Thursday August 17, 2017

I act like others know something I don’t know. And vice versa. I become uncaring and detached. Hiro Kone’s “Less Than Two Seconds” returns to me a sense of direction.

August is always the cruelest month. When I arrived Tuesday morning to the first of several all-day faculty and staff meetings — events where my coworkers and I are forced “captive audience”-style to listen to the euphemistically-titled “president” (rather than “boss” or “CEO”) of the institution where we work wax on about vacuities like “excellence” and “grit,” I quickly found a seat and prepared to cast elaborate hexes on those I hate. Above me stood the usual theater-sized screen (adorned, naturally, with American flags on each side of the stage); but rather than begin with slides featuring self-aggrandizing quotes from corporate leaders, as has been the tradition in years past, this year’s presentation began with a video of a five-member all-male black song and dance troupe covering Bell Biv Devoe and Boyz 2 Men hits from the 1990s against an unchanging solid white background. Message received loud and clear, I thought to myself: this is apparently all my institution can muster as far as “valuing diversity.” In all other respects, the presentation was exactly what I’ve come to expect: a near-endless rehearsal of credentials as the institution welcomed new hires; a near-endless rehearsal of financials to assure us that “all is well.” “Growth mindset,” we were told, “is in our institutional DNA.” The president waddled across the stage stating, “Life muddies you up, grit, faithful courage, value in global marketplace, blah blah blah.” To survive such events, I deliberately zone out and find joy whenever possible. Later on, some bullshitter from a company called “Generational Insights” provided a bullshit cart-pulls-horse account of labor-management relations, suggesting that “individualistic Millennials” are the ones demanding precarious workplaces, rather than precarious workplaces producing the individualistic mindsets of Millennials. I love it when corporate schmucks in ill-fitting suits complain that others in our society lack empathy. And yet, to either side of me, lemming-like coworkers of mine from business and sports medicine laughed at each of this dude’s potted one-liners. What can I say: you can’t judge a fish by looking at a pond, but cluelessness abounds these days in the groves of the corporate pseudo-academy. The Left may have embarked on a long march through the institutions following the impasses of the 1960s — but those institutions in many cases are drifting rightward again day by day.

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