After receiving the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918, Max Planck went on tour across Germany. Wherever he was invited, he delivered the same lecture on new quantum mechanics. Over time, his chauffeur grew to know it by heart: “It has to be boring giving the same speech each time, Professor Planck. How about I do it for you in Munich? You can sit in the front row and wear my chauffeur’s cap. That’d give us both a bit of variety.” Planck liked the idea, so that evening the driver held a long lecture on quantum mechanics in front of a distinguished audience. Later, a physics professor stood up with a question. The driver recoiled: “Never would I have thought that someone from such an advanced city as Munich would ask such a simple question! My chauffeur will answer it.”
Outrage is a kind of drug, one that gives the illusion of involvement, of caring, when really derives its power from an emotional and informational distance that the stories themselves then strive to deepen, laying the groundwork for the next piece of outrage porn to do its work. And thus proceeds an addictive cycle. (…)
And I don’t know what to do about that. In my own life, and my own writing, I strive to follow the line from “Wargames” – “the only way to win is not to play.” As a consequence, outrage, like cheap vodka, which once seemed to reduce my inhibitions and make me feel strong and confident, now makes me feel a bit ill, and puts me to sleep.
Every single day, I get emails from aspiring writers asking my advice about how to become a writer, and here is the only advice I can give: Don’t make stuff because you want to make money — it will never make you enough money. And don’t make stuff because you want to get famous — because you will never feel famous enough. Make gifts for people — and work hard on making those gifts in the hope that those people will notice and like the gifts. Maybe they will notice how hard you worked, and maybe they won’t — and if they don’t notice, I know it’s frustrating. But, ultimately, that doesn’t change anything — because your responsibility is not to the people you’re making the gift for, but to the gift itself.
Ca o paranteza, imi permit sa le dau un sfat parintilor: nu incurajati copiii spre scolile de balet si bune maniere. Scolile de balet si bune maniere produc someri cu precizia unui ceas elvetian.
This is education in the age of neoliberalism. Call it Reaganism or Thatcherism, economism or market fundamentalism, neoliberalism is an ideology that reduces all values to money values. The worth of a thing is the price of the thing. The worth of a person is the wealth of the person. Neoliberalism tells you that you are valuable exclusively in terms of your activity in the marketplace — in Wordsworth’s phrase, your getting and spending.
The purpose of education in a neoliberal age is to produce producers.
Pedant fiind, am tot încercat să înţeleg, „tehnic“ vorbind, adică cu o definiţie riguroasă, ce înseamnă o „competenţă“. Mi s-a explicat: să fii capabil să faci ceva, cu ceva, în vederea a ceva. Aha, am zis. Să ştii să baţi un cui, cu un ciocan, ca să faci un scaun. Parcă acum era ceva mai limpede. Şi a început să-mi fie teamă că, încercînd să scăpăm de toceală – aferim! –, ne îndreptăm către o formă de robotizare a educaţiei şcolare. Cel puţin din perspectiva disciplinei faţă de care mă simt de atîta vreme ataşat, ceva esenţial rămînea pe dinafară. Eu voiam ca şcoala să-i ajute pe elevi să le placă să citească – beletristică, ficţiune, cum vreţi să-i ziceţi –, să înţeleagă ceea ce citesc şi, astfel, să poată deveni un pic mai buni – ca oameni, fireşte: mai iubitori de frumos, mai înţelegători, mai deschişi faţă de părerile celorlalţi, mai cu discernămînt, la urma urmei – de ce nu? – chiar un pic mai înţelepţi. Nimic din toate astea nu părea însă a avea alura unei „competenţe“.
I really think it comes down to technology, for a few reasons. One, is sensory deprivation. We have formed into a society that’s so accustomed to sitting in front of a screen and typing, for the vast majority of the day. And the truth of the matter is that it’s not exciting all of our senses. Through interviews over and over again, I kept hearing that people want something that’s tangible, that they can see and feel and smell and taste and that we’re the guinea pigs of growing up in that [digital] world.
At the same time, it’s also making us more isolated. We’re craving community. And food is also allowing us to access the globe, so we can find out what harissa is made with and how to prepare something with it, in two seconds on our phones.
We’re now living in what Vargas Llosa calls “the civilization of the spectacle,” an era characterized by the replacement of ideals, principles, and intellectual life with images, gestures, and a “universal prevailing frivolity … where everything is appearance, theatre, play and entertainment.” This transformation, he says, has affected every part of society: art, music, journalism, politics—even sex, which in the era of the spectacle “has become a sport or pastime, a shared activity that is no more important, perhaps less important, than going to the gym, or dancing or football.”
I am grateful that there are many vibrant, engaged, brilliant people involved in the arts community who are much smarter than me and much more talented than me and much better writers than me, and who take pleasure and satisfaction in being a part of this community. For many, this inclusion is stimulating—it feeds the creative impulse, warms it with community spirit, keeps the mind and heart percolating. But it’s not right for me. I still don’t like where it’s taking me personally, the way it’s coercing me and guilting me and laying down standards and requirements for my viability, complicating my very simple ambitions with all this clutter: get your name here, network on this platform and that one, take photos, give a talk, show up.