by Marc Romyjos
It’s horrid, and there’s substantial gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair involved. It’s the first circle of hell after you’ve gone through an entire purgatorio of coursework and much haggling among social life, full-time employment and other self-improvement projects (such as exercise). As a social science graduate student I am starting to feel myself a more compelling study for issues on oppression and poverty. However, I have a sister who swallowed the myriad opportunity costs of attending law school for four years, and the bar review for six months, only to subject herself to bar exam torture for a month. I’m sure she still has scars and stress-fat deposits, as my medical school friends are still treating eyebags. I’m officially an insufferable whiner.
I don’t suffer intellectual labors, but the inverse of it. After going part-time, corporate and freelance, I sure as hell won’t be screaming for depth. And having gotten used to air-conditioning, I daresay I’ve grown disproportionate disgust for the fetid swamps of fieldwork (Actually I exaggerate), and I’ve been eerily perfecting the skills of the white shoe worker. Why? Because I’ve been told future employers love order, and who am I to make a fuss, really? I’ll pretty much end up a sales agent for the neo-liberal afterlife everywhere I go, even without pretending to take palliatives with the consumerist gruel I’m fed everyday. I’m basically made. And I hate poverty.
So a desire to be relevant, in pursuit of a masters’ degree in anthropology, is actually superfluous for several reasons. One, on empirical basis, people, except perhaps academics and authentic intellectuals, resent discursive language, apparently because the framing of practical concerns should be sacred and cannot be messed up, or tumbled down, by vocabularies that exceed their own. Anti-intellectual intellectuals like Nick Hornby, Helen Fielding and Francis Wheen shed some tears of hilarity for the language they understand but will never use, because their splendid literary pieces make people laugh — and making people laugh is an impressive industry — so success in writing really all boils down to speaking lionish for lions, and basically just keeping to the taxonomy between who the author is and and for which species the intellectual fodder goes to.
Also, humans find sick titillation for the deprived, depraved and deviant, so tackling ordinary lives might just be a little too unproblematic to be propounded as a cause for research deserving sweet grants. I think this problem might not be so irreversible for people who can slap covers on inane writing and package it into a book. But for the rest of us who are grilled, skewered and, waaaaaah, omitted for the teensiest crash in logic, the bestselling book dream is bust.
As for the thesis…well, how can it exceed its functional role in my life, really? I can’t even represent myself well in it. If I bump out the poker faces and straight laces and philosophy I’d literally be left with nothing to write about but facial tattoos, entertaining books and visual arts. And YES! I liked The Elegance of a Hedgehog but hated it for my bittersweet bristling for ideas I can not grasp, and can only rebuke, if only to make myself feel more…relevant.