...?

Steven Augustine said...

"Awakening this brainwashed black man and telling this arrogant, devilish white man the truth about himself ... is a full time job."

As the son of a bona fide Black Radical, I can relate to this... but I also think A) there are many levels to the brainwashing (and how many "radicals" were working for the FBI, after all?) and B) calling a psychopath a "psychopath" (re: telling devils the truth about themselves) won't even hurt a psychopath's feelings (let alone change things).

The Black Power movement made fundamental missteps: they either Paternalized the power structure by petitioning it for clemency or B) legitimized the power structure's arguments (again, goaded by agents provocateurs) by talking "armed insurrection" (an absurd pipe dream) and adopting paramilitary imagery and de-contextualizing themselves by adopting Pan Africanism for what should have been a resolutely North American movement (because seeing themselves as the Klan saw them was, surely, not the point).

I'm not a patriot, but the whole "problem" of being Black in America is the extent to which the condition contradicts itself or excludes its own core: that's what was uniquely "Black" about "the movement". All, or most, of the other problems are everyone's else' (ie: file under "Human Rights").

Very few of the supposed gains of "the Black Power movement" lingered into the 1980s. In fact, there's a plausible argument to be made that the Civil Rights clock, on many level, has been rolled back to the grotesque extremes of the antebellum.

As Malcolm X *matured*, I believe, he saw into this future... and course-corrected by shifting tactics. And was promptly removed from the game.

There's much to learn in all that! IMO.

Steven Augustine said...

erratum: "All, or most, of the other problems are everyone's else' *as well* (ie: file under "Human Rights").

Stranger in a Strange Land said...

I realized this half way to a Masters Degree and got out.

Take care,