Monday, September 27, 2010

Signs of the times: "Why do they hate us?"

This isn't as much a post as a link roundup of posts explaining why the educated middle class is to blame for--well, just about everything. The title riffs on Thomas Hart Benton's musings of the same name at The Chronicle.

1. For a minute or two, I thought the Chronicle had let up on the professor-bashing, and Benton does give some logical answers to his questions (albeit ones that we've mostly discussed on blogs before). But fearing that he's gone too far, he slides into his hairshirt and admonishes us to do the same:
But perhaps it is enough to say that the reason we feel more "hated" than ever is that we deserve it. Instead of collaborating, we competed with each other. We focused on our research instead of on the needs of undergraduates. We even exploited our graduate students, using their labor to underwrite our privileges, and then we relegated most of them to marginal positions as adjuncts. We waited too long to institute reforms to our profession, and now—after 40 years of inaction—the reforms are going to be forced upon us.
You hear that, you academic Marie Antoinettes? It's not that education has been systematically defunded over the past forty years, or that tenure-track jobs have been decimated, or that administration and college athletics have fattened themselves at the expense of instruction. It's not even that economic conditions and laws designed by the wealthy and for the wealthy have gutted the middle class, or that the richest 1% of Americans have gone from taking in 9% of the country's income in the 1970s to 23% in 2007. Nope, it's all our fault, because while the media were breathlessly waiting to hear what we had to say, we squandered the opportunity by bickering, and being selfish, and saying "let them eat cake," and all that.

2. Feeling guilty yet? No? Maybe that's because you're not a lazy librarian. Now, the public librarians I've known have worked very hard for very little money, but Santa Clarita just privatized its libraries and outsourced the work to a foreign-owned company, L.S.S.I., whose spokesperson makes the following winsome pitch about his love of learning in wanting to run the library:
“A lot of libraries are atrocious,” Mr. Pezzanite said. “Their policies are all about job security. That’s why the profession is nervous about us. You can go to a library for 35 years and never have to do anything and then have your retirement. We’re not running our company that way. You come to us, you’re going to have to work.”
See, what regular librarians with a living wage and pensions do is "never have to do anything." What his workers will do for a pittance, besides enrich the pockets of investors and retire into poverty, is "work."

3. Still not convinced that the economic downturn is the fault of the college-educated middle class, with special guilt points if you're engaged in trying to keep knowledge alive? You're supposed to die if you're over 50 and don't have a job; everybody knows that. The conservative columnist Megan McArdle will show you the error of your ways in The Atlantic, but I'll let alicublog recap her two most recent posts for you:
4. Actually, the one person who seems to get why they hate us and say so honestly is Warren Buffett. From the New York Times, 26 November 2006:

“There’s class warfare, all right,” Mr. Buffett said, “but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

Too ranty? Maybe I should take this down. Let me know.

11 comments:

Roxie Smith Lindemann said...

Don't you dare take this down. Time to take off our hairshirts and speak the truth. Sing it, sister.

Nicole said...

I love Warren Buffett.

p.s. Let me know where I can get my graduate student to exploit. I had no idea I was supposed to have that privilege. What else have I been missing as a member of the marginal overclass?

brandontheweaver said...

Please leave this post. Perfect.

Carl said...

This is fun, and true. But a novel like this, with radiant heroes and black villains, motivated by high altruism and abject greed, although it might flatter many prejudices and sell like beanie babies, would not make the syllabus.

I like the novels where the leading characters are sympathetic in many ways but also realistically confused and self-defeating.

Dr. Koshary said...

Keep. It. Up.

In all sense of the expression.

Clio Bluestocking said...

Amen!

Maggie said...

Keep it up! I loves me some quality internet rant.

(my word verification is kilfalsi. Coincidence?)

undine said...

Thanks, Roxie! I'm a little sick of the hairshirt, myself, and would rather have some sensible women's clothing from you-know-where.

Nicole, you'd think we were each issued a graduate student to exploit when we sign a contract. I know what THB means, but come on!

Thank you, brandontheweaver!

undine said...

Carl, you're right, although I figure if there's a place for novels with characters who suck blood from victims, this dramatic post would fit right in.

Dr. Koshary--I will try!

Clio Bluestocking--thanks!

Maggie, rant is what the internet does best, although recently it's all been against us (hence my rant in response)!

profacero said...

This is a great post. Keep it up.

Leslie Bary said...

Cf. Giroux: http://www.truth-out.org/when-generosity-hurts-bill-gates-public-school-teachers-and-politics-humiliation63868