Never trust humanities academics without years of experience in non-academic work fields. Because that would be playing with fire with someone who has never used but read many fire extinguisher manuals.
What I write oftentimes on Facebook and blog is full of disdain for academia; most of them are very offensive. But one caveat here; I don’t believe what I write to be some indiscriminate rant that tracks nowhere in our quotidian lives, nor trivial/individual grievances in my reach. It does track.
I will not insult you by saying that empirical knowledge is the chief good because a)human life is short and b)our life problems get more personal as time passes. But there is the irrevocably common sentiment and the mechanism that labour and simple work teach. That mechanism often keeps the critiques healthy and doable. It filters out the nonsensical wordplays. That’s usually verbalised as “common sense”. That now is something priceless that cannot be learnt from textbooks or essays. Nor lectures. Academia lacks that.
PhD or post-PhD cannot endow that sense of humaneness. Engagement and bedtime questions “Why is my boss so mean to me?” lead us rather closer to honesty than many verbose papers. It can’t be internalised with big words.
Naïveté is not done away with theories. They are cured with experiences. That’s why I believe it’s much better to be offensive to think critically than not speak. Non-academic work may look tedious, repetitive and costly but it encourages us to speak for the objective problems confronting us, so the imminent mess-up does not take place.
Academia, oh academia.
The best attempt at not being offended, and very many articles are written on “How to now/not get offended”. Another enjoyable edition is “If only people did this”. But to write articles and dissertations on the critical theories, reformation suggestions, the outcries against what one ¨felt¨ as injustice today (instead of critically thought through as morally objectionable) – for the avoidance of direct accountability or dis-creditation (which again, most academics never face), written in the vaguest terms possible – you’d need an extreme amount of hypocrisy, contradiction with work ethics, disingenuousous denials.
Many scholars – they themselves are out of the equation of “they”, or have supporting backgrounds with whimsical conditions that are flamboyantly created to suit their theoretical pursuits. Not feasible for many who work 9-6 jobs.
If we were to take offences at the difficulties of life – we could find countless occasions where life is offensive – because we did nothing but just be born in this world full of the danger of imminent death or material loss. Well, papers have been written and I am very certain they all sound plausible and logic is flawless; but even so, a good amount of lengthy social science articles and debates basically boil down to “If people were only just a little more educated and nicer plus had they shared their benefits as in (insert superficially harmonious cultures and systems only seen from the outside)”. We haven’t worked out the utopia. I don’t think we can ever.
However, for the lack of a better world and words, I can only think of “why not me?” to be a better abstract than “why me?”. I imagine what the world would have looked like had most papers started with the premise “why not me?”
Well, it’s not to say physics majors should ask “why not me?” during experiments with explosives. 😉