Tuesday, October 7, 2008
What's Anti-intellectualism Doing at the University?
Why would anti-intellectuals take jobs as administrative support in universities? Thank heavens this is not the case in the English department anymore. But it used to be, as recently as last fall. In fact, all over campus, right now, this morning, occupying their swivel chairs, reigning over their computers and filing systems, are vicious, seething anti-intellectuals.
This situation is not confined to HSU or even the CSU system. Some of my insider information also comes from UC Davis.
What I want to know is how and why is this the case" If you're an anti-intellectual, why choose a university as a workplace? This seems an enormous contradiction to me, perhaps even a little masochistic. Sado-masochistic, actually, since intellectuals don't like dealing with anti-intellectuals any more than vice-versa.
Perhaps anti-intellectualism is the egg, produced by years of negative interaction. Perhaps some of these people come to the university full of hope and admiration. Perhaps they hope to use their employee discounts on tuition, perhaps they plan to earn a degree themselves given time. But then life interferes, as it does, and time never allows them to take any classes. The hours of the job itself conflict with the scheduling, since all the important classes are offered in the 9-5 hours. So resentment begins to seethe. Clearly, only the privileged, those who don't have to work 9-5, can ever take classes.
Or perhaps they hold a business administration degree and are dismayed to find themselves no more than glorified secretaries. Still typing, filing, answering phones and dealing with idiots.
After muttering "Idiot!" under their breath at a respected, PhD-bearing scholar for the 99th time, one's attitude would surely undergo a shift. The same person who is an internationally recognized expert on "Keats' left nostril" (to swipe a bit of sarcasm from Professor Stacey), can't even make a damn photocopy or a cup of coffee! "How do they even live?" the budding anti-intellectual wonders daily as he or she finds, fixes or figures out yet another painfully obvious and practical matter.
Over time -- and not much time, I would imagine -- bitterness sets in, soon followed by its evil cousin, passive aggression.
As a person who reinvents herself regularly, I have to wonder why they don't just get jobs somewhere else, somewhere that doesn't make them miserable? Why don't they feel their souls shriveling and get the hell out for their own health and sanity?
But, even though I don't actually feel it, intellectually I do know the answer: the illusion of security. The same reason millions of Americans don't leave their soul-crushing jobs, marriages, families, neighborhoods or towns. In familiarity is security, they think. Then security is only a feeling. Security addicts would never admit that security is no more tangible than a feeling. All it takes is an honest look at history -- natural, prosaic or political -- to see that security doesn't exist; it is non-existent. There is no security.
If your job is crushing your soul, get the f*** out and stop blaming it on the people who have to tolerate your attitude every day.
Posted by Indie at 10:28 AM