‘Only to Surrender’

I’ve been called naïve before.  More than once, actually.  A LOT more than once, if I’m honest.

I’m okay with that- because the criticism usually comes as I discuss a person or an idea that I admire/appreciate but that may not quite fit with the ‘common wisdom’ (such as THAT may be) that is floating around out there.

Those of you who have been hanging out and listening to and chatting with me hereabouts are aware that I’m in the (ongoing) process of trying to figure out an appropriate and workable way to make my voice- and the voices of other likeminded people- heard about things that I deem extraordinarily important.  Things like education.  And fairness.  And decency.  And accountability.  And doing away with ‘expediency’- political or economic as a cure-all, default motivation.

I’m also in search of a more rewarding job (more money would be nice, yes- but my primary goal is to find something more philosophically/existentially rewarding).

Most of the job postings I see these days are sales positions.  They may not call them that, but that’s what they amount to.  ‘PR’.  ‘Communications’.  ‘Community Coordinator’.  ‘Community Outreach’.

I don’t want to sell people stuff.  I don’t want to be ‘marketed to’- so the thought of marketing to anyone else really makes my skin crawl.  I can’t stand the minutiae involved in choosing one inane option over another inane option.  I really don’t want to be the person gathering the info about inane preferences, nor the one trying to influence anyone in deciding which inanity to go with.

I’m over the commodification of this here society of ours.  I don’t pay attention to commercials (unless they’re funny or have cute animals in them- and even then, I can rarely tell you what they are advertising) since I tend to make my buying decisions based in information I can glean for myself- rather than that which is fed to me by the marketing companies and advertising agencies.  I do take advice from people I trust, but please believe me when I tell you that people who call me on the phone or accost me on the street/inside stores are not members of that particular group.

Competition drives the economy.  I get that.  So having people around who are willing to shill for the various sides in all these day-to-day competitions is a necessary function of industry and society.

I can opt out of that.  I don’t feel pressured one way or another to buy anything these days.  If I like something and see a need for it- or just find it beautiful or interesting- if I can afford it, I will make a purchase.  No biggie.  Having someone tell me that I HAVE to have this ‘next big thing’, or paying any sort of attention to celebrities who are paid to advocate certain products… Yeah.  No.  Thanks but no thanks.

I’m not easily influenced.  And once I like something, I tend to stick with it until something happens to shift my loyalty.  And that something generally has to be fairly cataclysmic.

None of this is to say that I don’t appreciate nice things and that I’m not interested in getting value for money and something that is going to serve me well for a long time.  All those things are important aspects of being conscientious consumers.  And if we must be consumers (since I’m not about to go off-grid in the wilderness somewhere, I’ve resigned myself to that reality) I do my best to be as aware as I can about the impact of the choices I make.

I quite firmly draw the line at the concept behind making ideas- and the sharing of those ideas- a commodity.  While I realize that I should be able to command some sort of monetary recompense for the knowledge and experiential application of the learning that I have received and achieved, when educational systems are being designed according to business models, I have to protest.  LOUDLY.

This was a key aspect of the discussion to which I contributed on The Current a few weeks back.  As happens in radio, full interviews are edited for time and content (and to ensure that the participants stay on point- as much as possible, anyway.  Producers/editors aren’t magicians), but part of the conversations not heard in the broadcast dealt with this very matter.

Dr. Elizabeth Hodgson discussed programmes that she has been instrumental in implementing at her university (UBC) to help doctoral candidates gain ‘real world/practical’ experience in advance of graduation, demonstrating the ‘marketable’ skills that are gained through the work involved in the pursuit of a doctorate in the Humanities.  This programme was instituted, in part, because of the dearth of tenure-stream positions being offered as universities- particularly North American universities- are placing increased emphasis on the importance and value of those in administrative roles in the university system, over those doing the actual teaching and research.

Dr. Lee, on the other hand, seemed to see no issue at all in this move to make universities all about the business of profit rather than the business of education, or the manner in which university teaching has been commodified.  And, with his own background originating in the business world, he seemed quite intent on placing the onus for the lot of the adjunct professors in their own hands- seeing as they chose to study the Humanities, rather than something of ‘marketable value’.  That he is also a politician shouldn’t have surprised me.

I might not be directly part of that world any longer, but since the broadcast I have tapped into a number of groups that are attempting to raise awareness and work toward change.  The issues have done some trending on Twitter and the subject is being discussed on news groups in any number of forums.

Still, as I noted yesterday, I’m pretty sick and tired of defending the ever-increasing NEED to study the Humanities- especially to those who will never get it.  That doesn’t mean I’ll stop doing it, of course.

It’s too important.

I’m honestly not sure how best to do so, though.  While I could listen to the siren call of marketing advocates the world over and resort to those sales tactics that seem to guarantee persuasion and purchases, I’m not sure I have it in me to do so.  Since my preferred modus operandi is discussion rather than debate, I wouldn’t be all that adept at polarizing the issue(s)- a requirement, evidently, if you’re looking to catch the attention of the masses these days.

See, my lifelong-and always continuing- studies have taught me to think critically and to examine situations and arguments from ALL SIDES before forming opinions.  And that forming an opinion requires work and analysis as opposed to blind adherence to a talking head and/or the denigration of dissenting views and those that hold them.

On a wonderful- and very much under-valued– album many many moons ago (Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones Ltd., 1967), the Monkees sang a song (written by Craig Vincent Smith) about the transient life of a travelling salesman.  It remains one of my favourite songs from the album- with Mike’s folksy voice at once celebrating the life of the traveller and yet hinting at the underlying sadness of his existence.

‘Salesman, as the years go by,
People changing every day
Hey, salesman ’til the end of time you’ll be livin in the same way
You always wear a smile, you love ’em fast and you live wild
Short life span, but ain’t life grand?’

We shouldn’t have to sell the importance of a balanced and experiential education.

‘Sales’ isn’t for me.  In any of its forms.

But neither is this:

‘I’m going to be a happy idiot
And struggle for the legal tender
Where the ads take aim and lay their claim
To the heart and the soul of the spender
And believe in whatever may lie
In those things that money can buy
Thought true love could have been a contender
Are you there? 
Say a prayer for the pretender
Who started out so young and strong
Only to surrender’

P.S.  I know what I said about the whole Olympics-as-soporific thing, but HOLY CATS!  THAT HOCKEY GAME!  The maple syrup is flowing rapidly through THIS proud Canadian heart right about now.  SO many CONGRATULATIONS to the Ladies.  And fingers crossed for a repeat tomorrow, Gents!

26 comments on “‘Only to Surrender’

  1. Your not naive. Your idealistic. We need more of that these day. Have you tried going to an employment agency or a head hunter?

    • colemining says:

      I have, indeed, Booksy. And when I do- after explaining/defending the skill set I have as a result of the successful completion of my Ph.D., almost 10 years teaching/research experience and 5 years in admin/business writing/editing- they generally tell me that I am either ‘over-qualified’ or ‘not specialized enough’. It’s frustrating, but one must keep on plugging away at it all. Thank you for the support. I’ll find something that fits- eventually.

      Did you get to see that hockey game?!?! So proud of the Ladies!

      • No, I didn’t see it — but I heard about it on the radio. Great news for the ladies…but the Ukraine, that’s where my heart/mind is right now. I’ve had the same experience with looking for a job…that’s why I’m “retraining” and “specializing” (buzzwords!). These are tough times. Keep the faith!

      • colemining says:

        Yes- the situation there is deteriorating with each hour, it seems. Hoping for peaceful resolution asap. xo

        Yes- I’ve thought about retraining- but, since I have a ‘job’ at the moment, I’m trying to do some lateral manoeuvers to see if there aren’t other options. The thought of returning to school… eeesh. Can’t wrap my brain around it right now. Sometimes it still feels like I just graduated.

      • Have you thought about teaching at a college? I’ve friends doing this, and they love it. Their arts background seems to be of value there…If you keep your eyes open, and be true to yourself, I know you’ll find something you love!

      • colemining says:

        I have, Booksy. Actually just applied to a gig at one of the local colleges. There is a lot of competition, though (given the situation with part timers in universities and such), so the opportunities are few and far between. I would love to get back to a formal classroom, but if not, then I will keeping looking for venues in which to share my love of those things I consider to be vital. Thanks for the support!

  2. I have the send mindset around sales, marketing, etc…, which is why I’m so adverse to “marketing” my blog. I decided a long time ago to let it grow organically. I was in the marketing profession for too many years back in the day…it’s almost a trigger for me now. As for my two cents about the job search – the heck with working for someone else! Write a book and start your own consulting practice. Working for yourself has to have more advantages than disadvantages. And you have a lot to offer. I’ll pray, and you make some lists. Between the two of us and You Know Who, it will come together! 😉

    • colemining says:

      Susan- organic is the way to go- in most things in life, as far as I’m concerned. I can’t bear the thought of forcing ideas/impressions/anything, really on others.

      Thanks for the input re. the job sitch. I’m looking into ways that I can make your suggestions happen- but keeping the bills paid in the interim remains a priority. You know I appreciate all you have to offer- be it lists, prayers or just your strong shoulder. xoxo

  3. Dr. W. Kathryn Martin says:

    I am reading about similar concepts in Giroux’s Twilight of the Social: Resurgent Publics in the Age of Disposability: the decline of social responsibility, and corrosion of skills necessary for a functioning democracy commodification of, well, everything. He doesn’t just point out what’s wrong, but points to some spaces where different future(s) may be created. (Okay so clearly I am on a Henry Giroux kick these days and trying to get you on board, but it’s re-inspiring me!)

    • colemining says:

      You know I love Giroux, Dr. W. I have yet to pick up Zombie Politics– asked for it for Xmas but Santa couldn’t find a copy, evidently. Will see if I can find Twilight of the Social instead. We’re definitely on the same wavelength- the three of us.
      Thanks for visiting! xo

  4. Amen.
    The Humanities are the most important area of study, and I vow to see that my grandchildren are exposed to them one way or another.
    Speaking to your job search, I recently went back to work full time for health benefits (I could write a book about the health care situation in the US right now as I deal with it daily), and you are correct that a lot of the jobs available involve some aspect of sales.
    Most jobs require that you apply on-line, so any extra experience or qualities you may have are not even noticed. I applied to an job advertisement that I was “over qualified” for, and the site would not even accept my resume. I then wrote a new resume, literally going through the ad using every term and buzzword they listed, and my resume was accepted immediately.
    Based on your posts, you would be an asset to any employer, in any position. Wishing you all the best, Diane

    • colemining says:

      Thank you Diane- I think I would be an asset as well- just have to figure out how to communicate that more effectively, I guess. In over 5 years of looking for more fulfilling work, I have become a master of using the buzzwords and regurgitating the language of the posting- yet the fact that I don’t have a ‘certificate in communications’ or the like, means that my CV is slipped to the bottom of the pack. I am either viewed as ‘over-qualified’ (hate that term- I only apply to jobs that I see as offering challenges and to which I know I can contribute valuable insight and experience, so I’m not sure how ‘over-qualification’ would be an issue) or my degrees aren’t specifically what they are looking for. Even though my skill set generally is exactly what they’re looking for. Ah well- onward and upward. I am nothing if not persistent.
      I LOVE the fact that you are encouraging your grandkids to discover the value of the Humanities. It is so reassuring to see that there are people out there who are well aware of the importance of knowing our histories and stories. Thank you for that, too.
      Have a great weekend!

  5. lennymaysay says:

    “I’m not easily influenced. And once I like something, I tend to stick with it until something happens to shift my loyalty. And that something generally has to be fairly cataclysmic.”

    Sadly, I am. But only by gadgets which I soon discard for more gadgets.

    • colemining says:

      Lenny- I’m not into the gadgets (my phone is pretty much the epitome of ‘not-smart’, for e.g.) but I will take the time to research and then learn those that I do decide to buy. I get very frustrated pissed off when I do invest the time and money in something- only to have it rendered intentionally obsolete in a matter of months, so if I find something that works well for me, I tend to stick with it.
      Thanks for reading!

  6. I think you may be looking at marketing as a profession in the wrong way. Instead of approaching it from the consumeristic view, which I admit can be quite distasteful, why not consider the idea of using marketing as a means of educating people about something you care about and believe is important?

    There are PR-type jobs with organizations that serve purposes with loftier goals that getting people to buy more, more, more. I complete agree that the need to study the Humanities is one of utmost importance. As you well know, there are entities that are more or less devoted toward this goal: musuems, universities, nonprofits, smaller publishing houses, etc. Given your way with words and your desire to ensure that Humanities remain a vital component of education and life, there has to be an avenue for you to use your talents – if you were of such a mind.

    I may be wrong, but what many Humanties-type operations lack are individuals with the communications skills that enable them to connect with many potential consumers. Too often, written material disseminated by these entities are either geared toward high-brow intellectuals, potential big-money donors or school-age groups. That leaves out the bulk of the population.

    Take it for what it’s worth, but I’d imagine you’d do a pretty good job at “selling” the merits of, say, a Toronto fine arts museum or quality-production publishing house.

    • colemining says:

      CBC- all points well taken. I have been involved with my local (and world class) museum as a member and volunteer for years, and I have investigated- and even applied for- jobs that have included elements of PR and certainly fundraising. Unfortunately, none of said positions really seem to focus on ‘advertising’ the larger benefits of support of the institution- it’s all about encouraging people to get their names up on a wall (or the equivalent) rather than for the promotion and development of new projects and exhibits. I have spent years as an unpaid PR person for the ROM- and do so happily (I LOVE that place)- just can’t seem to convince them to put me on the payroll…

      The non-profit world is a hard nut to crack- here in TO, anyway- and is one of the ‘industries’ that seems reluctant to even look at my CV since I haven’t got a degree in ‘communications’. There are a number of organizations to which I would happily contribute my voice and talents, and I am not completely adverse to ‘selling’ the merits of groups that I feel are deserving of exposure and promotion (and support- be it financial or otherwise). Doing my best to maximize my connections/networks in this direction, but the online applications process seems to be working against me.

      I very much agree that there needs to be a balancing of the necessary evil that is the consumer culture and the furtherance of institutions and organizations that support the Humanities- I’d love to find a position that would permit me to help bridge that gap. I’m constantly on the look-out, believe me.

      Thanks for the practical and insightful suggestions- I appreciate your input greatly. And thanks for reading.

      • I understand your frustration: too many nonprofits are focused first and foremost on raising money, rather than educating, serving their purported purpose, etc. I could never be a fundraiser, so I understand your frustration. Part of the problem, in my view, is that people who write for a living are undervalued, and everyone, especially people who sign paychecks, thinks they understand marketing.

        Most people are, at best, mediocre writers, and, judging from the way companies and other entities market themselves, most people don’t understanding marketing. Good luck convincing them of that, however.

        I wish you luck in your endeavor. I do feel that someone with brains and talent such as yourself can eventually find a niche. I know it took me a long time and a lot of frustration.

      • colemining says:

        Yes- and most of the non-profits I’ve had dealing with are so top-heavy with executives/employees one has to wonder whether any of the funds raised are going to the underlying cause… I agree that most people think they can write- and a lot of them are sadly mistaken. Again- another of the values of the Humanities education…
        I’ll take all the luck and good wishes I can get, but I very much believe that I will find my niche- eventually. It’s been 5 long years of searching (thus far), but I’ve learned some valuable lessons and met some pretty cool people along the way.

      • I live in Columbia, S.C., a medium-sized community – metro area of maybe 300,000, and that’s a wide-ranging metro area – and the United Way here has more than 50 employees, at least that’s the ones they’ve posted on their website. Even if you only paid each of those folks $20K a year, which isn’t the case, that’s $1 million a year. That’s not to say the United Way doesn’t do some good things, but too many nonprofits exist first and foremost just to exist, rather than solve the problems they were created to solve.

      • colemining says:

        And it’s stats like that which render the whole business of non-profits suspicious to the general public. I know people who work in executive positions and non- and not-for-profit organizations who pull in salaries well above the $100K mark- which isn’t to say that people with necessary skills and demonstrated strong performance and returns shouldn’t be adequately compensated- but there does seem to be a pattern- in some organizations- of top-heavy management that leaves me a little concerned about where the funds being raised are actually going.

        It’s actually similar to the issues in our university systems- in which administrators are receiving huge salaries while the greater percentage of the people doing the actual teaching and research are barely making ends meet. Something is broken. Not sure how to fix it, but I’m trying to educate myself as much as possible to see if there’s anything that I can contribute.

  7. Do you believe in serendipity, synchronicity and all that jazz? I do. I swear you have written tonight my thoughts that I’ve just posted in poetry. Cole, there is a very clear path for you. And I see it! Because I think it’s also mine. Unfortunately, not the exact job. That’s always a bitch. But. You have mentioned education so many times in this post. And naivete. And marketing. And…. I want to go on but I’m excited and I won’t make sense. Not when I’ve got the bit between my teeth.
    I think I may need to email you on this. Everything I have read in all your posts tells me you are a pivotal influence in what is going on re education and politics. We spoke not so long ago on what we thought we could do to help change things for the better.
    I have something afoot at the moment re education. On a personal level. But kind of scary in terms of where it looks like it may go. Politically wise. Slightly worried on how it may impact on my job. But can’t not do it.
    You have wonderful responses here to your post. People who understand.
    Education is the tool. And I’m finding kids all over from testing that can’t read worth a damn. It almost looks like a conspiracy to keep the masses uneducated, unable to read or question. I’m not into conspiracy theories, I have to say. But, jeez, when our kids can’t read effectively what chance do they have? How may they influence anything when they can’t read worth shit? This is not small by the looks of what I’m discovering. Education is key. The humanities are vital.
    I’m sorry. I’m not making a lot of sense here. But truly, keep an eye on education and politics. Not the usual routes. Something alternative. Something that reflects who you are. Maybe creating your own niche? No one else is going to offer this or embrace it because it is controversial in terms of how education is panning out and being governed.
    Shit, I wish I was making more sense. Let me get my head together on this, speak to someone else and get back to you. A couple of days maybe? I’m trying to get my own head round it.

    I’m not a loon by the way! This is just so exciting and scary! And, from what you’re saying, and I’m reading and thinking a way forward that we’ve wondered about. Maybe. x

    • colemining says:

      A-M- You BETCHA I’m all about the synchronicity. Written more than one post about that very thing… Now you have me all intrigued and goose-bumpy!
      I’ve said the same things before- and I’m definitely NOT a conspiracy theorist. There are people writing about this stuff- how a lazy/bored/uneducated population feeds a system that enables the power elite to remain the power elite- with loftier degrees and far more influence and audience than I can command. We aren’t making this shit up.
      You know I’m looking for that niche- and the best approach (one that permits me to remain true to myself)- and working with people who are on the same page? FANTASTIC way to get things rolling.
      Get the thoughts together and send me a message at coleminer243@gmail.com – no rush but I eagerly anticipate talking about this further.
      Talk soon. Enjoy the weekend! xo

      • You too. I’ll be in touch. if anyone closes down the internet we’ll know they’re onto us! No conspiracy here. but minds across the world. Working in synchronicity. All for a reason. Without a doubt. Hugs. x

      • colemining says:

        While ‘conspire’ has developed negative associations, its original sense- from the original Latin via Old French- includes ‘to agree’ and ‘to unite’. The word is rooted in the combination of con– ‘together’, and spirare– ‘to breathe’. The latter is also the root of ‘aspire’ and ‘spirit’.
        Conspiracy can be good. Let’s start conspiring…

  8. Ste J says:

    I find it strange that disposable income is low but the need to sell us what is essentially crap with a nice bow on it is such an obsession. If the product is good then it will out. I think more peole are tuning out of anything to do with selling these days. I tend not to push the blog because it feels pretty abhorrent to me to even do that. Although I am sure there is some flawed reasoning in that.

    • colemining says:

      Yes, Ste. J. There is a pretty obvious disconnect between income and the persistence with which companies market unnecessary fripperies as ‘must haves’.
      Your reasoning may be flawed, but mine is the same. I have a pretty firm conviction that I will find those willing to engage in discussing the things that I find important without pandering and ‘selling’.
      Thanks for reading!

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