Friday, December 29, 2006

Upon the Notion of Externalities


Welcome to Philadelphia, Friends, where black is the new black, plain is the new attractive, rich is the new smart and it all just seems so goddamn familiar it's like switching back to the right hand.

In short, Welcome to the annual convention of the Modern Language Association.

We know we've been gone for awhile, and we know that you're expecting all sorts of snide observations about the smug mystification of academic "radicals," about literature that is subverting, resisting, third-space-of-critique-opening, all sorts of gerunding in the face of manifest social, sexual, racial, and economic inequalities.

You've come to expect it from us, haven't you? If you wanted an informative piece on the MLA that included wacky paper titles, you'd go to the New York Times. If you wanted to know where to get a first-class cauldron of Belgian-style mussels, you'd look -- well, okay also the New York Times. You come here not to learn, but to remember what you might accidentally have misplaced.

Our admittedly lucrative job, therefore, isn't to report, to deconstruct, or even to entertain. Our job in these moments is to remind you that public universities have demonstrably joined their private counterparts in working as engines of inequality, to remind you that "ad hominem" is a satisfying fallacy, but that -- nevertheless, Friends, never-the-less -- people with pensions and portfolios don't have much interest in changing the way business is conducted.

We further trust that you recognize how openly, strongly, and insistently we include ourselves in all of these indictments.

So why do we come here every year? Not for the job opportunities, we can assure you. For us there are none, or at least none that aren't indexed to the manifest and admirable talents of Those We Keep Close By.

No, we come here every year because sometimes the Swill needs to be reminded of things. We need to be reminded of all the research we could have done but didn't, all the articles we might have written but wouldn't, all the thoughts we might have but won't, the people we might know but don't, the conversations we're having that we wish we weren't. The MLA serves for us as a mnemonic string -- no, make that a tourniquet -- that we tie around our index-finger anually, to remind us of how quickly our life is slipping away, and how we're not ever sure if we want to retard or accelerate the process.

But we're not going to complain, we're not going to indict, we'll neither denounce nor announce this year's convention. Why? Because it's the opportunity cost for living a life of relative ease and comfort, no boss on our back and no real back in our labor, if you know what we mean. On a daily basis, we are able to avoid confronting what our lifestyle in academia truly costs, because we externalize most of it and sublimate the rest.

But this year, we're also reminded of something positive: that we can indulge our own decadent sensualities and support skilled Minnesota craftsmen and craftswomen doing their Unionized best to ease the pain of everyday life. How? With a pair of Red Wing Model 875s, $148 with tax. Lifetime boots, friends, that are simultaneously classic, cutting-edge, cozily familiar and shockingly styslish. As an added bonus, there are no fingernails of Indonesian 12-year-olds to be found stuck in the tongues.

Expensive? Not at all. Red Wing Shoes and Boots are just one of those increasingly rare moments in American consumer capitalism when you are allowed to confront the full cost of your comfort.

We're not sure whether or not you'll hear from us again in this Foulest Year of Our Lard. We don't have the stomach to look back on what we have done, much less on what we did nothing much to prevent in 2006.

But do know that, through all the bile and guile, we will have loved you all.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, this hand wringing, self-indicting isn't serious, is it? The people who make those boots would never benefit from all those unwritten articles, nor do they from the work of those MLA attendees: it's a blackhole of irrelevance.

So, whatever you do to help scrape away the mortar between the bricks of your prison or anyone else's, hoo-fucking-ray.

Handwring no longer: As I get old I feel guilt less (not guiltless, mind you) and focus on practicalities more. The realm of sense and possibility.

11:41 AM  
Anonymous Chirch van Crash said...

For someone who so despises the MLA--and I don't blame you--you sure copped out on a lot of cool fun to suffer though it!

CvC

10:52 AM  
Blogger Swill to Power said...

What can we say, Professor Van Crash? Around here we have a couple of friends named "Sacrifice" and "Duty."

We'll introduce you sometime, when you're done hating America. And be careful what you say to us: you're just one email away from being individual-ready-surged right into the goddamn desert.

10:59 AM  
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