atolnon


A Window, A Light...

...an autumn breeze, and a melancholic humor.


Our Very First Priority
atolnon

There is a very straightforward conversation to be had in America right now. I believe that this conversation is taking place all over the world - I have no intention of putting America in the center of this global conversation - but I am speaking about America because that is where I live, that is what I know, and maybe more to the point, I feel like this is where the conversation has gone awry.

It is this: do people have a right to live?

I don’t believe in God, and so I cannot look to an external, objective source for my answer. In some ways, this inhibits me, because there is no ethical or moral tradition of moral absolutes I can draw on. If I am being extremely literal with my answer to the question, then the answer is that no, people do not have a right to live, because there is no such thing as a “right” in any objective, absolute capacity.

This is why we can ask the question at all.

That means we are forced to decide what our priorities are as a civilization. We get to make a choice. In fact, we are forced to, because even neglecting to take a position is a choice and this is the choice that allows us to turn a blind eye to the homeless, the hungry, the sick, and the refugee from violence and terror saying, in effect, that it’s not your place to make a decision.

Which is cowardice. There is no human being alive or dead who has more of a right to decide than you, right now, what your priorities are for the civilization you partake of and contribute to. There is no way out of this decision.

As a civilization and as a nation - since we are forced to make due with nations for the time - do you think that everyone should have a right to medical care, food, shelter, water, education, and from aggression?

Or do you believe we have more pressing priorities and that we should allow people we could save to die?

That’s what it comes to. That’s the first question you need to be able to answer.

I don’t really consider my writing to be polemic. I do consider it to be theory, with a practical bent, in a way. Let me put it this way - I have seen and understand the arguments people make against things like full employment, universal income, or simply making sure everyone, everywhere has food and water.

These arguments make sense. They come from a certain perspective. Some of them are oriented around the idea that poverty is the material sign of a lack of morality, or are rooted in a personal weakness. These arguments are either disingenuous - made by someone who knows that poverty originates systematically - or they’re founded in a misunderstanding of how Western society functions.

Providing you can explain that to someone who holds this opinion, what you will typically end up with is someone who retains their beliefs, but changes why it is they hold them. Exactly why this happens, I don’t know, but very often the holder of this opinion has something at stake in retaining it. Sometimes it’s material - they tangibly benefit from the system as it is. But other times, it’s the result of a deeply sick world view - this is the case when you see very poor rural whites vote against their disinterest. The morality of their suffering is, to them, rooted in the objective, absolute judgement of the divine.

These are very broad strokes, I know.

So when I write that the problem of poverty - which is a lack of good food, water, housing, transportation, power, etc - is systemic, and that system is made by humans, I’m stating that we have the power to change that system if we choose. So the question we have as a society iswhat priority do we place on ending this material poverty” and not "can we eliminate this material poverty?”

Since that is our question as a society, we can essentially ask the question, “As a society, will we commit to prioritizing providing all of us the things we need for a happy and healthy life, or do we prioritize something else?”

And if you choose something else, we should admit that this is the choice that announces that we are fine with watching people die in order to make sure that other thing is upheld - and in our society, that other thing is almost always the continued profit of the very wealthiest in our society at the expense of the incredible suffering of the rest of us.


Habits
atolnon
I've done some freewriting that I've ended up posting online - and it's usually pretty awful. I mean, you've seen most of it here, so don't worry about having missed it or anything. A lot of times, I think my gist is right, but my follow through is poor, and more often than not now, I've been trying to keep it because I wrote it and I'm trying to kind of build on that impulse in a positive way. I don't know if it's working. Life's funny like that.

In the same way that I've been trying to make a habit of not doing unhealthy things - kind of a negative habit - like eating fast food, drinking too often or too much, going to bed too late, neglecting to clean, and so on, I've started trying to build on healthy ones. So, that's like... I'm exercising daily now, which I add on to little by little, I've committed to writing one page of fiction a day. The house is staying clean. I'm trying to actively strike a balance of work and leisure, and I'm working hard to eat healthy and cut down on meat when I can. My life seems a little cluttered because adding stuff back in means I have to kind of work on rearranging my daily schedule which I have never managed to stick to. Or, I guess I do have one that I've fallen into and it's not quite what I want for myself.

My shit largely gets done, though, so... a little bit more of sticking to it, and maybe I'll get where I want to be. I know that good habits take time.

The thing about writing fiction is just that I'm not actually especially good at it. So I'll sit down to write a page, which is the minimum I've given myself so far, and I do that. But it's not very good. Maybe an individual scene is good, or maybe a paragraph is okay, or maybe a sentence is good but it doesn't lead into anything else, it doesn't connect, it's not cohesive. I really like describing things, I really like dialogue, and I'm really bad at caring about plots and I'm especially poor with transitions. These things are difficult to begin with, but I also think these issues are symptomatic of how I tend to experience the world itself, and I don't know if that's the kind of thing that seems obvious when you know me well or if there's just no way of knowing that just from observing me in the wild. But, it's whatever. I actually have a pretty bleak outlook of how much I'll accomplish with this, since very little typically comes of any of my projects, but you don't succeed at anything by not trying.

(no subject)
atolnon
I've really come to appreciate digital journaling over the years. I do it in places that are typically public, and I guess I don't have to because the biggest thing I appreciate about them is the ability to quickly type something out in comparison to how long it takes to write something by hand, but I've generally felt pretty good about it regardless. Because there are, like, a minimum of three calls I'm waiting on today, and I'm going to have to almost immediately sally out to run errands after one of them, it feels better just to knock out what I'm feeling here than trying to write it out longform. It's nice to have that flexibility.

The insurance company we've been dealing with owes us about 800 dollars, and it's been like pulling teeth to get it in a timely way. In fact, I'd say that it's been months, now. We've been budgeting under the assumption that the money would come in only a little later than initially scheduled (in that we scheduled when it was supposed to come in and assumed that the bulk of it would be at least a month late) and it's later than that, even, so that's the kind of thing you'd learn from if you ever anticipated having to go through it again. Since I'm really hoping we go a truly extended period without having to simultaneously purchase a car while being the subject of a traffic accident or two, hopefully it's nothing I really have to take to heart. I think Rihanna did a song about how one tends to feel in this situation. Something about getting money one's owed.

A friend came in from way out of town and was around for the better part of a week and he managed to stop by yesterday, which was super rad. We're clearly in no shape to go out around town at the moment, so having him be willing to come by the house and have dinner here was really positive, and we were able to just sit around and shoot the shit for a few hours and have a beer before he had to go and Kay had to duck back out and go to class - since he's signed himself up for summer sessions again in order to get art feedback and design space.

Despite how low key everything was and how comparatively good things have been in general lately, last night was filled with stressful, only dimly remembered dreams and I woke up this morning feeling some pretty familiar pangs of really pointless self-loathing and depression. This stuff generally clears up in the late morning, and today was no different from usual, leaving me able to deal with the day just fine - and only be irritated at the usual need for me to sit on my hands and wait for calls from people who owe me a good bit of money so that we can pay our damn property taxes and bills in a timely goddamn way.

I have to tell you - in theory, all of the numbers line up. Providing, of course, that the numbers come in and leave at their designated times, and nobody decides to fuck up the math badly in the interim. It's not as though I do anything the should make things more difficult for us, but it hardly seems to matter sometimes. Quite honestly, the sooner we can get to the next stage of our plans where I'm earning money as well, instead of just tending to the house, the easier I'll sit.

Individualized "Niceness"
atolnon
I know some very nice Republicans.

I mean, they're nice. Being nice is important to them. They're polite. They view this as a personal issue of distinction which is, I think, generally speaking, what the problem is.

The same tends to be true of self-styled libertarians.

Now, this writing is devoted to shitting on them. In fact, I strongly disagree with them in some very fundamental ways to such a degree that I don't interact very much with people that skew much further to the right than people who understand themselves as being liberal-to-moderate. But I will generally acknowledge that, on a personal level, these people can be very... nice.

But I don't trust them very much, and I'm usually glad when they don't have the ability to make very many important decisions that impact others.

The reason why is that no matter how nice the individual is, the right-wing tends to skew ideologically towards the belief of the individual as the arbiter of their own moral authority in isolation, where the state has no call to, as they say, legislate morality. You'll often hear that in absolute terms - one can't legislate morality. This is to say, a law will not alter an internal moral state but still, I think that you'll find that this canard mostly pops up when we hope to pass some kind of law that legislates a positive change that used to be considered the province exclusively of the generous institution or individual. That is, the (a?) church or else what we would call 'charity.'

How strange that we don't consider a moratorium against murder to be some kind of moral legislation in circumstances like this.

That's the mainstream case. Of course, we must be aware at least academically that tax dollars certainly go towards paying for prevention and punishment of murder and murderers. Not to mention incarceration, at the moment. How does this not touch on the legislation of morality?

That's the mainstream case. Of course, we must be aware at least academically that tax dollars certainly go towards paying for prevention and punishment of murder and murderers. Not to mention incarceration, at the moment. How does this not touch on the legislation of morality? Although an opposition to abortion is not universal among people who skew right in the United States, it's still a flagship issue, and the very fundamental of the argument against it is, first, an appeal to the murder of a baby and, subordinate to that, the moral question.

And so on, and so on.

For someone focused on the individual's niceness or kindness - not the same thing, but related - is to focus on the individual's distinction from the common person who, presumably, is less nice or less kind. And so the question for the hyper individualist who is often politically right wing is how they are better as a person than someone who we would assume is less kind. This is also a question of dependance in interpersonal relationships - if you find an individual who is seemingly kind, you must remain with them because you would not be able to expect society to be as kind as this particular individual. If you are weak or without resources, you become this person's dependant. And thus, as the right wing patron would explain to you, you remain dependant on their will until you are - ahem - "strong" enough to make it on your own. Thus, they set the rules.

But they're nice, you think, and they wouldn't abuse that. Except, in truth, the individual who is nice under this construction also reserves, at any point, to rescind this kindness. Kindness is not a universal state, it is a power action - a political action - and if they dislike you or otherwise feel like it, they can withdraw their niceness, because it is contingent on how they feel about you. This is the very nature of individualized charity - it is inherently based on an unequal power dynamic. It is intentionally undependable.

A guarantee of safety and well-being based on your community's guidelines is often opposed because it "forces" people to be kind - hence the resolution that one cannot legislate true morality. What's strange is that society might operate better by the numbers if it were and people who are supposedly kind and giving people already donate or provide certain kinds of charity - so why are they opposed? Isn't this simply a more efficient way of doing what they suppose ought to be done already? That they already very well may do? The concern we see raised here is the concern of freedom for others.

In this circumstance, we always see it phrased as a freedom from a domineering state that seeks to remove personal autonomy from good, law-abiding people who have the god-given right to be terrible, stingy, and not contribute to the larger society. I wonder about this from time to time - if we are good or kind, why are we more concerned about the right to be awful or horde when others go hungry than we are about the right to have a place to sleep and to have food? What about the freedom of the have-nots? Eh? What do kind right-wingers have invested in the right to a hording society? If they are truly nice - though now I recind the word "kind," than I would expect that the rationale is that it is important for them to actually commodify kindness as a type of social currency that they use to elevate themselves among the rest - but it is also political. It is a kindness that applies only when the recipient behaves in a certain way and belong to a certain tribe - it is a kindness that is designed to be rescinded and thus it implies the right to be cruel on demand.

You will understand this behavior when you see it, if you haven't already witnessed it yourself.

The right to be cruel is the right to exercise political will on others, and it exists systematically from maladjusted home life right up to the right to refuse admittance to the country for those fleeing violence and persecution outside our borders. It is not a kindness at all. Niceness is something of a sham - kindness exists from society to all peaceful people or it does not truly exist at all.

Five Days of June, and Rounding in the End of May
atolnon
I just got my tire patched on Friday - fortunately the thing didn't need to be fuckin' replaced and it only cost me 24 bucks instead of 5 or 10 times that. I will tell you - for sure - that made my weekend better. Kay doesn't really rest at all, though. Last Thursday, he worked a 16 hours shift, leaving at 6:30 AM and leaving at 11:30 PM, getting back a little after midnight. There was a day off on the 29th, as you know, and overtime was still made. Like, genuinely, Kay has zero chill, because the weekend was just work at home, too.

Sunday was not nearly so exhausting, though. I was able to go on a grocery run since I was now safely assured my exhaust wouldn't fucking drop off into traffic on a slight bump and my front left tire wouldn't explode. I did fuck all in terms of yardwork, true, but that was because it rained all day - can't be blamed on that account. Instead, I've been doing the incredibly tedious job of backing up and organizing files from the beginning of grad school until right now, which is a huge relief. I'm taking a crack at reading through the tome that is the Exalted 3rd Ed. book, finishing up Narnia (which has been fun, but I'm eager to resume heavier texts for sure), and - painfully - trying to make it through Mr Robot at the pace of one episode per day on most workdays.

Mr Robot is good television - at least from my point of view - so 'painful' might be an odd choice of words, though I assure you it's accurate. The show causes me anguish. It excites my anxiety for an entire day after I watch an episode. I mean, the way it's designed, that feels completely intentional and I think that it's the kind of production that's designed to give the viewer critical insight into Eliot's mental state, but while it's doing its job as intended, for someone who also suffers from anxiety pretty badly, it occasionally feels like something of a force multiplier for the sensation. As someone who's incredibly interested in cyberpunk and the semi-genre of media that's clearly inspired by it, Mr Robot feels like a must-watch - mandatory viewing. As a piece of art, it's clearly doing what it's supposed to be doing - my clearest personal criteria for 'good,' though I guess we'll see how it sticks the landing of season 1.

Every week, lately, our household agenda has just been to clean, clear out as much bureaucratic underbrush as possible, and get our shit in order - nothing about that changes, and nothing about that is likely to change through the entire season of summer. However, positive changes are clearly visible on a week by week scale, and that feels really good.

The 50 Book Quota, and Other Things.
atolnon
I don't post on the weekends - largely because it isn't often I get extended periods of time with Kay, and we had aggressively portioned off the three day bloc as an incredibly low-key kind of anniversary weekend off from outside obligations. We were both in the retail racket when we got married and for the next few years, one of us was working in that milieu so I don't really have to tell you that the weekends were considered somewhat off-limits. We were hoping, eventually, that we wouldn't be and this is the first time in the whole period we've been married that neither of us had to work like a dog over the Memorial weekend. All we really did is clean the house, watch movies, and take walks around the block for three days and it's the most relaxed I'd felt in years, probably.

I'm out of work at the moment. Honestly, it might be that I ought to be looking, but I'm not because if I actually succeeded in getting something in short order, that'd kind of fuck up our living situation and we'd have to scramble to figure out workarounds. I could work a few hours a day pretty easily, probably - I'm thinking 4 is about what I could manage - and still get my other tasks done, but it'd be pretty exhausting. But, what I have been able to do a lot more is catch up on some personal reading since I'm no longer doing extensive research or class reading. I've been recording what stuff I've read since the year began, and I had this kind of far-out hope of maybe reaching a total of 50 books by the time next January rolled around. It seemed pretty foolhardy - there wasn't much of an expectation on my part that I'd hit the mark - so I haven't been worrying about it at all.

Lately, though, my reading list has exploded. Numerically speaking, I've been an unexpected breakaway success. But why? My typical reading for the last two years has either been fiction for grad classes, cyberpunk reading for my thesis, or more typically, lit theory and philosophy. My biggest problems have tended to be that I wasn't sure if I ought to count slim volumes of theory as being books or simply very long essays, and I'd been considering simply making a new category for theory journals and thesis. I'm not really trying to extended my book count artificially, but I'm also not really interested in trying to somehow triangulate a new definition for what counts as a book; it has always seemed pretty obvious to me before.

It was the huge and accidental success of my expanding "Read List" that finally convinced me that there's zero sense in working towards any specific number of books, actually. On Kay's request that I finally read C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia books that were a favorite of his from childhood, I've been working my way through a boxed set, and just finished the fourth - Prince Caspian - this morning. They're clearly children's literature but they have the weight of history saying that they are clearly books - individual volumes - and each one is just one specific book. So I read one and dutifully put it on the list, and my count for books read this month has come up to eight, at a point where I'm not working especially hard to read anything at all - just whatever is nearby.

In a similar way, two good friends are starting a podcast for the Animorphs series where they re-read them all and kind of discuss their thoughts on the matter. I'm participating as an avid reader who was Animorphs-adjacent when I was a kid and just never read them to give the opinion of a fresh, critical reader with no nostalgia factor working on me, and I just know that's going to dramatically continue to inflate the volume of books read. Meanwhile, Manning Marable's Malcolm X or Jean-Paul Sartre's Being and Nothingness both also only count as one book. In years where I'm only reading one type of book or I'm reading a hefty mix of books with the occasional light reading filling in gaps, it might not throw off the numbers too much, but this year is clearly a different story. I think it's pretty funny - I'm counting, but I'm not putting any weight on it any more - and I can still use the list to give me a good idea of what it is that I've watched and read over the course of the year, which is a fun exercise. It's actually really freeing, in a way. Trying to build up a list of one kind of media and hit a target number actually had a chilling element on watching movies or pursuing really complex texts even though I didn't give it a lot of personal weight. Quotas work strange effects on the mind, frankly.

Money often serves as both a means and an end.
atolnon
I feel like I've had pretty good luck ironing out the basics of my pedagogical goals in relation to composition and rhetoric. I have a syllabus from my previous sections which I think would be ready to go with some minor, but meaningful changes to the curriculum. Having time to think on it and do some reading has been helpful, though I don't think I've hit the point where I've read everything that would be immediately useful to me, so it's an ongoing project - and it likely will be for years to come. It's strange to look at that and feel good about it. I really wasn't in a position either materially or mentally to take 100% of the options available to me while I was a grad student, and most of that has to do with anxiety around a new situation or with my financial stability. I'm traditionally something of a slow learner - or at least I'm slow to get started. Anywhere I'm able to stay and get a firm grip on my situation, I do well in.

Precarious financial states have traditionally been what's been keeping us from doing much that's interesting to talk about, and that issue persists even though we're admittedly doing much better. The unpleasent truth is that we're incredibly backed up on basic repairs and bills so that even though the immediate concerns are taken care of, we have lingering debt that we'll be dealing with for a while, and that eats up all of our spare funds. We've done several projections of where we expect to be the next few months - we're not in a particularly abject state, or anything - and we're not going to have much left over. Recreation is easy, since our hobbies are, like, reading, writing, and cooking. If it's not that, we're like, I don't know, taking walks and shooting photos, and watching movies together. So it's not as though our tastes are expensive, but we're also not going on vacation or anything like that for a while. It makes sense to plan for that in the future because if we overextend, it's possible in theory, but our nerves are very bad about stuff like that. Our luck tends to be particularly bad - I tend to think of luck as something that largely pertains to how much you can rely on others to help you in a tight spot or whether you have the ability to easily account for things that go wrong. Thus, the poor traditionally appear to have awful luck, because they're constantly overextended. "Luck" is when bad things don't affect you. Our margins are incredibly tight, and so when something goes wrong, it's not the kind of irritating but normal thing that happens to everyone - it manifests instead as terrible luck.
So that's why even though things are better, we're still holing up here for a while until things are easier.

But that's the kind of issue that manifests when I'm making lists of fun things to do over the course of the year, too. Like, trying to copy my friend's list of "3X+ Quests before my birthday" thing seems like a great way to give myself a direction after I graduate, which I figured I needed but... frankly, I just don't have the money for a lot of this stuff. We don't really have the time or the money to buy extra stuff to go camping, for example. We don't have the money to cook elaborate dinners for five or more people. We don't have the money (or, more importantly, the time) for a road trip. We don't have the money or space for large glass bottles full of fermenting honey. I already have a direction, but writing up a CV isn't a fun quest and getting hired often feels more like an exhausting trial than a fun "quest," so the stuff I need to do and the stuff I want to do doesn't actually get put on the list. So, without the time incentive, it's just a bucket list - full of cool things, but I literally can't afford to have them take priority over the other things in my life.

The truth is often stranger but more depressing than fiction, but dropping the game I was running and dropping the list of stuff to do has largely been very good for me. These things added a really unnecessary degree of stress for me at a point when I'm trying to let myself concentrate on the work that's important to me and, also, trying to decouple feelings of anxiety and guilt to basic activities like watching a movie or reading for fun. I'm trying to let myself watch one or two TV shows a day and do some recreational reading along with my theory. It's actually been really good for productivity, but that's also this weird thing I'm trying to do - decouple associating every action with if it makes me a better worker for some kind of nebulous, non-existent Other. One thing at a time.

FALC?
atolnon

I like the idea of fully automated luxury communism in theory, but in practice it tends to be messy, and I generally regard it as “the singularity,” but for leftists.

The communism angle I get, but not everything can or should be automated, and the things that can be automated are not always things that we would even want to exist in the first place. For example, I guess, although I think consumer electronics have a pretty substantial benefit, we certainly don’t need to turn them out in the numbers we do currently. The same is true for almost everything, really. I’m not an aesthetic, but FALC feels very much like a “First World” idea, and the First World really has to learn to rein in its consumption because, frankly, we’re acting like embarrassing children about it.

So, large scale industrial automation might be fine, but I feel like when people get hype about automation, what they’re actually getting excited about is the ability to never have to work again. And, you know, I like that idea in principle, but it’s really not practical. I’m not trotting out some concept of “work to eat,” because I think that we’re clearly to a point where not everyone has to work, and we can probably make it so that anyone who can’t, won’t, or doesn’t want to work probably doesn’t have to. That’s good! But it seems likely that there will always be work of one dimension or another to do, and I think the idea of FALC tend to bury that.

How do we address that some people will inevitably be working, but there won’t be enough work in the sense of production for everyone? First, I think that almost everyone does work all the time, and a great deal of it is disregarded because it’s not “productive,” so that’s something we need to account for. Even if they weren’t, we’re not leaving anyone behind. That’s why increasing automation is so troublesome for capitalism - because it’s increasingly trying to locate a workforce and offload its waste and product (often just another form of waste, to be frank) to and on new markets. That’s my principle objection to the universal wage in, say, America. It would functionally turn the US into a plantation state where many of us passively receive the benefits from the continued exploitation of the third world. While I don’t really buy into something like Settlers, this really would create a material reality where the proletariat (a term I’m finding increasingly less useful) working classes in the US into those who effectively direct shareholders in every system of extraction and oppression in US-corporate colonial states.

The Musks, Bezos, and Zuckerburgs are thinking ahead, and there’s little doubt that they expect to be the new post-industrial god-kings after this late-stage capitalism gambit crumbles, and it’s generally pretty clear what their agenda is. It’s true that capitalism in the form it has taken now can’t last; heavy automation and digitization have taken an incredible toll on who can be “allowed” to work and what can even be effectively sold anymore. Because they’re in a very good position to simply buy out what’s left of the US infrastructure when the time comes, it seems unlikely that there will be anyone to stop them, regardless of how problematic their agenda will actually be.


From One Dimension of Pedagogy to the Other
atolnon
With the semester coming to a firm close, that's it for degree seeking for a while in this household. It's sort of in the air if either of us will ever intend to go back for any reason, but it's not really consequential to our needs at the moment and, frankly, I don't think either of us want to consider it for at least a little while. We're both very tired.

As always, there's loose ends to clean up, and those ends typically fall into different categories, but it probably suffices to say that Kay's working the financial end of that equation and I'm working hard on the domestic. For a long time, I've subscribed to the notion that just because housework isn't paid doesn't mean it's without value, and it's largely industrial society and the new commodification of capitalism that really kind of creates that notional tendency. That said, at the moment, I am working pretty hard but Kay is working substantially harder - partially because some amount of overtime is mandatory but also because time and a half is too much for Kay to ignore in pursuit of paying off old debts.

This sounds extreme, but it's easier than what we were doing previously, where Kay was attempting to stack a 70 hour work week with two online classes where the teachers literally made no appearances on the forums they said they'd be active on - which left me to read through the coursework and structure a haphazard kind of lecture/study guide/research assistantship along with whatever else I was doing. (Once again, I think it's clear I had the easier job.) I have one minor task left to do that I agreed to and I'm clear on that count. All Kay has, then, is overtime, which is simpler and pays better.

I'm tired so stuff I'd normally do in pen gets typed here instead, but although I'm not really rushing to get into that Summer semester (I was considering it, but Kay made a case for me staying home in the temporary, and I conceded the issue because), I'm kind of rebuilding my syllabus based on how I felt about my first three sections of composition and a rethinking of my pedagogical direction. Not that I want to change course entirely, but that I can maintain a serious degree of rigor while changing my tone, rhetoric, and to a degree, my course load.

On one hand, the actual difficultly level of my course was not something I consider to be especially high, but I do think that my first year writing students were surprised that getting an A was more difficult than they anticipated. I'm not really sure how to take that - I don't really believe getting an A actually should be particularly easy, and not all classes of the same level are difficult in the same way - my largest concern is facilitating growth and maintaining a level of core competency that will at least facilitate a student's progress through their program. 101 seems ripe for me to restructure it towards students understanding their writing goals and audience and be able to differentiate between different writing methods and rudimentary capabilities (email writing is something first-year writers tend to be abysmal at strictly from a technical knowhow standpoint, for example). 102 seems better fitted towards my initial run at basic theory, research, and integration of multiple writing methods to produce a text.

Additionally, and this is difficult so adding this next layer and retaining coherence in the course is an issue, but I tend to believe the writing is an inherently creative enterprise. There is an element of 'art' to it that we generally refer to as style, but in attempting to foster a strong writing style, I see it take a drastic backseat to structure and form - partially because style is hard to judge objectively, and it's already often difficult to make the case to students that composition and rhetoric aren't entirely issues of empty style over objective substance. Threading the needle on this is mostly going to be about how I divide the semester and what kinds of criteria I lay out for the work I'd intend to assign - in composition. I'm in the position of attempting to reverse the curriculum for Creative Writing, making the case that this is a subject that carries over into everyday life more than most people would expect. But, maybe most importantly, I think that if I'm providing the tools and foundation to grow as a writer in either case, than I'm doing the job I'm hired to do. In any case, though, since I have a little time to read up on pedagogical methods, that's what I'll do.

On the cusp of an informational event horizon.
atolnon

Something happened to me a while ago, which feels like forever, but I think was just late summer of 2015 while I was being rammed through a 500-level pedagogy course trying to train me to teach first year writers in two weeks (which is a whole ‘nother story), and it’s where I was told that my Master’s education was frankly worth a lot less than it used to be, because there are a goodly number of people walking around with an English degree now and, moreover, the degrees that undergraduates are getting are worth even less.

Kind of implicit in that whole thing was the underlying idea that it’s unfortunate that so many people are going to school for their Master’s or Bachelor’s, and that really fucking threw me, because it replicates the logic of capitalism so well and so fucking perniciously.

First, because the numbers tend to bear it out. That’s the gross fucking truth, innit? The more people who have an education similar to yours, the less it’s worth on the market, because it drives supply up. This isn’t always how it works, I guess, but in an environment where English departments are struggling for cash and there are hiring freezes, an increasing reliance on adjuncts or especially poor graduate students (which I now kind of feel basically act as perpetual scabs, even if that’s not strictly the case), and so on, it feels pretty true.

I feel gobsmacked, though, that somehow the education itself doesn’t have value to the student in that the knowledge and capabilities gained are somehow perceived as less useful the more people that have them. This has every effect of reinforcing a kind of knowledge priesthood, first off, and second, I just find it super fucking perverse that we actually feel the desire to prevent others from having an education so that our job prospects would be better. There is, of course, the perpetual irony of needing to have someone to teach to make the job worth having in the first place.

There - there’s an excellent example of how the logic of capitalism absolutely doesn’t drive us to excellence.

I see this logic sometimes applied to certain kinds of intellectual property. I think writers are familiar with this - almost anyone with a basic literacy has at least the rudimentary tools needed in order to write, and so writing is frequently perceived as a pretty valueless “thing.” I’ve seen this applied to digital art, and also digital music - the idea that since anyone (and I know not anyone can functionally do this - we can just say that the barrier to entry is much lower than it used to be) can acquire the tools in order to produce the art or music, or whatever, than the “product” has less “value”. I can’t help but think about how ridiculous this is - the amount of something has no effect on what the thing itself is. Literally the only thing that changes the value of the artefact, whatever it is, is the concept of how much you can sell and that turns every interaction, every knowledge, every skill, and every artefact into a zero-sum product.

Why do we choose to live this way if we don’t need to?


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