The Prisoner of Agenda

The Prisoner of Agenda...busy on the treadmillTake someone who has devoted between 10 and 16 years of advanced study, from the BA through the Ph.D, someone who has gained significant knowledge of the workings of social relations, political institutions, cultural meanings, rituals, symbols, power, and so forth. This same person can become largely unemployable outside of an academic setting.

Take this “over-educated” person and render him/her unemployable. A smart, yet desperate and angry person? That cannot possibly do any good for the health of a social order, especially not if such individuals multiply.

 Where is the best place to incarcerate such a person? Where could a period of long-term confinement and steady distraction help to pacify such a person, and render him/her malleable, or at least so damn dog tired that he or she becomes obsessively focused on the minutiae of his or her life. Where can we get our troubled hamster to run ceaselessly on a treadmill, going nowhere, but getting there faster and faster?

The university is the best such place! With enough inconsequential meetings of enough committees without power to do anything except to undo the decisions of last year’s committees; time spent taking students through the bureaucratic regulations of getting a degree, because administration has been downloaded to professors; spending a hideous number of hours doing accounting and filling out paperwork for any tiny little expenditure funded by a grant; spending months applying for the same grants; arguing with bureaucrats who send back forms that were correctly filled out to begin with; sitting in, dutifully, on guest lectures on topics that could never be of even remote interest to oneself; lunches here, there, everywhere, whenever any occasion arises; some student is in town, and wishes to visit you, in the desperate hope that the mere act of seeing you will result in easy admission; regrading papers graded by a teaching assistant, because students have convinced themselves that the TA is a monster; and on and on it goes, thousands of little bits of time and little drains of energy that keep the professor firmly lodged, and often firmly devoted to, the very system that imprisoned him.

Such persons are known to lecture about “resistance” to their students. Ask them why they themselves don’t resist…I have. The answer: “well, resistance has to be intelligent.” And with that, and many other convenient qualifications necessary to defer social action, the system continues munching away at people’s souls, wits, and hopes.