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Works and Days

Liberal Indulgences

October 28th, 2011 - 10:02 pm

Nobel Predators

There are even indulgences for war. Take out over 2,000 suspected terrorists? Keep Guantanamo open? Expand renditions? Bomb a country not a strategic threat without congressional approval? How does one purchase an indulgence for all that? By loudly equating someone else’s Guantanamo with a sort of Stalag, with rendering all the anti-terrorism protocols from 2001-8 as little more than Constitution-shredding. Laureate Obama could bomb Iran — and Harry Reid (“the war is lost”), Sean Penn, and Susan Sarandon would lecture us on the dangers of Teheran’s WMD. Being against war in principle means waging it without worry in fact.

Rarefied Exploitation

Universities are perhaps the best example of this medieval practice. By any fair measure, most are far more exploitive than Wal-Mart or Target. In the CSU system nearly 40-50% of the units offered are taught by part-timers. In fact, the entire California Master Plan of education —UC/CSU/JCs — is propped up by itinerant lecturers, many of whom have PhDs or the necessary terminal degrees. In my 21 years in the CSU system I was often told by fellow senior faculty not to worry about part-timers (I was one myself in the beginning), inasmuch as they were a necessary “cushion,” who could be let go in times of budgetary crises, as a means to protect full professors, noble sorts who usually passed resolutions opposing apartheid and favoring gay marriage in the academic senate.

If one were to study in depth the logic of compensation in terms of hours taught in the classroom across the spectrum — graduate student/part-time lecturer/assistant professor, associate professor/full professor — one would discover huge discrepancies in pay, working conditions, and benefits that were not commensurate with classroom performance or even scholarship. And of course, I am touching only on the professoriate, not the administrative elite, whose numbers have soared to near 1/1 ratios with faculty on many campuses.

But again all such discussion is taboo. The university is a loudly progressive institution and so has bought itself an indulgence that the coal mine owner, retailer, or contractor cannot. So we are left with the near daily appeals from the presidents of our almae matres, appealing in letters and email for cash, citing all sorts of illiberal tendencies in our society that endanger university funding, but never a tad of introspection about the exploitation that props up his university.

Feet of Clay

Somehow Barack Obama became emblematic of all this. The racial reformer seeking equality for the oppressed, after prep school, Occidental, Columbia, Harvard, and Chicago — living in a mansion well apart from the community he organized. The populist redistributionist reeled in the largest sums from Wall Street in campaign history — as the first candidate in history to renounce liberally-inspired public funding of campaigns. The loud antiwar, anti-anti-terrorism laureate become Predator-in-Chief. The green president with the largest of presidential SUV entourages, who rails against private jets with Air Force One and Two in the background — and, crede mihi, will soon undergo a post-presidential global speaking tour via Gulfstream. In defense of Barack Obama, it is hard to lower the seas and cool the planet in this present age of alluring riches that are so easily in the grasp of our technocratic overseers.

The world passed liberalism by once its once noble agenda of civil rights, 8-hour day/40 hour week, overtime pay, disability compensation, fair housing, and unemployment insurance was achieved, and the effort for equality of opportunity became a mandated equality of result. Somewhere in the late 1970s and 1980s, the onset of globalism, the largess from high-tech, computerized breakthroughs, and the vast expansion of government spread such wealth and affluence that poverty was no longer lack of shelter, food, or clothing, but redefined as not having what someone else had (the “1%”). In short, the good life was just too good to pass it up and join hoi polloi in the flesh. And so our anointed purchased their virtue by profession and abstraction rather than concrete action.

But in response to all ossification, a Reformation always follows. And so it will since one cannot preach one life and live quite another, at least for long.

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