Academics, Economics, Society, and More – Things On My Mind, Series #3

This has been a busy and quick month! I was sick with the stomach flu for a week, had a few full days of medical appointments, and have been working on the final parts of my dissertation, as much as possible. During this time, I’ve had a number of things on my mind, and below, I share those with you. 

  • Part of the anti-intellectualism that seems to exist in almost every corner of our society relates to that people only see the “front stage” or the finished product. When people read my finished dissertation, for example, they will do so in somewhere around 4-8 hours. But, they won’t directly “see” the years and years and years put into the thinking, reading, and writing that produced that 400-500-something page book. Similarly, we see someone giving a lecture and think, “oh, that’s easy” without always realizing the hours put into that lecture and perfecting one’s presentation skills. As a society, we need to give more attention to processes. And we need to constantly remind ourselves that we only see finished products. We don’t see the constant stream of trial and error that happens on the “back stage” and takes lots and lots and lots of time and expertise. The process of creativity is complex, mysterious, and wonderful. 
  • Regular readers will know that I have been fascinated with much of the work produced by Dr. bell hooks. Lately, however, this fascination is shifting, perhaps even declining, because after listening to dozens and dozens of her talks from as recent as a few months ago to a decade or two ago, I have come to realize she doesn’t really ever say anything that new for her. I have gotten to where I can predict what she will say about different topics. She essentially sees everything as good or bad and sees everything through the perspective of patriarchy. Of course, patriarchy is most worthy of concern, but less change will result if we say the same thing again and again. In a recent talk, she made what I found to be a powerful point: that advertising is a means of silencing. By this she means, who gets attention and who doesn’t. She argued (unfortunately, as you’ll see in a second) that her children’s books would be just as popular as Harry Potter if they’d received the same kind of advertising and en masse praise. Out of curiosity, I ordered one of her children’s books–which are hard to find, as most are out-of-print. Happy to Be Nappy simply can’t be compared to J. K. Rowling’s novels. hooks’s Happy to Be Nappy has a positive message but does so in a series of what can probably best be described as very short motivational statements. There is no story and nothing that original. 
  • I’ve also been thinking about the Orlando/Pulse tragedy quiet often. Thinking about this and following the accompanying news took several full days. I didn’t blog about it because I couldn’t think of anything original to say or that I haven’t said before on this blog.
  • Re: Orlando. The tweet below is powerful, has important reminders and implications for how we think about minority groups and historical narratives, and it has really stayed with me, so much so I added it to my list of topics for teaching this Fall. 

  • As we continue to learn more about history and science–astronomy, biology, evolution–we really, urgently need to continue to expand our definition of “life” and to encompass earlier forms of “humans” into our collective understandings of history, time and place, and historical timelines and narratives.
  • Unconditional compassion, curiosity, generosity, kindness, uniqueness, and modesty are, to me, the most important values for a person to have and aspire for. 
  • As a friend and I discussed, I am increasingly concerned that if/when Donald Trump is not elected President of the United States the reaction from his supporters in the form of attacks on minorities will likely be even worse and more prolonged, sadly. It’s more important than it has been in decades for us to all be very involved in making the world and nation safe. 
  • I am also increasingly concerned that politicians are not talking about the near future when unemployment will only grow higher and higher because technology continues to replace humans and we/they don’t put enough focus on education. This video, Humans Need Not Apply, is a must see.

  • Politicians also don’t talk enough about on-going epidemics related to rape, access to the Internet, global warming, access to education, etc., etc. 
  • And why is it impossible to actually talk with a politician?

That’s enough thoughts for now! Thank you for reading. Please share your thoughts. 

Andrew Joseph Pegoda