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As a PhD who graduated now 9 years ago, I know a lot of youngerish PhDs in the humanities as well; and I can state that out of 6 people I know personally who have gotten long-term/tenure track academic jobs in history or politics in the last 5 years, and who were active both on the North American and European markets, that 6 out of 6 have in fact gotten jobs in Europe.

It’s a relatively small sample, and a personal sample, and thus biased, but, it gives me pause; especially since 5 of the 6 are in fact North Americans.  The one European in the sample was looking actively in the US and Canada and had several temporary appointments there, and many connections, but still got a job in Europe rather than North America.  

So, in brief, it looks like the disintegration of the American academy, especially regarding entry-level professor jobs, is really taking its toll:  many of the best, brightest, and most motivated people in the humanities are saying sayonara to the US:  it is no longer the land of opportunity:  its managers have gone too job-cutting happy, and there is no scope to become middle class there any more, as a teacher or professor, unless you’re a mathematician, or hard scientist, in which case you have to put up with ridiculously long hours and continuous fatigue in order to pay for your middle class or upper middle class lifestyle.  

Guess what?  When you cut the professoriate into ribbons, there will be no professoriate left, and your talent will flee.  In my personal experience, this for the moment means that talent is fleeing to those more progressive parts of Europe where they still have jobs for people, and are willing to hire foreign talent in order to improve their own programmes.  And it’s working.  The programmes in the Netherlands where I am working are definitely getting better by the year, in part because they are deliberately mimicking the American system, and increasingly hiring foreigners from English-speaking universities, which have traditionally dominated the global top 100 rankings.  

So yeah, this is also helping the rest of the world to catch up, as the US crashes and burns.  Hey, don’t want any humanities faculty?  Well, you know from the rest of this site how essential this has always been (or its equivalent) to a free society, with human rights, etc.  The rest, as they say, is history…

-trivium.

Why live?

That is the question, isn’t it?

It’s a pretty fundamental one.  If you answer no to that one, the rest of your flow chart doesn’t mean much.  At least, not in any way that us alive in this cosmos can register.

Do I believe in an afterlife?  I strongly suspect that there are links with our cosmos/universe that we don’t entirely get.  Does that mean that our souls continue on in a recognizable form, that we ourselves recognize, after death?  I would really like to think so, although of course it seems pretty far fetched at first.  There are some reasons to believe that the universe is not randomly created–intelligent design people aren’t entirely evidenceless; and that leads me to hope that, somehow, our universe is a birthing place for new ‘gods’, that is, souls/creatures which eventually have an existence/life beyond our universe; or which can travel through it and spacetime.  If there is a god/gods, then they obviously want us to do things mostly ourselves.  But we’ve said this a bit before.  And I would go so far as to say that the theologians at work today have come up with some pretty interesting stories, which do engender hope; I am talking partly about John Polkinghorne, and Alister McGrath, and Thomas Torrence.  These latter make a case for a specifically Christian theology, but again, this need not be incompatible with other theologies entirely.

Of course, our current state of scientific knowledge would tell us that indeed life is meaningless; we are manifestations of DNA wanting to reproduce ourselves; we have no more purpose than cancer cells, which mindlessly propagate (and then die) as long as we are in a situation where we are not annihilated entirely.

And so many intelligent people have been, in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, quite cynical as to the ‘meaning of life.’ They point to the billions on the planet, the existence of toil, suffering, filth, pain, loneliness, debility, ageing, corruption, cruelty in the lives of so many.  The internet is full of people copulating; cities are full of horrible buildings; television and movies are full of gore and torture.  Freud was right:  we are bestial, murderous animals.

So why bother?  If we’re, as a doctor friend pointed out, about 15 cents worth of chemicals, why do it?

Continue Reading »

Because the wealthy have been in power since the beginning of civilization, they have been very keen to stigmatize poverty as an evil to be cured, but never wealth.

In the Enlightenment, people began to realize that wealth, like poverty, was an evil to be cured; Marx and Engels took over this banner, and unfortunately all talk of being against extreme wealth ended up being powerfully associated with Marxism/Communism/Socialism.

But, now, we’re finally moving into a post-Marxist society, where we can once again, after 100 years or more of Marxism/Communism, begin to talk about extreme wealth, or more specifically extreme disparities of wealth, as a social evil which should ideally be cured.

Note there is also a distinction between theory and practice:  de facto, democracies tolerate extreme wealth only because we have not yet come up with a social system which can create wealth for the many which does not also have the (unfortunate) side effect of creating extreme wealth for a few.  Really, if we could create a society with more equality, democracies would do that, because the many will inherently be jealous of the few, if they realized that there was no good reason to have wealth.  As it is, even the most learned economists realize that we need extreme wealth in order to have entrepreneurialism, innovation, incentives, etc, and that our economy can’t do well without these things.  So there is no push, at the pundit and elite level, to do away with extreme wealth, even in France, which is one of the more anti-wealth societies yet created.  Continue Reading »

The new precariat

Here’s a book review:

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/apr/09/precariat-charter-denizens-citizens-review

The book suggests that there are now 5 classes:

1. Plutocrats (those with capital)
2. Salariat (those which have some permanent decent salary)
3. Free-ranging ‘Proficians’ (a few who can get work by having very in-demand skills, and get paid above average)
4. Old Working Classes (a few left over)
5. Precariat: People who bounce in and out of benefits (welfare) schemes.

And it doesn’t mention in the guardian write-up, but also there are structurally unemployed; people who are on benefits permanently, so these should be 6.

But what’s so sad about the precariat, is that it’s the creation of the new system which parcels up jobs into pieces, and makes it very difficult to get a permanent job (i.e., to become part of the salariat) in any field, whether teaching, lawyering, doctoring, professoring, librarianing, officeing, all of the jobs that used to be normal middle-class jobs, have been broken up (by managers who saw that this saved costs – benefits aren’t necessary, or can be lower, and salaries can be lower: if you get 3 people to do the work of one former full-time person, the full-time person would have merited a higher salary after some years, than 3 part-time people whose wages never increase and/or who aren’t ever around long enough for this to happen).

The precariat has happened to us, while we have allowed managers everywhere to adopt the new strategy, based on supply-side logic. That’s what too much supply-side gets you. What about demand side? People have to have money to spend in the economy? So far the logic is, that as long as a few plutocrats and salariatarians(?) have it to spend, this will be good enough; I suggest that indeed we need to think about demand side, or else we’ll never fully recover from 2007; but that is another story.

Continue Reading »

Oh dear.  So now we know where the new star trek writers are coming from.  They are arrogant Ayn Randianists, who think that because they have somehow worked their way through a particular power channel in hollywood, that they are better than the rest of us mere mortals.

http://www.salon.com/2013/09/07/star_trek_writer_abuses_fans_tells_them_to_fck_off_partner/

Robert (Bob) Orci, a screenwriter who also co-penned the terrible vileness that was ‘transformers,’ was picked to do the Star Treks, by JJ Abrams.  The first movie killed vulcan (the iealism, the philosphy of Star Trek, which is why the platonist is a trekkie), as we have written about in an earlier review.

Then, the fan base, quite reasonably pens the following article, saying how to fix the new franchise (after it began ok (say some… not me)… and now, has gotten far worse (say all).

http://trekmovie.com/2013/09/01/star-trek-is-broken-here-are-ideas-on-how-to-fix-it/

To this, Bob Orci, with his millions of dollars, simply can’t handle the criticism.

1)  He says he is a George W Bush fan.

2)  He says ‘he is the decider.’  and “That’s why I get to write the movies,” because I’m better than you.

(a commenter pointed out that, in fact, he gets to write movies precisely because Hollywood wants bland pablum, and he can deliver, because he is lacking true insight, intelligence, wisdom, or most importantly, idealism.)

3)  The main trait he shares with George W, is that he absolutely is incapable of handling criticism from his “lessers,” because he knows, at heart, that he is a fraud.

4)  JJ Abrams has said that he didn’t like the original star trek because he thought it was ‘too philosophical.’  I.e., too idealistic.

5)  Star Trek and Star Wars both have huge fan bases, because they are idealistic.

6)  JJ, and his corporate masters, are right now, engaged in cutting the heart out of both Star Trek, and Star Wars.

7)  We must rebel:  we will not be cowed by a few rich assholes with connections.  Idealism will out:  our mythologies will not be ruined by corporate takeovers.

8)  Just like D&D did with Pathfinder, we will find ways around the corporate, cynical, arrogant, juvenile, puerile, Ayn Randian: I am better than you because I am rich, attitude which now characterizes so much of the American ruling elite.

9)  The arrogant will fall.

Dear all:

One has got to make a living, and I am trying to do this in the spirit of The Platonist, by maximizing wonder, idealism, and thoughtful discussion, with appreciation of nature and historical places thrown in to boot.  So I will do a rare self-promotion.  I have been privileged to have a friend who is opening a tour business of the British Isles, and he has allowed me to design and lead two tours:

1.  Roman Britain

2. Medieval England

Which take advantage of my expertise and enthusiasm for the visible reminders of these periods that have been so wonderfully protected and cared for in England (much better than most other countries of the world with long histories).  The Roman Britain tour is the best of its kind on offer, and the Medieval tour is unique because it offers a copious selection of Dark Ages and Viking-era sites.

The tour is designed for college students (some of my students will be going), and for the historically curious.   So if you have some vacation money laid aside, I can guarantee you a very insightful and inspiring week visiting some of England’s best-kept secrets, and most beautiful and evocative places, that you wouldn’t have found yourself.  But you don’t just get the places, you get the insights: ; connecting all of the places and artefacts together into a ‘trivium-inspired’ view of the world.  What better way to discuss the insights into history, culture, and philosophy which interest you the most, in a series of some of the more magical and evocative settings on the planet?  It will be unforgettable.

You can check out our site, and click on the Roman and Medieval tours for an itinerary.

http://www.auldcountrytours.com/

Cheerio!

-tr.

Dear Readers,

Indeed trivium has been mute for a while, only stopping by to approve comments (which are always welcome), and to post a few links here and there.

This is because he has been entirely whorled up in the process of securing tenure, or something like it.  This has been good for his academic writing, but his extracurricular writing has been on hiatus… since those energies have generally been taking up by teaching, and by learning yet another language.  I realize that I started this blog during a hiatus in my teaching, and that indeed teaching has taken up some of those same energies that gets me fired up to write here on the Platonist.  I think that much good work has been done, and indeed the readership here is growing significantly every month it seems, so I want to keep the site up, and current, and let everyone know that we’re still here, and planning on maintaining and furthering the ideals set out here.

That being said, I think that the social movement that is and probably will for the forseeable future remain closest to my heart is the notion of founding the Institute for Consumer Focused Economics.  I like the fact that the title sounds corporate, and financial.  The point is to get the attention of those who work in those worlds, to let them know that we can speak the same language, and use the same equations, and yet begin and end with a radically different ‘product,’ i.e., an economics which is about the enrichment of the average individual, rather than an economics which is about the enrichment of the nation, the corporation, or the wealthy few (who are so often in conservative think-tanks equated with the best, the most energetic, the most innovative, the hardest working, etc., even though most of them began with signficiantly greater access to wealth, education, and/or intellectual gifts than most of us.

I have been talking about something like the ICFE for a long time.  I am not even sure what form it will take.  I would like to apply for funds to open a center.  I would love to organize the publication of a newsletter, and perhaps turn the Platonist into a hub for the ICFE, or create a new website.  This will require some time and energy on my part which right now is hardly able to be forthcoming:  society has made it so difficult for us to obtain secure jobs, compared with a generation ago, that we have less and less time to pursue those interests which might actually change the world for the better… of course, the powers that be don’t tend to mind this state of affairs, really, either.

So:  let’s call this a foundation.  It is founded.  As of right now, it exists.  The ICFE.  The Institute for Consumer Focused Economics.  What are our goals?

Continue Reading »

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