I moved out of my summer sublet into a more permanent apartment in one of the outer boroughs of New York. It’s a nice neighborhood, not too shabby but at the same time not gentrified. The weird thing about walking around in the neighborhood is that it makes be realize how bizarre my life is, and by extension how bizarre I am. This is the “real world” far away from the halls of academia, and just looking at the pizza place and the cheap restaurants and the people on the sidewalk talking. the physics department of a major university and the subtle academic hierarchies seems like a strange bubble.
I’ve been thinking about theories of warfare as I’ve been lugging stuff across New York City. One important element of warfare is to establish a base area and to maintain lines of supply with that base area. Without a base area, you are constantly on the move, and being without a place that you can sit down and think this becomes very exhausting, as does trying to move furniture from one place to another. One reason I haven’t been blogging much is that my access to computers has been limited because I haven’t had a semi-permanent room of my own for the last several months. I’ve also been thinking about Anthony Cordesman’s point in the CSIS that even if the US wanted to pull out of Iraq, this would take time because there is simply so much stuff there.
One other thing. Books are heavy. Also without an address, you can’t have people send you books.
So now that I have a base area. What do I want to think about….. Let’s try with out to destablize the academic systems. When I was in high school, I absolutely hated the cliques and the social ladders. Little that I know that I was going to be part of a system of cliques and social ladders that was every bit as pernicious as the ones I saw in high school. The thing that I find disturbing about academic cliques and social ladders is that I think something has been lost, which is the idea that social hierarchies are tools that should be used to help people reach their potential and improve society. The problem with academic hierarchies is that I think they have become too closed and too engrained and too out of touch with the real world to have social usefulness.
The reason I find this particularly scary is that we are moving to a “knowledge society” where wealth and power are determined by access to education. What I find frightening is that the rigid and disfunctional class system that one sees in academia will spead to the rest of society, and the scary thing is that I think I’m seeing a lot of this.