‘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!