I quickly learned that…many of my professors valued paradoxical and obscure arguments. And I got pretty good at making them. In an essay on Wallace Stevens, I concluded by asserting, “If everything is nothing, then that nothingness is everything. For poetry to encompass one, it encompasses the other. When Stevens’s mind of winter descends into the inescapable nothingness of his subjectivity, he has claimed for himself the totality of everything.” I don’t know what this means. But I wrote it and I was rewarded for it.
Every minute I spent in grad school, I wondered: Do professors really believe this shit? I’m not talking anything so bourgeois as “the truth,” comrades; I’m talking about, do they really believe that the string of words “the inescapable nothingness of his subjectivity” means something?
If so, then they’re the worst teachers on the planet, as “the inescapable nothingness of his subjectivity” is gibberish to me, and I work here! If it means something, I surely would’ve heard it by now….?
But if it doesn’t mean anything, then what’s the point? Graduate school is not undertaken on a whim. It’s long, it’s hard — well, ok, it’s time-consuming — and it’s expensive, in both real money and opportunity cost. If the point is just to lob increasingly jargonated gibberish at each other, there are plenty of atheist discussion boards and PUA forums that will serve. Y’all can trust me on this: Nobody — nobody — really understands Lacan, Derrida, Althusser, or the rest of the Froggy Incomprehensibles. Nobody really understands Wallace Stevens either, for that matter. That’s because there’s nothing to understand. They are, as T.S. Eliot — no mean purveyor of gibberish himself — once put it, the hollow men:
We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar
Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;
Only after leaving grad school did I grasp it: The point of this stuff is conspicuous consumption. All Leftism is.
We all know the Left has been bankrupt, in all senses but monetary, since the Sixties. Everyone they once pretended to care about — the working class, the Negroes (as they then were), women, the handicapped, prisoners, the mentally ill — have proved, on closer inspection, to be repulsive. Read any Leftist blog or Twitter feed for five minutes; the hate for everyone and everything outside of the author’s little slice of intersectional genderfluid heaven just drips off the screen. As I’ve said here before, there are only two options when the souls you’ve set out to save turn your stomach: You can embrace the toilet, or aestheticize it. Old-school Commies went with door #1, which is why old-school Commies acted like drunk longshoremen and looked like them, too:
Behind door #2, though, life is good. The inhabitants generally aren’t much more attractive — Emma Goldman up there actually looks pretty good compared to a typical Wymyn’s Studies prof — but the environment can’t be beat. Nowhere is life cleaner, easier, safer, and whiter than the faculty ghetto in an upscale college town. But… Isn’t this the very life that grubby bourgeois wannabes strive for? There’s no sense in renovating a charming little four-bed, three-and-a-half bath Colonial in a good school district if your next door neighbor is something gauche, like a software engineer or a plumber, i.e. the rude mechanicals you’re ideologically supposed to love, but actually loathe for their apelike attachment to things like guns, NASCAR, and Jesus.
Hence the jargonized marxoblather. Your plumber may lead a material existence little different from your own — he might even drive a slightly nicer car, and none of his fixtures leak — but he has to work for it, the poor dumb bastard. With his hands. He simply doesn’t have the free time to plow through the prose of a Certified Genius of Colour like Homi Bhabha:
If, for a while, the ruse of desire is calculable for the uses of discipline soon the repetition of guilt, justification, pseudo-scientific theories, superstition, spurious authorities, and classifications can be seen as the desperate effort to “normalize” formally the disturbance of a discourse of splitting that violates the rational, enlightened claims of its enunciatory modality.
This is virtue-signaling of the highest order. Not only does it say “I am an enlightened being who knows what ‘enunciatory modality’ means,” it says, furthermore, “I am the kind of person who deals with enunciatory modalities daily. Anybody can unclog a toilet; it takes long years of very expensive training to learn to write a sentence where you can’t even identify the fucking main verb on the first read-through.”
Seen as conspicuous consumption, all the PoMo Left’s attitudes make sense. They love trannies, for instance, because they — the trannies — are so elaborately, baroquely useless. If I had the kind of time and money to burn that this organism (eye bleach warning!) must have in order to maintain its fantasy existence, I’d be well on my way to owning a pro football team. And so on down the line: The “wingless golden-skinned dragonkin” who got James Damore fired care more about fucking pronouns in a single day than I’ve cared about anything, collectively, in my entire life. Time is the most precious commodity of all; an ocean of gold won’t buy you a single second more. Spending all that time worrying about intersectionality tells the world that you’re incalculably rich, without having anything so vulgar as bling to wave around.