Wednesday, May 21, 2014

fuck academia

I want to add one more comment to this since I'm in an anti-academic mood, even more than usual. I have a manuscript at an academic press and the editor can't even get readers to respond to it, let alone diss it. That's understandable since it's an attack on people who spend their days in the library as if books could replace the world, or who wear books like blinders, as if they were the key to it. So with that in mind:

A few nights ago I sat in cafe owned by a half-German Cypriot from London, drinking tequila, listening to a discussion of Arabic diacriticals between a Bulgarian from Morocco with an MBA from France who studied kickboxing in Thailand, and an Iranian-Bangladeshi fashion stylist who's just broken up, again, with her Afro-Scottish boyfriend.  The next night I sat in a Bosnian wine bar with an Israeli fascist talking about our mutual friend, a Croatian ex-Nazi.  Next to him was an Indian pharmacologist, an ex-dancer for Dolly Parton, the ex-dancer's Moroccan roommate –a bartender with memories of TriBeCa in the old days– and a gay ex-priest.  The bartender that night was from Macedonia; the Afro-Swedish waitress has the number one blues album in France, and the uncle of another led Serbian battalions in Kosovo. She's in NY studying international law. The father of a Montenegrin waitress at the Greek cafe was indicted at the Hague. She does stand up. She started a gig at an AIDS benefit by wishing her ex-boyfriend was HIV positive and dying. About her current boyfriend she says "My boyfriend is black, and I'm from Serbia.  Once you go black, you can't go back." The Croatian Nazi has great stories about the war. "Cover me! I'm going for a beer."

The few Americans on that list are middle aged and don't want to be here. The immigrants are here for the money. None of them have much to say to the young white Americans who've moved into the neighborhood and now think they've made it a hip. What could an immigrant tell them that they hadn't learned already in the suburbs of Ohio, Carolina or Texas? After all they go or went to NYU and Columbia and immigrants are just Mexicans from other countries.

I'm tired of people who use chaos and war as an excuse to write PhD theses. I recognized 30 years ago that The Name of the Rose was an allegory of the contemporary decay of academia. I come from another world.

When my anti-semitic mother found out that her first Jewish husband had gone to work in the White House, her response to her second Jewish husband, my father, was spitting contempt; even before he became an official pitchman for the Vietnam war he'd been a sellout. Later he was an un-indicted co-conspirator but that's a different story.  My Father was an academic; my mother was ABD; they were in Berkeley in the 50's before the idiots took over, but he didn't work an elite university. One of his proudest moments in academic life was when a freshman came up to him at the end of first semester freshman comp, pounded his fist on the desk and said: "Fuck the nuns." He'd been lied to all his life and my father  refused to. My parents' proudest moments outside academy meant risking decades in the federal pen  as accessories of the theft of the COINTELPRO files. Perhaps if they'd been lawyers my parents would've been less moralistic, but for them law was only a hobby.  Lawyers themselves are fringe creatures, and not because they're morally superior.  Moral ambiguity is their stock and trade. It's great for fiction and that's why, unlike philosophers, lawyers are a staple on TV.  "What side are they on?" "The first man with the check." The rubber never meets the road in Cloudcuckooland.

But my parents had some sense of irony. My mother as a communist from a good family (anyone from any other country but this one gets the joke) and my father's father, who died when my father was two, was ex-cavalry and a Pinkerton, the original American mercs. He'd ridden into crowds of strikers with his sword drawn; his coworkers, fellow thugs, called him "the crazy Jew". But I live irony more than my parents did. They were modernists. They dreamed they'd left their pasts behind, but they hadn't. That's why my little book is a defense of lawyers against philosophers. Lawyers use the library; they don't live there. They're tradespeople, like carpenters, writers, actors and whores. I'm a carpenter, and even with my parents dead and TIAA-CREF, and a stockbroker who was the attending surgeon who called time on John Lennon's life, I still have to work for a living. It would've helped if BP hadn't blown up that oil rig, but there's no way in hell I'm going to kiss anyone's ass to survive, either oligarch or academic.

The academy's devolved like the church into bullshit Platonism, the humanities as pseudoscience. The ivory tower is an elementary school library for the sort of kids who look out at their peers in the schoolyard "merely playing games" and think of them with contempt, or maybe just as subject matter. And the kids in the library think they're gonna rule the world, but they're not. The closest some of them will come is advising the kids in the playground, some of whom will rule the world. That's one more sad thing about this country: the only real internationalism is in high finance and those who service it one way or another, including carpenters and whores. So maybe the Fulbrights are good for that, like business school. And maybe it's just that the humanities are dead, or at least their academic study. The arts are thriving. Art's always been the only way to describe the reality of inevitable corruption. My mother said one of the reasons she divorced her first husband was that he didn't have a sense of the tragedy of life. Like all liberals, he's an optimist. The first thing optimists are optimistic about is themselves. Tell that to the Vietnamese.

Imran Khan, you have Zionist friends. When you drink with them you're drinking with supporters of UKIP. Zionism is the BNP for Jews. That's the point and and always was. The Israeli fascist hates "liberal" Zionists as much as I do. There would have been peace already if it weren't for their hypocrisy. But they wanted to have their cake and eat it too, their modernity and and their nativism. But you can't square the circle. The difference between me and the fascist is that he would want to live in that little utopia, and I'll never go the state that exists. So all this shit now is your friends' fault, and yours too, for being as unable as they are to see the obvious. Friendship and loyalty clouds peoples' judgements. For better or worse that's not a problem I've had. Politics is a bitch.

The Israeli is the first Jew I've ever met who didn't know what "nebbish" meant. He's Sephardic. Why would he? And he hates the Ashkenazim with a passion. He grew up dirt poor; they ruled his world and called him "nigger". His mother's from Afghanistan.

Why all this now? I'm not sure what brought it on. Everything brought it on. But I didn't like the thought of a college professor assuming she could up the ante on my anger. I didn't want to admit that at first, but that's it. That's not a bet you're going to win.

You want to know what the world's like? Come to NY I'll introduce you to everyone I mentioned. Fuck the Fulbrights. The shit is over.

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