Thursday, February 10, 2005

Why This Country Sucks (cont.)


My generation (30-somethings) will chiefly be remembered for its narcism, fecklessness, and irrelevance. I am especially talking about the educated elite among this group, who after a premier college education that cost their parents over $100,000, could think of nothing better to do than, cozy up to the establishment. I am thinking primarily of all the creative types who instead of pursuing their vision rushed off to Hollywood to make a bundle producing pap for the masses; the intellectual types who chose to become part of a completely corporatized media; and potential political leaders who became "insiders," Machiavellian spin-misters who see politics as purely about the acquirement of power, and not a public service.

I went to Harvard and look back with a certain anger about how careerist everyone, including myself, was. Summers were about lining up internships at high-powered firms; students regularly crowed around the dinning room table about their networking abilities. The intellectual scene, meanwhile, was vacuous. If you did care about ideas, well then, that meant becoming an academic and rather than that choice leading you to find your intellectual passion, it sent you off to find a niche for yourself so that you could begin the process of marketing yourself to graduate schools. Those niches would be defined so narrowly, you were basically committing yourself to a career of studying minutia for minutia's sake. But this, everyone knew, was what the academy required.

I know that places like Harvard have always served to groom young people to take their place in the establishment, but what I can't get over is our hypocrisy -- we all felt we were radicals, deconstructing everything, upsetting all of these societal mores about gender and race, even as we actively took steps to take our place humbly and quietly in the establishment. I am writing a play about this right now -- the senselessness and inutility of this supposed revolution. Why did I waste my time in school with all that nonsense?

(It is a great irony, I think, that the ascendancy of both feminist ideology and deconstructionism in the academy has happened simultaneously with the increasing corporatization of the university and an increasingly asphyxiating professionalism in the professorial ranks. So these scholars might want a revolution in the outside world, but in both their personal lives and in their conduct at work, they are quite conservative).

Let me add a final word about the people, again now in their thirties, who went into journalism. They are overwhelmingly affluent, attended prestigious suburban schools (public, but with the resources of a private school), and typically only know about life as it is lived in small elitist enclaves in the Northeast. These people went into journalism because it was prestigious, and dreamed, accordingly, of being Washington reporters, as close as possible to the workings of power. They are consummate insiders, and their view of politics is as a process or game. What fascinates them is power -- how it works, whom it dispenses with, whom it rewards -- and not with morality. They don't assess power from a moral perspective, i.e. how it affects people, whether it serves noble ends. They in fact don't give a crap about what is right or wrong. Instead, they focus on who is winning the power game, or what a politician needs to do to win, come back, and so on. They write and chatter on endlessly about power as if it were an ends in itself, not a means to achieving a moral, just society. And meanwhile, Rome burns.


Blogger Brooklynlib said...

As one of the effete, elite liberal journalists that Goodman is blasting, I can only say, "Hooray, Mr. G!" Goodman has, again, peeled away the thin veneer on our major institutions and, while doing so, spared no sacred cows (not even himself). When is America going to start listening to its most vital social critics like Goodman?

3:33 PM  
Blogger Dr. Ariew said...

I salute Goodman for his insights. He's pegged the problem: elitist, Starbucks drinking, po mo talking, multi-cultural, pseudo-intellectuals are running and ruining our Universities. Bring back discipline, hard work and the good conservative values that made America strong. I'd like to see some of these patsy college kids have to go through ROTC training!

4:07 PM  

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