Thursday, September 7

À bout de souffle

I sometimes rail against what I perceive as the egocentrism of modern-day academic world; I am then often reminded by others that I am being uncharitable, that the academic person is also human. I agree with that: I do not rail anyway against a person, only his or her action. But then, in a world where everything is personified, actions by themselves are hard to judge for many. I am exhorted even to feel repentant, which I sometimes do, when I feel if I got carried too far away in my vehemence. But then, when one comes across such an interview as given on this page, it takes my breath away by the sheer falsehood on which academic world tries to stand. It is interesting that the person interviewed talks about insecurity among teachers who teach a language but are not the native speakers of that language, and yet, at the same time, she also shows her insecurity about her complete being, by following the usual going-over-ground technique drilled into many a European researcher.

I was once told by a researcher that to be considered with any degree of seriousness, I must cite and cite and cite: go over what all has been already done by whom and when and where, and then proceed to the matter at hand (again, keeping on citing). A careful construction, that is born organically from the Western conception of history, and, further deeper, of time. To add to that, a third party (here the interviewee itself) tells you who the person "showcased" is: no, not her smile or diffidence, not her bolting energy or dreams unfulfilled, but a listing of her memberships, professorships, publications, and medals. The buttress of all these achievements then tells the audience that ok, this person is worth listening to: otherwise, why waste time on listening to someone in this world, when anyway there potentially is a crowd of things to attend to? Interestingly, the same Europe poses itself as liberal: meaning that it portrays itself as not caring about hierarchy and other privileges. And yet, it is in Europe that all kinds of credit matter the most: and hence, finally, the academic ends up fulfilling and enacting a mere role. This again is not unexpected: after all, morality and religion got divided when secularism made its advent in Europe. But, to go deeper, in fact, the idea of secularism (the Western concept of secularism, that is) is itself present in Catholicism: confess your sins to the priest, and then you are free. Man was thus already able to separate the ignoble from his or her being, and then it was but a mere one step to the modern world, where everything has become a role. So, without any pangs of conscience, in fact with pride and arrogance, or even conceit, you do one thing and you are another things.



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