Saturday, October 22, 2011

Back to the Academic Salt Mines

Our holidays are officially over, so it's back to the grind. Back to work, back to preparing for class, back to teaching, back to grading papers and writing exams, and then grading those, back to answering many, many student emails, back to faculty meetings, back to emails with administrators, back to office hours, back to work.

I shouldn't complain. I HAVE a job. I HAVE a paycheck. I HAVE money going into a pension plan and I HAVE health insurance. I have what many many people yearn for - even more. My job has a lot of autonomy; I can decide (more or less) what to include in each lesson, what to stress and what to leave out. I don't punch a time clock, I don't work in unhealthy conditions. I have time to work on research and attend interesting conferences and seminars, and meet with people from here, from Palestine, and from around the world. In the summer months, I don't have to teach, so I have even more time to travel, and to spend on my own research and writing. In many ways, I have the dream job.

So I have decided not to complain, for my grind is really far from, especially when compared to the millions/billions of people around the world who really have a grind, if they are lucky (for this gives them some money to survive), while millions more don't even have that.

I have privilege. And so often, I take it for granted. Probably not as much as many people who also have privilege, but I am not immune to this weakness and blindness.

It is so very easy to get used to privilege, and to want more and more. This is part of human nature, and really not a bad part actually. We get used to what we have, and yearn for more, and this motivates us to dream more, and develop more, and create more. It only gets bad when we forget to be thankful for what we have, and forget that we could use some of this privilige to help those who don't have the privilege that we do. Not necessarily by charity (though that isn't bad either), but more by dedicating part of our time to developing mechanisms that enhance social and economic justice for all, that radically change the system.

There is no good reason why I, or others, should have privilege where others do not. There is no good reason why I, or others, should be the only ones to have good health care, access to good education, money and time off for holidays and travel, autonomy to be creative in jobs that we choose, while others are forced into jobs that they did not choose, but that they take, so that they can somehow, barely eek out an existence.

It's quite amazing how far a little dedication to the good of humankind can go. It is quite amazing that such dedication does not demand grand measures, even small steps, undertaken by a critical mass, can have important impacts.

Now that our holidays are over, I go back to the academic grind, knowing that it really is not so, especially when compared to the lives of so many people around this world. I go back to the academic schedule and the classes and the meetings and the office hours and the reading and writing and grading, and emails and phone calls, thankful that I have all of these obligations that bring me, and my family by extension, privilege.

Hopefully the job that I will do this year will get a few of my students to think in critical ways about privilege and the system, and about ways that they can work toward the good of humankind. Hopefully I will get my students to challenge some of the taken-for-granted ways of the world. I want my students to better understand Freud's theory of personality, as well as the sampling procedures used in qualitative research. These are important concepts. However, I hope that these aren't the only things I accomplish in these next two semesters, for if this is all I manage to do, I will have failed in my job.

Can't have that.

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