(Original title:) Insufferable Idiots Academics
So, I know I didn’t blog about it before we left, but Mandy and I are on “vacation” right now. We had considered a long road trip, including the RoboGames last weekend in SFO, plus fun road-trip attractions such as Hearst Castle, Yellowstone (her father lives near there), Devil’s Rock, Mt. Rushmore, et cetera… but decided (primarily because of money) that we would instead go straight to Laramie & Cheyenne, WY where her family and friends live, and come straight back. Not just saving on gas, but on admission to attractions, inevitable hotel costs in SFO (it’s reasonable to sleep in the car overnight at a rest stop in the middle of nowhere, or a WalMart parking lot in a small town, but less so in a major city like SFO), and the additional cost of so many more days of eating on the road (we’ve been eating a LOT of PB&J, but one can only take so much of that…), we decided that whatever much fun those things might be, for less than 1/3 the cost we could still visit her family (I’ve never met Mandy’s mother, and Mandy wants to meet her new niece while still a baby) and buy Rock Band, which has already provided more hours of entertainment than one day & night in SFO (ie: the cost of just a night in a hotel room and a meal for two in SFO). Anyway, we looked at maps a bit and the “fastest” route (per Google Maps, and our own reckoning) straight to Laramie and back is about 2200 miles. So, I fiddled around, got us off interstates for the most part, added interesting stops like Roswell and Los Alamos, NM, and Moab, UT (read: Arches and Canyonland National Parks) to the route, and still came up within 1/2 a gallon of gas of the original 2200 miles, with less stress (ie: aggressive interstate drivers) and prettier views, and things to look at.
Right now, we’re in Laramie, WY, where Mandy’s friends from University live. She did two Bachelor’s degrees here at University of Wyoming, and lived with some of these people for much of that time, so they’re “like family” to her. I’ve met Tessa before, she came to Phoenix last year, she’s pretty nice, we get along fine, we have things in common and can speak intelligently about a variety of topics freely. Today we hung out with her, walked around part of “historic downtown” Laramie together, and had a nice day of it. Tessa’s sister seemed nice, if quiet, as well.
Then there are the others. The boys. Linus and Flynn. We have a lot of shared interests. They do an online comic (I’ve done 12 different online comics at various times, myself, plus collaborated on several others), they’re mac users, sci fi geeks, Linus is interested in religious studies, philosophy, Japanese culture, et cetera, and Flynn is an artist as well… And these are just a few of the things that came up in conversation in a couple of hours today; from talking with Mandy there’s a lot more that we (theoretically) have in common. Even a lot of political and economic ideas, which I rarely can speak about without raising ire. And yet.
And yet, most of the time today, when they got to talking, all I could do was keep my mouth shut.
One might say, “It was all I could do to keep my mouth shut.”
Linus and Flynn are elitist snobs. They actually, and with indignant pride, look down upon … well, probably all of my friends (save Mandy) and most of the people I know, and especially my family. These are people (the whole group of friends, including the women) with at least 1 (sometimes 3+) degrees either done or almost done, and plans to continue getting Master after Master. Linus is, for all intents and purposes, a professional Academic. And he looks down on anyone who isn’t, or doesn’t aspire to be, the same. Linus and Flynn spent several minutes discussing how the Business College shouldn’t even be allowed at University, since it’s “merely vocational training” and laughed off anyone with an MBA as too dumb to tackle a “real” subject. So they’re not just snobs about people without degrees, but even about what subjects are worth studying to get a degree in.
There were many, many times during the course of the afternoon where -presumedly without knowing it- one of them would directly insult me, or one of my family members, personally and egregiously. One’s chosen profession, one’s income level, one’s attitude about success, even in some cases one’s belief that they are capable of success, or the idea that one might react negatively to verbal and emotional abuse from professors rather than expecting it or taking it in stride – all of these were turned into ways to separate and raise themselves up. To “separate the wheat from the chaff,” as they repeatedly put it. If you aren’t an Academic, if you aren’t good at the politicking of Academia, if you don’t aspire to be wealthy (which sounds a lot like greed to me, despite their rhetoric), or even if you aspire to attain wealth through business rather than academic acumen, you are to be looked down upon with scorn, joked about, made fun of, and outright insulted. I guess they assumed that Mandy would hold the same views and couldn’t have married someone outside their magic bubble of Academics and the Elite, so didn’t know they were attacking and insulting me as a person, my path and choices in life, and my hopes, dreams and goals for the future.
There was a time, back when I was in High School and then just starting out at the Community College -which is to say, there was a time before I attended a University- when I talked about being a professional student. When I started college I was poor enough that Pell Grants covered tuition and books easily, and when I still confused an interest in learning with something that might happen -and continue to happen at upper levels- in college/university. I don’t remember it clearly now, but I had a plan laid out that I would recite for anyone who asked me what I was planning on doing or what I wanted to be ‘when I grew up’ that covered getting the gov’t to pay me to go to school until I was overqualified to get a job & then go on full disability for being unemployable. This is actually possible, if you set your mind to it. You can then even continue to go to school, if you like, and the more degrees you have, the harder it is for you to get a job in the real world (since companies want to pay the least possible, and more degrees demand more salary). Except then I got my first taste of Academia, and it was a sour one. I gave them a second chance -two semesters at University- and when they said they wanted to kick me out, I didn’t disagree at all. I wasn’t even interested in the process for getting back in. Apparently, with a show of effort (and with brown nosing & other Academic politics & red tape) I could have gone back without even missing a single semester – this I learned later, when I did decide to go back.
The problem then is the same problem I have now, and it is that Academics live in their own little bubble, separate from reality, separate from the world the rest of us live in. This is a problem with many facets. With people like Mandy’s University friends, there is the way they look down on everyone outside their little bubble, and everyone who tries to break into their secret garden and fails. There’s also the total disconnect between what they think is reality, and what’s actually going on in the world outside their bubble. A whole different set of rules applies, a largely independent set of expectations and beliefs about appropriate behaviour and human interaction exists, and crossing the skin of their bubble is difficult. They make it as hard as possible to get in, for sure, and revel in defeat -people washing out- with a sick schadenfreude that they should be ashamed of. But then, if anyone leaves their little bubble there’s a worse shock, upon learning that everything they worked so hard at perfecting to get by in Academia is sh!t, and they’re about to get f_cked, and f_cked hard, by the real world that their University training totally failed to alert them to.
Yes, I’ve mostly talked to people who 1) were never in Academia, 2) tried to join but washed out of Academia, and 3) transitioned from Academia to reality and now can see what they escaped – because Academics and I generally don’t get along. You can’t explain to them what they’re doing and saying is wrong, because as long as they never look outside of or leave Academia, it’s so-very-right. You can’t tell them they’ve just insulted you for not being one of them, because then they turn on you personally (though usually they apologize to your face and make fun of you behind their backs, like the rest of “your kind”), and because they then tune out everything else you have to say. The only valid response, short of a radical intervention and something akin to cultist deprogramming, is a move to silence. Smile, nod, and minimize exposure. Realise that they have a problem they can’t see until/unless they escape it. Pray for them, calmly recommend that they seek help, whatever you’d do for a cultist or addict, and if nothing else works, just avoid them.
Me, I’m going to go back home, three states away, and continue not talking to (or much thinking about) Mandy’s University friends. And if/when I go back to school (perhaps this Fall?), I’ve got a pretty effective attitude that I believe will get me through anything those Academic @ssholes can throw at me, because I don’t give a sh!t about the piece of paper at the end, I want to go to “Art School” to learn techniques I may not otherwise have thought of on my own, and to learn enough about the politicking to be able to make a living in the “Art World”. Some professors will be good, they’ll be interested in teaching, they’ll have something useful to contribute, and other professors will be Academics. And I’ll deal with them well enough to succeed in their classes, if only so I can get to the next class and maybe learn something from someone who doesn’t think I’m a piece of sh!t for not wanting to be an Academic.
bleh. I’m going to bed. Then tomorrow, we’re moving on to Cheyenne to meet Mandy’s actual family, and sometime next week I’ll head home.