Why Didn’t You Quit Sooner?

Some variant of this is the second-most common question I get asked re: my time in the ivory tower.  Sometimes it comes in the form of “What were you, stupid or something?”, but the gist of it is, knowing what I most certainly must have about life in academia, it’s strange that I ever would’ve started, much less endured it for all those years…

Coming from me, I can hardly ask you to believe it was idealism… but, believe it or not, that was part of it.  I had no illusions about changing the discipline.  Even if I were the kind of big-league scholar that could’ve gotten hired at Harvard — and I was light years away from that — the kind of people who go to Harvard are already hopelessly lost.  There will never be a “conservative” scholar of note until we dig ourselves out of the rubble of the West’s utter collapse, because the entire system is stacked against it.  In fact, “stacked” isn’t even the right word, as it implies that a conservative work could even get a hearing.  Modern academia is one of Joseph Tainter‘s complex societies, destined for collapse — just as the Romans kept stuffing forts with legions because they couldn’t even think of another way to go, so modern academia lacks the cognitive toolkit to evaluate an argument that isn’t “race / class / gender, therefore #OrangeManBad.”

Out in the provinces, though, there was once some hope of getting through to a student or two.  The professors were, if anything, worse — one of the main reasons “bad” schools are bad is that the profs there all feel they deserve to be at Harvard, and are openly contemptuous of their employers — but the students can sometimes still be reached.  For a while there, every class would have its secret shitlord or two, who could sense that I was a kindred spirit.  This, I felt, served a socially necessary function.  But just as video killed the radio star, so social media killed whatever was left of independent thought in American students.

The other reason I stayed, quite frankly, was that the show was so perversely fascinating.

Imagine you’re some kind of Gulliver-type explorer, and you reach an island of perfect bliss.  Clear air, gentle breezes, balmy temperatures, and all the delicious food you can eat.  And the natives!  They live to serve you, completely unconstrained by anything so antiquated as Western sexual morality.  Limitless 5G internet.  Anything you want to eat, drink, watch, read, do, say, insert, or have inserted, it’s all yours at the snap of your fingers.  Got it?

Now imagine that the rulers of this little slice of paradise do nothing but sit on the side of the road all day, smashing their own toes with ball-peen hammers.

That’s life in a college town.  The Left run everything.  They set the admissions requirements.  They have unlimited budgets, and since they do, the entire commercial ecosystem exists only for them.  All cuisine is “fusion,” you have to drive to the next burg over to find milk that comes from cows, and every single item of public culture — from sidewalk graffiti to public radio to experimental theater troupe — does nothing but flatter them.  There is no fetish so outre, no practice so bizarre, that you can’t find at least one other enthusiastic participant.  It’s intersectional genderfluid heaven….

…. and every single person in it is miserable.  I’m serious — if it’s not too far out of your way, drive down to your nearest college town, and just watch the faces.  You might glimpse a grinning undergrad or two — they’re too young and dumb to know better; they’ll be fully reeducated by junior year — but you can spot the tenured faculty solely by their scowls.  The only thing that temporarily alleviates the existential horror of their lives is getting outraged by something, which — since, again, they control everything — means tilting at windmills is their only sport; they play it with a cutthroat intensity the football coach can only dream of.

How can you not be fascinated by that?  To utterly refute the view of man as homo economicus, all you have to do is watch the facial expressions of people who are “the 1%” by any measure that makes sense.  It’s one hell of a show…

…until it isn’t.  Because that kind of self-inflicted misery grinds on you.  We’ve all stopped to look at the car crash, of course, but you don’t want to spend all day, every day, year in and year out, looking at car crashes.  It took me a good long while — I’m sadistic, I guess — but I got flat out exhausted by it all.  So I quit.


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4 thoughts on “Why Didn’t You Quit Sooner?

  1. Martinian

    I second everything in this post by my own experience. I was an undergrad in the Dubya years, so there were still a few Conservatives and Old Liberals around to make my time extremely worthwhile. But they all retired before I graduated or soon after. I heard tell of other younger ones, but their involvement with heretical causes was extremely tenuous and generally didn’t amount to much more than helping to bring noteworthy speakers to campus under the aegis of their own department. My sense is that this was tolerated by the powers-that-be merely as a fig leaf against accusations of outright bias.

    But that was all in the halcyon days of incipient Bush hatred, which looks positively tame when compared with post-Obama discourse. I mean, you always had the crazy Left, but , ffs, in those days a lot of people would still at least **TRY** to make a reasonable-sounding argument based on allegedly common values. And quite honestly, in retrospect I think they were right about Bush and the Neo-Cons and fake Conservative Inc. The Democrats had a real opportunity post-9/11 to make a strong pro-domestic/anti-foreign-war argument. But instead they went all in on the crazy Left/NetRoots/Progressives…which was essentially the dominant force elite colleges were spewing out en masse to positions of power and influence.

    I was back in grad school in a big city during Obama, and you could count on getting the Progressive Party Line full blast even in STEM. Similarly, I started seeing widespread among fellow students the style of argumentation currently on display with AOC/Omar/etc. — e.g., when someone catches you in a gross logical error or blatantly hypocritical action, you completely sidestep the facts and instead counter with a statement of disgust at how creepy/icky your opponent is (cf. response to picture of AOC eating hamburgers post-GND statement), or a form of straw-manning that so flagrantly ignores what people (including yourself) actually said and what the facts of reality actually are that there should be another term for it (“straw-worlding”?). All of these people are now slated to be the new gatekeepers, and anyone who has even a whiff of the wrong group will not be let into the upper echelons, even those who have an impeccable history of Right-Thinking — I know a white hetero guy who’s been a Leftist all his life, with impeccable top academic credentials, but even he is getting frozen out of jobs/conferences in favor of the protected groups. I almost fell out of my chair when he started making some red-pill noises, but it’s likely too late do anything.

    Like Sev said, there will be no Conservative academics until the current slate has been wiped clean.

  2. MBlanc46

    My brief foray into academic life was one of the most pleasant periods of my life. Of course, I was young, and being young makes everything better. The essential part of the job was standing up in front of a captive, impressionable audience and running my mouth. What’s not to like? Yeah, there was preparing lectures and grading papers and exams, but that sure beats real work, as I can tell you from experience. It was in the early seventies, so the adults were still in charge. No mandatory diversity training or kangaroo sexual-assault courts. I was still idealistic and in my left-wing anarchist phase rather than the right-wing anarchist phase that I’m in now. I don’t know if I could have handled the identity grievance that has taken over higher education. It was identity grievance that pushed me from Left back to Right. Just never could buy that Happy Rockefeller was the oppressed and I was the oppressor. And I couldn’t get past the ick factor of homosexuality. I’m still on the fringes of academia, in scholarly publishing. I’m sure that if my clients knew my political views, I’d never work again.

    1. Severian Post author

      That was part of the train-wreck fascination for me. I’ve been in the real world. I did what I assumed most normal people do — mowed lawns in the neighborhood at 12, started working as a fry guy at the drive thru when I turned 16, picked up odd jobs in college, worked a 9-5 payroll gig after graduation. Pretty much nobody in academia did that. They went “prep school / private college / grad school / tenure track.” I’d be willing to bet that the majority of professors, even the tenured ones pulling down $100K+, can still file the fucking EZ tax form. That they complain about how hard they work is, in itself, everything you need to know about the scam that is college.

      The actual teaching part is GREAT, and the grading, class prep, etc. for the biggest class take up but a tiny fraction of the time you spend putting cover sheets on your TPS reports out in the real world. And as for the research… c’mon, these people are nerds. They’d do it for free — getting paid to do it is like paying some dork to play Dungeons and Dragons his whole life. Viewed objectively, professing is the greatest gig on earth…. and everyone who does it is bloody miserable, all the time.

      1. MBlanc46

        I’m still doing it for free. I try to get in at least a couple of hours of study every evening. And I don’t do it to “prove” a preconceived, virtue-signalling point.

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