Here’s the UIC Fanfiction You Have Clearly Demanded

Reader “Penthesilea*” has this to say about our previous discussion of a current job ad for a “part-time” position at the University of Illinois-Chicago that offers twenty-eight thousand dollars per annum as compensation:

Typical Schulman job. Doesn’t contact the school for comment, doesn’t understand the political context, singles out an institution that’s been brutalized by Rauner, writes a cutesy little fantasy of evil admins, and flails in the comments in response to folks who actually know what’s going on.

I don’t know who this Schulman is, but she sounds terrible.

It’s true that in my capacity of writing a blog that critiques job ads, I don’t routinely reach out to the writers of those job ads for comment/explication/justification. This is not because I have derelicted my journalistic duties—largely because in my capacity as a writer of blogs that critique job ads, I have no journalistic duties.

If I had chosen to write this up for a national publication such as Slate, the Chronicle or the Atlantic, you can be assured that I’d do my due diligence and reach out for comment, as I have in every single one of the hundreds of pieces of higher-ed journalism I have written since November of 2013, when, in my fourth or fifth article as a professional Slate writer, I did neglect to reach out to an institution for comment on a shitty thing they did, because I was a baby journo and didn’t know I had to. Then my editor said, “You have to,” and I said, “Duly noted,” and I have done so, and rigorously and professionally, ever since.

The fact is, I have neither the time nor the desire to turn something so highly specialized as job-ad critiquing into a palatable piece of actual journalism. This is my hobby. (Hey, we all have some weird-ass hobbies.) And it’s a hobby I barely have time for these days, in my capacity as Stay-At-Home Fuckup and Alleged Professional Author. (Also, BUY MY BOOK?)

It is also true that job ads should stand on their own. No applicant should have to go on a fact-finding mission to understand what’s “really going on” with an advertisement for a job. I didn’t contact UIC for comment because not only didn’t I want to, and not only didn’t I have time to, but also I didn’t have to. If they have something they’d like to explain regarding this ad, I’m all ears, but it’s nobody’s job to assume there’s a justifiable backstory and then go hunting for it, least of all nobody who is currently in the unfortunate position of an active academic job search.

Anyway. I wouldn’t say I “flailed” in my own comments, or did anything close to it, because flailing would involve caring, and I don’t. Do I care about the Illinois budget crisis? Sure, I guess. As much as someone can care about something esoterically that is just part and parcel of a larger conflagration of outrage-inducing garbage nightmare realities, a.k.a. our world at present. Have I been following said budget controversy religiously? I most certainly have not, and I am guessing that unless you are an Illinois public employee, neither have you.

I also know that there is literally no context on the face of the Earth that would allow for the advertisement of a job that bills itself as part-time, is definitively not part-time, and pays more or less the Chicago minimum wage for a highly specialized position requiring a specific and highly-learned skillset. The only mildly acceptable thing would be if this job had been posted as a piece of performance art in protest of Illinois governor Bruce Rauner, which it definitely wasn’t, because I have seen its poster attempt to defend it, and I watched as it was disseminated in earnest (and then most of the people it was disseminated to balked and refused to pass it on).

HOWEVER. I certainly know ENOUGH about the Illinois budget crisis to know that a job like that doesn’t get posted without some serious wackadoodle shit going on behind the scenes. And luckily for you, I have been offered a glimpse behind those scenes.

So here, gentle Penthesilea, is what’s “really going on” at UIC.

CHAIR: We need a new language program director.
DEAN: No you don’t.
CHAIR: Really we do.
CHAIR: Yes, the budget thing is terrible.
DEAN: Wait, I have an idea!
DEAN: I’ll curb my own salary about $200 a month, and get a bunch of my dean friends to as well, and that will create more than enough money to offer one full-time job once.
CHAIR: That is both weirdly generous and also not helpful in the long run.
DEAN: HA HA HA I am definitely kidding. My kid’s third birthday party isn’t going to pay for itself. Do you know how much a gluten-free bouncy castle costs? 
CHAIR: So are you saying we should just kill our German program? 
DEAN: *I* didn’t say that, *you* said that. Also THE BUDGET!!!! Our governor is AN ASSHOLE! It’s his fault!
CHAIR: He’s the worst.
DEAN: So we agree.
CHAIR: I guess?
DEAN: Look, you seem nice. I’ll tell you what. How about a “67 percent” appointment?
CHAIR: That sounds awful.
CHAIR: True. Everyone who is looking for a job in German follows our budget travails religiously, and will immediately understand the context of this posting, and will also be grateful for such a good job opportunity that will offer a “foot in the door” while they work on their own publications in their copious spare time. I will get a committee together and write an ad, and then disseminate it widely to German listservs, and everyone will be happy to pass it on. Also, everyone knows pedagogues aren’t real scholars anyway.
DEAN: Good meeting. 


PS: If you liked this, I heartily recommend a book you might also like!

PPS: this post has been updated to reflect the corrected spelling of a name, and to finish a thought about why that damn ad should have stood on its own merit that was truncated earlier thanks to a certain toddler.

PPPS: IMPORTANT! The milk-afflicted car, aka the #Retchmobile, is currently at the detailer with its stench fate TBD. STAY TUNED.

Exorcising the Spirit of Capitalism

Yesterday I was talking to someone I work with about why “re-entry” after a vacation can be so psychically difficult, and what can be done to assuage that. My theory was—well, let’s just say she suggested I open a side practice in Marxist Therapy (TERRIBLE IDEA—I couldn’t charge!).

Want to hear it? Here it goes.

The first step in not being overwhelmed by a return to work—as someone who currently works three jobs, I guess trust me?—is to come to terms with the fact that as a worker, you are eminently replaceable. This is actually something insufferable tea-party bigot and Grade-A Fuckface Matt Walsh said in a recent post about stay-at-home moms that inexplicably went viral with my progressive friends last week. This is a guy who believes that the Benghazi tragedy was a multi-level conspiracy, that Pres. Obama is 100% at fault for the government shutdown, that there is such a thing as a “billion-dollar abortion industry,” that there is such a thing as rampant “black-on-white hate crime,” and that everyone on food stamps is stealing from him. He is—you know what? I’m going to stick with Grade-A Fuckface because it’s been a tough week and I can’t think of anything better.

Anyway, I begrudgingly admit that he made a few salient points in what was otherwise a post full of patriarchal claptrap, barely-disguised homophobia and general tea-party smugness, the most important of which is this: at any job where you receive a salary, you can be replaced. Will your replacement be exactly like you? No, but who cares (and, sometimes, yes). Where you cannot be replaced is—to un-heteronormify Walsh—with your loved ones (he says: “as a mother”).

If my colleague Dan took my classes for the next three weeks, there might be some grumbling for the first fifteen minutes, and then nobody would care.  For me to think, I AM IRREPLACEABLE AS A PROFESSOR! is the mark of a tremendous amount of delusion—especially because I am an adjunct, the very definition of expendability. But what if I decided I didn’t want to be me anymore, and I sent Dan home to my husband? Dan might be able to boil three sweet potatoes and mash them up with raisins (my definition of “vegan gourmet cooking”), but it is possible that my husband would not like being superseded for House’s Best/Only Beard. Walsh is correct to say that when parents abdicate their duties (he says “mothers” because he is a patriarchal fuckface), entire families collapse, childhoods are thrown asunder, etc.

Why, then, do so many people take for granted their indispensability at home, and yet seek it out, desperately and deludedly (and to no avail), at a place where the very act of being remunerated for your labor makes it very clear that you are not indispensible? That you are part of an exchange, a circulation, a Kreislauf (for you Germanists out there) of exchanging compensation for goods or services? That the running of that Kreislauf is not at all contingent upon any of its particular members’ particularities, but simply that they are present in circulation at all?

This is actually why Walsh is such a goon—he says, in his correct attempt to explain that people mistakenly view compensated labor as “important” and uncompensated labor as “unimportant,” that those who do must have read that in the Communist Manifesto. Actually, dipshit, the Manifesto says the opposite: that Capitalism destroys and remakes the family in its own image, as a relative amount of potential income. Marry, because then you’ll have two incomes from that factory. Don’t have a kid, because then you’ll lose one income…until you can put that kid to work, and then you’ll have three! Family=earning potential. IN CAPITALISM. So yes, I suppose that idea is in the Manifesto, but it is the object of Marx and Engels’ critique, not their adulation. But Matt Walsh probably believes that reading Marx on purpose will cause Lucifer himself to emerge from the Ninth Circle, and fasten one of his pus-dripping mouths directly onto Matt Walsh’s cock (can you tell I am still teaching Dante? OH YOU CAN?).

Still, though, once you strip away the patriarchal righteousness and functional illiteracy, Walsh’s point stands: the place you are indispensable is at home (I would replace his “stay-at-home mothers” with “stay-at-home parents of any gender”); the place where you are very much dispensable is at work. So the first step in letting go of work-related stress is to realize this: my place in the Capitalist Kreislauf is just that. I am but a cog in a larger system primarily designed to keep me down. I can stay or go, but in the end it will make very little difference to other people, and this is true from the lowliest Custodial Engineer (a job I have had!) to the highest-ranking CEO. Steve Jobs, Patron Saint of Objectivism, has entered the transcendental Cloud, and yet Apple soldiers on. Whatever shitty bank Jamie Dimon is in charge of will continue to have big dumb piles of Scrooge McDuck money when he’s gone (and how impressed is everyone that I know that person’s name? Just me? Yeah, probably).

But nobody wants to believe this about themselves. Everyone wants to think: if I don’t go to work tomorrow, it will matter to someone, over and above my salary. People are counting on me. And therein lies the mistake: they’re not counting on you; they’re counting on whoever has your job.

Indispensability at work is a delusion, but it is a very important one that most of us (me included) maintain, because without it, then the craven reality of our participation in a rigged system becomes manifest, fatis become amor’d, and pretty soon it’s just ECCE NIHILISM (and yes, I realize that not a single use of Latin in the past sentence has been correct). I don’t think a society with a majority of people cranked up to Full Early Nietzsche would be ideal either, so in many ways (really most ways) the perpetuation of this delusion is in not only our own best interests, but those of our fellow man as well.

And yet, I think it would do us some good to remember our occupational dispensability, because our time and attention are zero-sum situations. The less time we spend caring about work in our time off the clock, the more time we can spend caring about the important things—by which, of course, I mean catching up on Nashville and Scandal. Why, what did you think I meant?

The Sixth Circle of the Capitalist Underworld: The AD REVENUE CHASERS

You may have noticed a makeover around here. I’m not thrilled with this new look–I’ll always be partial to the super-minimalism of yore–but this is the least-offensive of the free “Ad Optimized” templates WordPress has. As you know, there are ads on this blog, some of which are (to me at least) eerily appropriate (always Aveda. So much Aveda. STOP IT AVEDA, I have already spent more money on “chakras” than any barely-employed individual has a right to!). I had a brief moral dilemma about sucking the Capitalist teat back in June when I enabled ads, and I still am not in love with what they do to the layout–but, on the other hand, as much as I dislike capitalism, it’s the shitty system we’ve got to live in, and I don’t write for free anymore, not even for myself.

The first month this site had ads, I made $6.33. I thought that was pretty generous, given the quality of my prose. The second month, I made $14.50. The third, $20. Last month, $30. My traffic has gone up progressively every month since “Thesis Hatement” (before which my average monthly views were something like 14, and my average yearly updates was between -3 and 0.5). I am quite uncomfortable with all of the self-promotion I’ve been doing for the past half-year (follow me on TWITTER! follow my LINKS TO PUBLICATIONS! LOOK AT ME! ME ME ME ME ME!). 1999-era me frowned upon self-promotion–which is hilarious, given the fact that I worked as an editorial assistant for a book publisher, and knew full well that the only thing keeping most books from going directly from the press to the remainder bin was an author willing to Get Out There. So here I am, Getting Out There, and maximizing my “ad impressions” so that October–in which I’ve gotten the most traffic in this blog’s ten-year history by many exponents–can put me over the $100 mark that will actually require WordPress to transfer me some actual human money. I’m uncomfortable with myself. I’m so desperate for 18 more Twitter followers I can’t even tell you. It’s gross. I know. But that is how the freelance milieu works–if His Franzenness Himself were trying to come up today instead of twenty years ago he’d have to do all this shit too, and sort of hate himself for it, and sort of be morbidly fascinated about who comes to his website from where and why (pro tip: if you are getting a lot of traffic from a message board, whether that be a bunch of knitting enthusiasts or Reddit, stay the fuck away, and let those idiots continue to talk about you behind your back unabated).

Anyway, I have some more anti-capitalist rage brewing in the next few days; we’ll see how it manages to express itself (or if it does). All I can hope is that it will hit enough of a nerve that it’ll bring me metric fuck-tons of traffic, and thus money, because I am the world’s biggest hypocrite. Speaking of which, we’re doing the Inferno in my class tomorrow, so I’ve got to get back to reading about the Hypocrites and their lead robes, and Ugolino and his gnawing, and Brutus and Judas and terza rima and all that. Meanwhile, I hope that more readers continue to come to this site, and enjoy a continuing taste of Capitalist Hell.