Saturday, November 23, 2013

Laziest Generation

The whole point of these missives, this writing exercise, those monographs is to share some kind of knowledge, some wisdom, some truth hard fought and hard won. You’re supposed to come away having a better appreciation for life and your place in it. The problem is, of course, that there needs something to be said before that writing can occur.
It’s 2:13 a.m. and I’m eating pepperjack and townhomes and feeling as lost and overwhelmed as I always do. If there’s some kind of truth in this, I don’t know where it is. If there’s wisdom, it’s not mine to share. All I can give you is my experience, which is all I can ever give you when it comes down to it.
There’s a narrative in anthropological academia, a narrative that implies that the reason anthropologists get into anthropology in the first place is because anthropologists don’t fit in well with their own culture and have the urge to explore other cultures to better understand why they’re personally wired that way. It’s a good narrative, one that describes a number of major figures. On top of the whole “reformer’s science” subtitle, a great many anthropologists are argumentative contrarians.
It’s sweet and sort of sentimental to read about these figures and discuss loosely what’s going down at the AAA convention, but it’s the sweet of nostalgia and daydreams, since it’s a culture that’s dying out every day – or rather it’s reverting to a pre-G.I. bill era where academia is a locked tower filled with overly wealthy dodderers. I’m supposed to graduate this semester, and really I’m getting out just in time. The budget cuts are deepening and major services are being slashed. The Children’s Center, an entire building on campus, is getting cut. There are fees for withdrawing from classes. There were talks of changing requirements to require transfer students to have to take something like 75% of their courses here; boosting tuition from otherwise (apparently) flighty transfer graduates.
On every campus in America there’s a bunch of clubs and activities designed to engage college students in some sort of collective spirit-building exercises. These constructs are designed purposefully to help ease college freshmen into college life, where they might feel suddenly isolated and uncomfortable removed from the high school they were previously attending. It’s a justifiable goal, though it also serves the purpose of extending adolescence and obscuring the financial cost of college through misdirection. For these clubs and for many Americans, college is just another step in the path to becoming a middle class adult. The thing is: college is also an ancient and erudite institutional method of intellectual development designed to acculturate and reiterate an intellectual class. Even further college is a road towards greater economic security, negotiated by ambitious individuals who still believe in class mobility. College for them represents a contract where in exchange for a series of individually pointless tasks they’ll earn leverage over their employers.
I’ve probably said this before (and I’ll gladly rant about it a dozen times more in person, willing didact that I am) but modern college is some kind of mutated aggregate of an assumed adolescent stage that’ll bottlerocket you off to middle classdom. Combined with our most recent “millennial” trend of victim blaming and the stagnant economy, college is actually a pretty bad deal. You’re paying tens of thousands of dollars to attend a place that treats you as an over-developed horny child in exchange for a piece of paper whose value drops every commencement. Then you’re jettisoned into the “real world” where your vain attempts at demanding recompense for your labors as per the implied social contract are met with cries of “entitlement” or “homeless with iphones” or “laziest generation.” It’s a catch-22 because the world loves catch-22s.
It’s not really worth it to go to college, but the biggest and worst problem is that it’s even less worth it to not go to college, to languish in entry level world as employers use arbitrary notions of “skill” to justify paying as little as they can get away with. Basically we’ve made college the modern indentured servitude, leading straight to the wage slavery constructed in the world.
There’s some argument out there that all the things that capitalism constructs are the same; that the story it tells is the same one over and over again. There’s some argument that all stories we tell are the same story. I don’t know if any of that is true and I don’t know what wisdom there is to curdle from them.