Daily Archives: August 4, 2011

Work is a Horror, or The Humor/Horror Of Social Interactions: “The Office” and Cannibalistic Wendingo Dinner Parties

For a few very long months, I was a perma-temp for a music licensing company. The horror of doing data entry of usage reports for a commercial music licensing company was this: to behave for hours at a time in a manner contrary to my desired manner of living. I burned out after only a few weeks, fell into a depression, and began using web-based e-mail to send early drafts of a novel back and forth from different web-based e-mail clients, invisible to the corporate overlords at the time, at their level of technology, while spending only an hour or two actually performing the miserable tasks to which I was assigned. I was a cog, which is not who I am. I prefer to solve problems, create new expressions and ideas, and in other respects act in a manner that involves being innovative, not being rote or mechanical. I have never been able to successfully watch more than an episode or two of the popular TV Show, “The Office”, at a time because it is too close to the horror of what I felt at that one point in my career, in an office, where the social constraints of the “Big Other” in that situation dictated a constant string of behaviors that were directly contrary to who I actually was as a person, and as a worker. In this horror, I tell stories of my time there – funny stories! Without this medication of laughter shared, I don’t feel like I can re-appropriate control of that portion of my life I mostly consider lost time and suffering. But, this is not to be a discussion of therapy, rather a discussion of horror and comedy as they relate to some basic teachings of Lacan…
Despite being the embodiment of the “Big Other” as the boss and therefore the central crux of all social interactions in the building, Michael (Steve Carrell), the boss of the US-version of “The Office” for the first seven seasons, was completely immune to the notion of behaving in a manner consistent with his role in the social group. He was supposed to be driven by profit to motivate his employees to succeed as workers. Instead, he was entirely driven by the personal need for everyone to love one another. In this, the true horror of “The Office” is not that the structures of authority demanding behavior contrary to individual group members’ personal identity beneath their veneer of proscribed behaviors. The horror was that their code of symbols and behaviors socially proscribed by years of behavioral training in the workplace was constantly undermined by someone incapable of actually perceiving the appropriate coded behaviors. His acts to “lead” were all just symbolic grasps for interpersonal relationships that he, himself, desired as part of his personal identity as a “cool, approachable, popular” or otherwise happening “guy.” The fact that he behaved in this manner also kept him from experiencing those human connections. He was not operating consistent to the social situation in which he was operating. He cared more about being liked than he did about being an effective business leader. No matter how bumbling his attempts at validating his desire for love, the situation would be more comfortable for everyone around him if his bumbling attempts at validating an ideology were rooted in his accepted social role as a corporate leader instead of a social sponge. We have plenty of cultural symbols and codes developed to deal with churlish bosses that do not care if they are liked, and these are often said to be respected even if they are not liked. We have few social rules and codes to deal with churlish bosses that only care about being liked. That MBA programs seem to care about such social lubrication, inventing whole pseudo-languages to disguise the unpleasant messages they have to deliver, and inspire their workers to operate counter to their best interests through harder work, only serves as a foil by which the audience appreciates the character of Michael, who has been duped by the very books and seminars he has supposedly spent too much time devouring. Michael embraces the mask at the surface this pseudo-language, of people getting along and becoming a team, at the expense of what this language is actually designed to disguise.

In this, then, the horror – and the laughter – comes from the misreading of the relationship between the self, the others in the office, and the Big Other of expected social norms. Play this same relationship without the laughs, then, and achieve a sense of the “Other” that horror writers aspire to achieve. I am thinking, here, about “Wendingo” by Michaela Morissette. In this short story, first published in Weird Tales Magazine, a character falls in with a group of strange gourmands who seem to be preparing their own bodies for the perfect feast at the apex of their bodies’ flavor potential and social station. In this, the social codes and symbols of preparing food for others is taken to an extreme. Ultimately, the host of the dinner party is offering up himself to his guests as a memorable feast. The social codes and symbols of the “Big Other” of expected actions are altered. However, the people who participate in these feasts still obey all the rules and expectations of a “normal” dinner party. They are gracious guests, eager to participate. Like any dinner party, there are the catty gossips that eventually peel away the veneer of love to reveal their sharp teeth. Still, in this case, the horror comes from the excessive misinterpretation of a “Big Other” idea of self-sacrifice for the enjoyment of guests at the expense of what that is actually intended.

Both of these narratives serve as a form of critique of a social structure that is often endured and rarely enjoyed. Dinner parties are social commitments oft-spoofed for their “fakery” by an impersonator of British artist Banksy in the film “Banksy’s Coming to Dinner” featuring a very fake-feeling dinner party that is also, at the same time, believable as a real dinner party because of the fake-feeling nature of everyone’s interactions full of facades and innuendo that are all seemingly power plays, built upon a fake actor portraying one of the art world’s sharpest social critics. If it felt like a “real” dinner party, it would not be believable! Why a dinner party? Senators and politicians and workers who would align their interests closer to their employer meet over dinner all the time to bond and build power relationships that can be exploited for personal gain. In this, upwardly-mobile society is no different, except when they are Wendingoes. In that case, the greatest height one can achieve becomes an almost sexual destruction, where the parts of the host are prepared for the feast, and passed around to the guests. A fake Banksy, like fake crab meat, is handed around for consumption, and praised as if it were the real thing for the social codes demand it. What’s worse than the fact that this whole event is a sham with a fake Banksy is that it is a terrifically dull film. The only interesting piece in the whole thing is the question of whether Banksy is real or not. As soon as the viewer concludes that this is a sham, it becomes moot to wait until the end where no climax worthy of the name awaits them. Please, don’t feel compelled to investigate this film. It’s fake. It’s painful. I shouldn’t even bring it up.

I try to imagine, then, Michael from the Office attending one of these voracious gatherings in Morisette’s story, expecting Joan Collin’s sumptuous country estate and social heights. Michael, ever the bumbling rube, has no idea what he’s eating, which is probably Joan Collins herself, but he is compelled by his comically-impossible pathological need to fit in to any social setting, to try and make the best of the feast of his host’s own flesh, over-praising it and declaring loudly how much he enjoys it even as he is vomiting into the nearest vase and out every open window. By the end of the night, he would be willing to sacrifice his own body to the Wendingos, to satiate his own hunger for love. The Wendingoes, of course, would graciously accept out of their social code, but in private would demarcate who is and who is not really a Wendingo by gossiping about the failure of Michael to understand that he is not really ripe.
In this, I am not far off when I think of the rest of the cast of the Office as flesh-devouring Wendingos. One of the great mysteries of The Office is that the characters seem trapped there, with no other economic options, working until they die, at the peak of their professional development, leaving behind only a memorial brunch. The corporation devours their years, even as they, in turn, devour the money from the company. To what purpose? Are they professionally fulfilled? No. Are they performing some important service to mankind? No. Are they even recycling? Maybe some of their paper is recycled, but I assume such paper comes at a premium and is often not purchased. Do they even like each other? Mostly not. Despite a couple love interests that develop, many of these characters would prefer not to hang out with each other if they met in a social setting. Even the love relationships that develop feel more like prison sex than actual, plausible love. The characters live in their fishbowl, and must find love where it is found, not where it is desired.

Michael’s moment of escape finds the total acceptance of love with a fiancé which “saves” the character of Michael from this continued purgatory where his behavior is primarily marked by his constant quest for love from all around him. In the Morisette story, the narrator is saved by a realization that the love is false, and the ones who would devour her do not love her.
Consumption, of course, is a major theme of the story of the Morisette’s Wendingoes and a major term for corporations selling their goods. In this, I wonder if the creepiness of the Wendingoes is also similar to the creepiness of management’s attempts at altering the language of death into something friendly and palatable. By wrapping inherently painful, harmful, terrifying things in a language designed to be innocuous and bloodless… Well, is that so different from the Wendingoes at their dreadful, sacrificial dinner parties? I think not. The thing that is supposed to be painful and horrible is wrapped in a veneer of social codes that speak of love and joy and peace…

In comedy, in our office water coolers, we are allowed the relief of laughter to medicate the things that make us miserable. Laughter is a social action, mostly, where we share things that make us laugh with others to spread the laughter. Horror is often not treated in such a manner. Generally, gruesome horror is contained alone, in a personal manner. This, too, is encoded in the language of modern employment. “NSFW” means things that acknowledge the reality of the body, in all its scatological, sexual, grotesque glory. Comedic things, however, are passed among office mates as a form of social bonding. In this, laughter medicates what is actually the horrifying boredom, dislocation, and disassociation of the human entering into a situation where their sense of self, their relationship to the other notions of self around them, and their sense of the “Big Other” of the shared situation have fallen into disalignment with each other. This is, perhaps, the source of both comedy and horror. If not all of it, than at least much of it. Perhaps only some of it. Still, it seems to be the essence of it, to me.

Working in my own version of The Office, I woke one day to discover I was nothing but a dung beetle: a chittering, mechanical creature of pure instinct who rolls feces into a ball for food. Is it horrible to say that about working? Perhaps. At another job, in another office, I woke one day to discover that I was nothing but a gargoyle, funneling the rain through my own mouth, ingesting all the poisons, and unable to lick the water clean.

Work is a horror. Why would anyone wish to do anything that didn’t make the world a better place?

At least, for most of us, it is a horror that we can laugh about. The starving orphans of the world, and the enslaved ones, are not even given that peace.

“Lacan started his “return to Freud” with the linguistic reading of the entire psychoanalytic edifice, encapsulated by what is perhaps his single best known formula: “the unconscious is structured as a language.” The predominant perception of the unconscious is that it is the domain of irrational drives, something opposed to the rational conscious self. For Lacan, this notion of the unconscious belongs to the Romantic Lebensphilosophie (philosophy of life) and has nothing to do with Freud. The Freudian unconscious caused such a scandal not because of the claim that the rational self is subordinated to the much vaster domain of blind irrational instincts, but because it demonstrated how the unconscious itself obeys its own grammar and logic – the unconscious talks and thinks. The unconscious is not the reservoir of wild drives that has to be conquered by the ego, but the site where a traumatic truth speaks. Therein resides Lacan’s version of Freud’s motto wo es war, soll ich werden (where it was, I shall become): not “the ego should conquer the id”, the site of the unconscious drives, but “I should dare to approach the site of my truth”. What awaits me “there” is not a deep Truth I have to identify with, but an unbearable truth I have to learn to live with.”

Source: http://www.lacan.com/essays/?p=82

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Reprint of a thing I did for SFSignal a while back.

My recent MFA has come up in conversation a couple times, and I thought I’d post this thing I did a few months ago for the fine folks over at SFSignal for the sake of being thorough.

Honestly, with the recent crash of Apex Books’ Blog, I’ll probably start reprinting all that I wrote for them here, too, just to put a record of it somewhere, now that it’s all mostly lost to malware.

This whole thing first appeared at SFSignal

1. Be a Fungus or a Vulture, or Else You Starve

I’ve been suspicious of the academic system most of my adult life. You see, some of the dumbest people I ever met in life had Ph. D’s, and some of the smartest people I ever met in life never seemed to need much in the way of education. I don’t think I’m alone in this, either. Stupid comes in all shapes and sizes, as does brilliant. I’ve met janitors who could debate complex philosophical concepts, who lived quiet lives assertively saving and investing for retirement with their library card in hand. I’ve met security guards who could enter easily into rigorous debate with art historians about the nuances of different brush strokes and biographic details gleaned from obscure letters. I’ve met professors of humanities that could barely string together three sentences coherently, in three languages, and wealthy business-leaders who made their fortune not on skill but on narcissism and talking loudly. Naturally, I’ve also met dumb janitors, brilliant professors, and everything in between. Especially in our current economy these last ten years, education beyond high school is almost completely decoupled from our actual employment in all but a few select fields. Most of our advanced degrees exist for the sole economic sake of producing professors to teach advanced degrees in that field. It seems amazing to me, sometimes, that anyone would pursue an advanced degree in anything useful, let alone something relatively useless in the current economy, like a master’s degree in the fine art of writing fiction. Better to just find work that suits your social and mental preferences to keep the lights on with a little money left over, invest your savings, raise a family, and try not to make too much noise until retirement. Lots of folks figured the whole system out, and it’s working great for them.

But, about the decoupling of school from work: Walk into your average Starbucks and notice the intellectual diversity behind the counter. It isn’t just college kids slinging drinks behind the counter, these days. There’s folks behind that line, making your coffee, that have resumes that would impress you, with advanced degrees in complex things. This is true everywhere. In my last office job, the gentleman who emptied the trash and cleaned the bathroom was in school for a degree in biology, with limited career prospects in his field outside of going into debt for medical school, which he did not desire to pursue, so he figured he’d keep the job he had emptying the trash. His boss on the cleaning crew seemed to be doing quite well with his fancy sports car, designer clothes, and upbeat attitude, and he had only a high school education.

I was looking at an article about the best jobs for graduates, this year, and it seems like the industries that are booming are symptomatic of the global decline of Western society: accounting is hiring lots of folks, to tighten the clamps on business; medical fields at all levels will be caring for a degenerating population of retirees and business is booming; high finance firms and corporate salesmen are grinding through their latest fish in the shark tanks to scheme upon the bubbles of bacterial growth in an economy that is as degenerating as the average age of the population.

Basically, the great and glorious American empire is in decline. Any education – especially an artistic one, like an MFA – is a poor investment if it doesn’t help the graduate profit from the breakdown of our society. More than any other, careers in the arts go where the patrons go. The novel, being historically a middle-class art form, will suffer without a middle class to support the writers, and fictionists will stumble when there just aren’t enough people around with money enough to buy books instead of buying branded food-esque AgraSoyCanola. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that an MFA in fiction and/or poetry may be the single worst investment you can make in your economic future. The money you spend pursuing it is far better off, economically, being thrown into interest-bearing accounts, ready to be ripped out at a moment’s notice as soon as everyone is convinced that the economy might not suck (because that just means the next bubble is upon us!) Debt for an MFA is worse than a credit card, because you actually can keep what you buy with your credit card debt and you can sell it on e-bay later when it becomes nostalgic and collectible. A paper with your name and the letters “M…F…A” upon it might only be useful as a something to burn in your cave when you are homeless.

There is no economic value in an MFA in Fiction, popular or otherwise.


2. Like I Said in the Title…

I am in my last semester of graduate school, for an MFA in Popular Fiction, from the Stonecoast Program of the University of Southern Maine, and I don’t regret it for a moment. Not only that, I have come to this relatively late in my writing career, after dropping out of one lesser graduate school program chosen for location and cost instead of quality, and then even after making a name for myself as an author. I was, on my first day of this program, well-published, and pulling upon life experiences of all sorts of zany things people go to graduate school to be able to do, like have a “real job” or work in video games, or travel the world. I chose to go to the Stonecoast Program of the University of Southern Maine, where I am currently in my final semester. If all goes according to plan, I’ll be graduating in July with an MFA in Popular Fiction.

Be proud of me. Be proud of my economic waste. The greatest tragedy of our culture is that we have allowed the financiers to take over our young imaginations. Our brightest minds from our greatest universities flock to high paying jobs, where they try to make as much money as they can before they die. The best and brightest children our nation has to offer have all been seduced into believing that ownership of large houses is more important than the environmental footprint that our McMansions smear all over our fragile ecology. The systems of wealth culture have brainwashed our youth into believing that upward mobility is something everyone should aspire to, and that being a leader is something glorious and respectable and sexy, and everyone else is a slacker or failure, and that it is a shameful thing to be a janitor or a waiter or a truck driver or a stay-at-home mom.

We, all of us, need to stop that shit right now. The best and the brightest of our world should neither be measured by how much money they earn, nor by whether they own big houses, fancy clothes, or all the consumerist bullshit things like that. The only measure of a person that matters is how they affect other people, and how we all can find a way as individuals, communities, and continents, to contribute in a meaningful, positive fashion to the very tiny world we all share. The best and the brightest should, in fact, in a fair world, see high-paying jobs as corrupting influences on the pursuit of true value in the world. (Are any of you listening to me, best and brightest graduates? Anyone? Bah… go drive your Porsches to your mansions all you greedy children…)

Art, in any form or fashion, is one of the most important things anyone, anywhere can pursue. Art is a gift given to the world, even if it is sold for money. No amount of money walls off the ideas from spreading and infiltrating other people’s ideas. A good idea repeated enough times, whispered into enough minds in enough ways has the power to make the world a better place, in a dramatic way. Good ideas repeated enough times tore down the walls of segregation, the Berlin Wall, the miserable treatment of GLBT human beings in America, and the power of fear to control society.

Want to be rich? Want to be a doctor? Medicine is a losing battle against human mortality. Death always wins, eventually.

Want to get one of those hot yuppie jobs right out of college? Accounting is a losing battle against human greed. The more rules we invent to measure a company, to try and hold back the greed at the heart of the corporate system no matter how altruistic the people and the CEO, the harder it gets to hold back the tide of the wicked pigmen, wallowing in the blood of the workers whose communities, pensions, and ecologies are turned into pigsties. Sales is the training ground of pigs. Insurance industries are constructed in such a manner that they actually don’t qualify as insurance, as the dictionary defines them, because risk is minimized, but never shared.

Engineering? Technology? Computers? When I was in high school, one of our bus drivers was an experienced engineer who kept getting promoted until two new grads could do his work for less pay, and he gave up on the rat race to drive a bus. His story was not uncommon among the tech-heads that were either promoted into management or released into the wild at the convenience of the shareholders.

What is left for you, graduate? Do you do what your parents tell you and aspire to that golden beach house, those golden retirement years, golden plastic surgeries to stay forever young? No? Then, sneak off into the bookshops and punk rock clubs of the disaffected youth and slack until the drugs break you? Not for you? Then hide out in some job, hoping that all the things you don’t understand just don’t hurt you – pray that things you can’t control don’t hurt you. They still will. Maybe you’d rather hide in academia forever, training a new generation of soldiers in the global economic war to make the rich more rich?

All of these paths are false. None of these goals have value or meaning as economic goals. There’s a very simple solution.

Pursue what interests you.


3. An Important Message For All Graduating Seniors

If you are in school right now, and looking at future career prospects, future degree-majors, ignore the bollocks. Pursue what interests you. Even the dire examples above, if they are of interest to you, suddenly are no longer dire. When medicine is interesting, or the architecture of corporate management structures, or the fascinating way accounting can make life better in such small ways, then that is what you should pursue. A smart parent may try to convince you that something lucrative intersects with something that interests you, and maybe their advice will be good for your pocketbook if it is honest and true. Remember, you only get one life. At the end of your life, when you are on your deathbed, you will not measure your life in dollar bills, excepting only where those bills can be used to help the people you have left behind. This has been my method and my madness since I graduated from high school.

I pursued degrees in Creative Writing. I started as an undergraduate at the University of Houston. I dabbled in straight literature at an inexpensive, convenient graduate school before the educators who should have inspired me drove me away in disgust. I came back to graduate school later on, at a new school with better teachers, wiser and calmer and looking to learn from people that were actually good. To me, even after all the turmoil in my education and my life, art is still a meaningful career choice, even if it is not economically viable most of the time. I saw this first hand in the years since my undergraduate degree. I spent ten years among creative graduates, this army of art school and writing and literature and philosophy graduates all over the cities of the world, all of us gently using what we learned in strange and unexpected ways to make the world a better place, drawing over signs and talking sense where otherwise corporate media talking points would rule uncontested. I recall an art school graduate and myself convincing a hardcore Fox News Republican about the truth of global warming with simple methods familiar to anyone who ever attended a workshop. I brought my education into the bars and coffee houses where I communicated effectively among people who didn’t study the arts to explain how certain films suck and they are not to be celebrated because a marketing department is pissing on your eyes and insisting that you love every minute of it. I have been in corporate meetings and understood what was being said between the lines because I was reading people as characters instead of allowing them to lie to me with the face value of their words. An education is something that carries with you a long time. An education in the Arts means you’re part of this army of people who don’t suck, and can tell good idea from bad, inoculate people against marketing campaigns, and call out the false drama, false image, false fools wherever we see such things in ways that can be polite and elegant or damning and indomitable as situations merit.

It’s like how before kids take piano lessons, they don’t understand really good music. It’s like how it’s hard to appreciate Beethoven until you’ve numbed your fingers trying to walk behind him on the keyboard and you get a sense of how complex it all is, and how beautiful in its complexity. Then, you get a sense of that in all the music around you. Then, you realize that Milli Vanilli really shouldn’t be lip synching, and certainly not to anything that sucks that much. (I mean, at least Lady GaGa rips off Madonna’s good stuff, not the B-Sides…)

I digress.


4. You Don’t Stop Learning Because a Critic Liked One Book, One Time, People

Even for writers who are “making it”, like me, the degree is worth pursuing. Like many of the good writers I know, I find myself always looking for ways to improve my work, looking for insights into fiction craft everywhere I go, and I seek out people who share that passion to learn what they learned. Whilst looking around one day, I noticed that the teachers in this particular program were all top notch writers. (Not the esoteric numeric rankings in some magazine or website! The people who would actually be in the classroom with you are all that matter to you as a writer!) I was familiar with their work, and thought it would be useful to me as a writer to expose my stuff to the eyes of people who had come from different artistic backgrounds than me, who had different aesthetics and different influences. (link: http://usm.maine.edu/stonecoastmfa/)

I’ve noticed that every time I write a novel, I have to learn how to write again, because I have to learn how to write that, particular novel. I’ve noticed that every time I take time to expand my artistic horizons, I find a direct benefit in my work within the week, if not sooner.

Learning is a good thing. In a field dedicated to constant ideation, learning is just about the best thing.

Who were these people? Well, James Patrick Kelly is up for another Nebula. Elizabeth Hand teaches there, too. So does David Anthony Durham, David Mura, Nancy Holder, and Scott Wolven. Writers I’ve heard of, and read, and from whom I’d like to gain new perspectives on my own work. Even when I don’t agree with them or their approach, I like to learn about it. I like to see how they think a little when they see my stuff, and maybe learn new things about myself.

Maybe I did learn new things about myself.


5. Go Forth, Be Mighty, All Ye MFA Graduates

With my MFA complete this coming July, a couple career options will open up to me that were previously closed. I could teach college, for instance. It would be nice to do that, I think, compared to what I’m doing now. But, I’m not holding my breath. Many graduates are thinking the same thing I am about teaching writing. It may be a more desirable way to earn a living than scrubbing floors or working a cash register, but it is no more or less honorable. There is no shame in honest work, and one does not need to have a respectable job to be respectable.

Every time I sit down at the computer, often in my own free time, away from the sort of boring work most of us must do to keep the pantry stocked and the lights on, I try to make the fiction I produce better, stronger, closer to the idealized vision inside of my head of what emotional impact it should have on readers. If I make a living as a writer, so be it. If I teach college, so be it. If I scrub floors somewhere, bus tables, or wash dishes so I can sneak off to the library to continue my pursuit of the arts, so be it. None of this is important in consideration of the worth of the degree, itself. In the end, I do not pursue an MFA to be anything other than what I already am: a writer of fiction. I need no validation. I need no certification. No one needs those things, really, even if these things are listed as things gotten from the degree. I came to the program wanting to improve myself on the path I was already on, and I think I have gotten that. I learned about whole fields of art I didn’t know about. I met with luminaries of the fields of writing. I read new poetry. I read books I would not otherwise have read, and learned from them. I borrowed the eyes of strangers, and the eyes of new friends. I gave as good as I got, I think.

As this experience winds down, I like to think of all these supposedly economically useless degrees, especially degrees in the creation of artistic things like poems or pottery, like getting a degree in being super heroes. By day, people with useless degrees are, most of us, working hard to keep our pantries stocked with food and our lights on. If we are lucky, our daylight work is engaging and interesting. If we are not, it is a minor inconvenience as long as there is food and light. Then, we leave our day jobs and our lives open up. We read, and analyze, and create. We engage in debate on the internet and in the magazines of our fields–for instance, at SFSignal. We continue pursuing our interests, beyond graduation, and maybe we make things or ideas that whisper out into the world, rippling chaos theory’s caribou sneezes to rend the walls of Jericho. We go out to buy groceries afterwards, and nobody knows us. We go to work, and maybe we tell one person there over lunch what happened in our esoteric pursuits. We work hard, raise families and/or pets, and most people don’t even know what we really are in the wee hours and the corners of our lives, when we pursue what interests us.

But, at night, in the corners of our lives, when no one is looking, we are superheroes.


6. One Final Whisper Before I Go

Personally, I think if we stop thinking about degrees as career-training, at all levels of business and culture, and start thinking about them as life-training, we’ll make huge headway as a civilized society. Imagine a world where philosophers and engineers are recruited by Wall Street, and Mathematicians are political interns, and literature majors are welcomed with open arms into accounting work because of their studies in multi-cultural poetry. MBA schools no longer exist, because management of a person is too personal a thing to be turned into a system, and management of matter can be taught better in Quantum Mechanics. None of my hypotheticals are so far-fetched that they can’t exist in some fashion already in the world as is.

I guess what I’m trying to say is wouldn’t it be wonderful to live in a world where everyone was an outlier, an oddball, a curious individual with esoteric interests that diversify every community?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone could pursue the things that interested them, including through economically-useless degrees? Wouldn’t it be great if economies valued things that have cultural value but no direct economic value? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the world actually valued studying things that are interesting in the same way we value the work of accountants and middle-managers and corporate sales and marketing departments and plastic surgeons and cosmetic dentists and CEOs?

We could live in that world, you know. It starts with you, right now. Here’s how: Whisper this idea out into the world.

We’ll all do it together.

Ready?

(this first appeared at SFSignal. Link:http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2011/02/guest-post-jm-mcdermott-a-candidate-for-a-masters-of-fine-arts-in-popular-fiction-would-like-to-whisper-with-you/#comments)

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