Landscape organizes everything within sight.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Big Plans

Everyone is calling me today for news of England, wondering if I know whether everyone is safe in London after the attack. I've heard nothing from London, and suspect that everything will return to normal too soon, a handful of deaths allowing Blair and Bush free rein to whatever stupid ideas they aim for next. It should be an interesting weekend to go to a conference on terrorism in Britain. It sticks in my mind as I scour the blog of one of James's friends and find a prognostication of warfare on American soil by August. The last ten years have held a lot of anticipations of radical change from all corners, and everyone seems to be in a mood to speculate about how ill-prepared we are to anticipate any future that isn't just like the past. Even Chomsky says that America is so ill-prepared for revolution that if one occurred now it would certainly be fascist.

So I wonder about what sorts of large, structural changes are ahead, and I find myself anticipating what they might mean for my future. I've struggled with academia for a while, and there are terribly petty little institutional battles about being an academic who might default for politics or the church. So I wonder about mock-ups that start, when the fracture comes, and when people are looking around to build what comes next, let me be there; let the few people who have to make decisions quickly trust me. A friend of James's told me that she was surprised at how despite talent and training, I didn't think I'd be able to do anything that mattered in my lifetime. So I've been wondering about how much my refusal to communicate or dream big or make plans is a decided hesitance about being able to do something in the world, versus primal fear, versus engrained feelings of unworthiness.

I've been struggling with my life as a toy of the meritocracy for a long time. True, everyone wants me to work for their agenda. But they give me precious little freedom for my own agenda. And I do have little faith in doing much until such a break: the professional advice for rebel academics is always essentially, Shut up for another ten or fifteen years until you have tenure, and then you can start whatever revolution you want. I also remember that what I've been saying to my closest friends for years is that the current system can't hold, that no one has clear ideas about how society can or should change, that eventually it will break and someone will start looking for a person to teach and write and preach about the missing bits -- where soul meets politics, where landscape meets culture, how cabals and conspiracies of elites work... All the stuff I study, in short, little as it applies to getting a job in a History Department (yes, I'm doing fine; but compared to where my advisors would like me to be, I'm considered charmingly and perhaps self-destructively eccentric). So the best I can do is maybe drift aimlessly through grad school proper and prepare myself to be that very different and eccentric and strong-minded person when that time comes.

So I was dreaming about big plans last night. Rafts of them. Mockups for structures to be in place when fractures come so that the right people want my advice, so that I give them the right advice. Politics is such a tiny ingredient of making it work, the way I see it unfolding: it's about how individuals are to treat each other, and the kinds of structures in which they abuse each other less.


Blogger Abby said...

I was thinking about you too, though I felt strange saying it. It seemed so crazy and hysterical and stereotypically American to worry about it, and I only know you a little. (I have to say that I do hope in the possibility of random, real connection outside of the right experiences at the right time and the right place. Does this make any sense? I only mean that I hope it's possible to meet people and, pver time, become real friends--even after one has left college. Most of your friends were probably in Cambridge, no?

I also saw an article about the dangers of blogging in one's own name as a grad student via Lawyers, Guns and Money. A hideous department doesn't like bloggers and gosspis about it anonymously on the web site of the Chronicle of Higher Ed.. It made me worry. Be careful.

1:14 PM  

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