What are words without a reader?

I have to be honest: it’s disheartening to hear many unsolicited opinions on how having a PhD, or any form of academic degree really (remind of the once perverse trope of CEOs who were school dropouts only to find out later that, surprise, they come with safety nets in the form of rich dads) will not do anything for your career advancement, especially if it comes from your loved ones. Very often, the idea of this career advancement is related to the very same neoliberalism and capitalistic idea that we all have begun to inherit — that in a very rough summary, everyone’s worth is tied to their jobs, and any job should be making a lot of money, and if you are not making much money, you are the weak link, therefore, you are not contributing much to the society. The insinuations I have heard day to day is along those lines: why pursue study if you won’t make much money anyway?

I have to admit it is a privileged, and somehow shallow, statement to make that you won’t work for money (more than often the phrase ‘will work for passion’ is really a code word for companies to make you work extra mile and not reimburse you anyway). After all that’s literally what jobs are — an exchange of labour for some amount of financial compensation that is equal to that amount of labour. But we need to also think about the fact that intellectual advancement is just as important, and while one does not have to be in academic to do so, some people might want to do so. The system that’s broken here is the one that heckles people for having an ounce of interest or desire to pursue higher education, and then further punishes them with steep study loan that leaves them in near poverty all throughout their lives (I hear heckling here, “you asked for it!”) and the lack of a promising career where they want to do just as great things as they have done while in higher education. How many people who step out fresh of universities, only to be demotivated by the soul-crushing jobs that refuse to even pay minimum wage? Which, some of these, extends for years?! All of this returns to the question posed by Anne Helen Peterson, that I couldn’t stop thinking of: do you actually care about other people?

The next post that will follow, possibly tomorrow, is, despite no one asking, about why I do PhD. I have a lot of answers, but I haven’t given time and thought to sit down properly and articulate them in words. I often froze whenever asked, and ended up answering like, “Because I have some questions and I wanted to find out about them” to which a friend once said, “Bullshit”. Does she actually care about me to say that, you think?

I came across Robin Sloan’s — who wrote Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore — delightfully written newsletter this week and read through the archives, to which I found these excerpts from Week 33:

A record can play in an empty room; a Netflix show can stream while its presumed viewers are otherwise absorbed by their phones. Words, however, cannot do anything without a reader. This is the great consolation, and the great confidence, of writing: that these words I’m typing (now) are being reanimated in a living mind (now).

Thank you for giving these words of mine a piece of your attention.

Some related, some not:

  • People: Yo tech people, we have a problem of overlooking the harms we inflicted upon people and the society with the products we have designed. We need to fix it. Tech people: Listen, it’s not you, it’s me, doing this dopamine fast.
  • I don’t know who needs to hear this, but listen: People don’t fail because they lack resilience; they lack resilience because circumstances have set them up for failure.
  • I’m having trouble revamping my CV for days, of which reasons for these troubles were unclear to me. After putting this post into writing, the reasons are now crystal. Figuring out the roadblock is the first step, fixing it will be next — which is why I don’t worry whenever I find myself procrastinating, because laziness does not exist.

Comment 1

  1. Pingback: Hope is participatory – Two Kinds of Intelligence

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