Fodder for Kleptocracy

Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: & / Teaching / Society / Social Order / DeGate / DeSchooling / School’s Purpose /

Relating to the already sketched file about schools cloning kleptocracy (if the culture is a kleptocracy (as which civilization is not?), then the school’s purpose is to reproduce kleptocracy), this file adds a reflection for future merging into more chapter-like files.
The late John D. Macdonald’s wrote some pretty damn good popular novels. I think it was in his Condominium that South Gulf Florida developers’ deliberate negligence, corner(s)-cutting, and law-dodging leads to some pretty rough weather: catastrophic. We meet a lawyer who always worked hard and honestly for a firm in which he’s kept employed but only very modestly rewarded as veteran lawyers go. He eventually realizes that his firm, the firm he’s been so loyal to while preserving his “student” idealism, is actively abetting the developers’ frauds: the firm being secretly a junior-partner in the scam. An owner-lawyer finally levels with him: once it’s clear that he’s helpless. He’s told that “every” big law firm keeps an honest lawyer on hand: as camouflage, as window dressing …: a bit of misdirection. That lawyer is never allowed in on the important meetings: the true settings of policy. He’s just a tool: always has been, always will be. (That is: all real lawyers are conscious hypocrites: crooks: thieves: mouthpieces for the alpha-kleptocrats.)
I add what’s further obvious between the lines: if he wants out, there are plenty of other eager young lawyers who’ll be only too happy to take his place: either as sharks or as camouflage.
In John Grisham’s The Firm, a hot young law graduate is hired on terms that seem heaven-sent in their generosity. The firm picks up the young man’s student loans for him, pays him handsomely, give him a ‘Benz, a nice big house … What he doesn’t know (but comes to learn) is that he’s just another schmuck grunt, brought in to replace last years’ hard working idealists that the firm had to … umm … murder. They learned the true nature of the firm, baulked, tried to talk to the fed …
In All Quiet On the Western Front — the movie or novel — we watch young Germans being recruited for the Kaiser’s army, right at the outset of WW I. The recruiters march off with the entire graduating class of the high school. Before a year is up they’re back to take the new seniors a little early, then to take the sophomores, then the freshmen. See? All those others heroes are dead: blown to hell by the “enemy”; or shot by their own officers if they smell a rat. Or gone AWOL (life expectancy: two seconds) … The faith passes to ever younger soldiers until Germany’s manhood is about fourteen on average.

All Quiet On the Western Front
thanx picturenose

In 1967, ’68, ’69 I was teaching English at Colby College. Some faculty members attended a series of silent protests against US conduct in Vietnam by standing on the Chapel Steps. The local newspaper called us “Communists.” We said nothing. There were no interviews, no uncovering of membership cards, no covert propaganda … we were just faculty members and students standing together. Our papers were either amateur or semi-professional to professional papers on the usual academic stuff: Shakespeare this, psychology that. Colby has an outsized English Department, twenty teachers in a school where other departments are manned by one, or two, or three men or women. At the end of 1969, more than half of the department was fired. (The English Department was extra-well represented at the protests.) Boom! Gone.
No worry, the graduate schools were filled with eager young academics, oh-so-anxious to take our place.
I would like to research what happened to the other ten fired that year. Did they just apply to other colleges? Did they learn to shut their mouths and stay off their feet on their next campus? Or did they move into real estate, while the faculty, like the German army, like priests in the Church, like war-torn Buddhist monks, got younger and ever dumber?
When I had my interview at Colby the Department Chair certainly hadn’t told me that they needed a new body because they’d just chopped last year’s new body. Actually, I arrived in 1967 to find myself one of three newbies. Three births, three deaths, a year to maintain a population of twenty? Three the following year? Eleven the next?!?!? That’s not a healthy ecology. note
Did the Church tell monks newly arriving at the monastery that they were there to replace the theologically inclined monks tbey’d just burned for heresy? Did they tell them that any actual ideas about divinity that didn’t duplicate parrot talk — Polly wants a cracker — would warrant burning? Castration? No: the young monks think they’re wanted for their faith, their goodness, their young devotion.
But it isn’t just specialties, institutions, kleptocratically elevated authorities where these patterns hold: human society has long behaved in ways that promote the hack and punish the genius, elevate the clone and enervate the independent. Human intelligence may have been a constant: until we came under the boot of enforced agriculture … then industrialism … then Statist “health”-care … For at least ten thousand years now I believe each generation has been stupider and more craven than the last.
What I did do after my teaching contract was violated? I returned to NYU where my habitual academic violations escalated. Once my turn to speak finally came, after a half-dozen years of my papers never being appropriately assessed, when no professors showed ability to understand my teaching, my superiors interrupted me with unprecedented rudeness. My initiation ritual would never end so long as I remained un-cowed. I’d read and met Illich. I’d founded FLEX. I vowed to teach only through FLEX: never to have any further truck with academia.
Near starvation has been a price I have paid willingly.
Not just in kleptocracy, in human society, the stripes of unjust (socially suicidal) persecution are badges to wear with pride.

Healthy Ecology:
Of course the actual situation was a little more complicated. Colleges hire instructors on short term contracts. The hiree knows it. But the purge of eleven of us violated even existing short-term contracts. I don’t know about the other ten, but I got Colby to pay. They fired me without sensible explanation, they fired me despite just having rehired me for one additional year, telling me how wonderful I was, how the best students worshipped me …
Confronted by a Boston lawyer (his attaché case wasn’t chained to his wrist, but his air suggested that it should have been), they instantly and without protest awarded me compensation equal to the maximum possible fellowship available from NYU.
Politics is one reason for academic purges. Another is plain economics. The purpose of an institutional department is not to do good, not to be fair, not to be the best it can be, but to save money. The Renaissance universities developed a tradition of tenure: literally “holding on.” If the university didn’t gang up to silence you in the first couple of years, then the university was supposed to recognize that it had no right to silence you, period. Recognize please that this issue related to freedom of speech, not at all to job security. There was no job security in the early universities, because there were no jobs; there were roles, some came with a stipend. The typical college teacher made his own living. (St Peter was a fisherman, St Paul a tent-maker. No early Christian thought they had to pay them.) (Mozart’s librettist, Lorenzo DaPonta, taught at my college in the Eighteenth Century. He got a small stipend for teaching the classical languages, Greek and Latin, but DaPonta also taught Italian, French, Spanish … for which he charged his students directly. He also sold booze from his still, owned the campus’s most popular bookstore … Who knows whether it cost him more or earned him more to knock up local wives by the dozen … (Oh, did I say that DaPonta was a Catholic priest?))
Modern tenure is different. It means that if you hire a teacher, you can’t fire them. Almost no matter what they do (or don’t), no matter how incompetent.
Solution: Fire everybody before they can be said to have been there, before they can be said to have earned freedom of speech. But the simplest math will show: you don’t have to fire more than 50% in any given year to keep the budget stingy.

School’s Purpose

About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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