So here’s the fundamental problem, I’m loving my graduate studies, I think they are enriching me intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. I’m becoming a more critical thinker, a better writer, a kinder citizen of the world–ok, none of these are the problem–BUT (heavy and bookish but) I feel like I’m definitely getting reprogrammed, and I’m being shown the Matrix, our societal matrix of power and power reproduction, and I’m being immersed in left wing critical theory and two years from now, I’m afraid no one will be able to speak to me, because I’ll have that wide-eyed look, and I’ll run around going “don’t you see?!”
What’s nice about my intellectual training is that it answers deep questions that have bothered me for a long time. It’s the academic equivalent of my experience of reading Guns, Germs and Steel in the 1990s. I knew there had to be deeper underlying structural reasons for the political shape of the world, and that book provided me with answers that made sense to me and took me away from racist notions of cultural hierarchies. Tonight I’m reading two chapters of Bourgois’ thrilling Righteous Dopefiend and it’s combining theory and reality in a really evocative potent mix. This is good theory. I was trying to slog through more pure theoretical texts that were doing nothing for me, and now I’m reading thoughtful applied photo-journalistic ethnographic work and yes, I’m back on home ground. A place of thoughtful reflection on the meaning of the current social order. A sensitive portrayal of life among homeless heroin addicts in San Francisco. This kind of stuff takes me down the academic rabbit hole of critical re-examination of taken-for-granted knowledge
So as I’m enjoying my reading, “at last!”, I’m also slightly dreading the emerging new me. I’m worried I’ll totally lose the ability to talk to people who haven’t drunk this type of Kool-Aid. Back in Matrix metaphor mode, I’m taking the red pill. I’m taking the red pill and I don’t know how deep the rabbit hole goes. I guess the good news (and the bad news) is that the rabbit hole is me. It only goes as deep as I’m willing to go. Meanwhile my new vocabulary includes exciting new words and concepts with a very small audience. I’ll draw comfort from the fact that I know plenty of PhDs and they can still have normal conversations with me.
We must put a safety protocol in place. A safe phrase so to speak. If you ever hear me spouting multi syllable nonsense in a way that is totally un-relatable, just take my hand and say, “Take a hold of yourself red pill swallower.”