As many of you know, yesterday I posted about fun activities for the upcoming 2004 ASA conference. This post was meant in jest, and I believe could only have been interpreted as such, but there was still an amount of controversy over the entire affair. More importantly, there were concerns that should my mundane identity become public knowledge, I might have difficulty getting a job. While I very much appreciate the support from ProcFreak and James over at YLH I ultimately decided to modify my original post into something less "offensive." I still have a copy of my original post, though, and will make it available to anyone who requests it via e-mail if I'm not too drunk to find the "return" key.
My reasoning for this action is pretty simple: I would like an f-ing job one of these days. Much as I enjoy being a grad student, I expect I'd like having a diet that doesn't consist largely of ramen even more. While my identity isn't easily determined online (Hints from the Wisconsin posse to the contrary- and no that wasn't a fucking challenge), there are a number of people lurking around my department who might inadvertently give me away. Should my identity get out through one of them, and should it have negative consequences for my career, I'd prefer they not feel responsible for what is entirely my fault. Or, alternatively, if my identity is revealed by one of my mortal enemies, I don't want to give the motherfuckers the satisfaction of taking me down. You shitheads know who you are.
All that being said, I am now going to launch off onto a rant that is unreasonable, irrational, and quite liberally sprinkled with vulgarity. I direct this rant at those hypothetical figures who might have taken offense to yesterday's post. (As a side note, I originally wrote "...taken yesterday's post offensively." Which is a whole lot funnier to me since it makes it sound like there was a pitched battle followed by an Iwo Jima-style flag-raising.) Please, once more, keep in mind that this post is not intended to be particularly coherent or polite.
Allow me to explain something to all of you pompous shitsticks who think you're the hottest thing since a jalapeno enema- you are *NOT* important.
I'm serious here. There are several billion people on Earth, the vast majority of which don't even know you exist. Moreover, they don't even CARE that you exist. Of the handful that DO know you exist, how many do you think care about that fact? Hell, how many people do you see, or even speak with, every day that could disappear without altering your life in the slightest? So, why should we take ourselves so goddamn seriously? If I assert that I have six dicks, one of which sings Ave Maria in Polish every morning between 7:00 and 7:30 AM, what the fuck does it matter? Does anyone out there care? Does this radically change your world? Do you even BELIEVE me? I sure as shit hope not. If it gets around that I have six dicks, one of which sings, my romantic life will get weirder than it already is. Even more importantly, if you let some asshole's BLOG substantially alter your opinions of things, you really NEED to reconsider your perspective on the world. About the only thing you know for sure about me is that I have the basic intelligence necessary to type something in English, which, as I've stated before, is a feat within the powers of hamsters with very large testicles and a lot of patience. Does any of that qualify me to have an opinion on something? For all you know, I'm actually a bus driver in the south Bronx who watches championship wrestling every week and masturbates while reading the T.V. Guide. I don't mean the pictures either, I mean the t.v. listings. Doesn't that sound like a figure you should take seriously? I have stated before that you shouldn't take this blog seriously, and I meant that. I still mean it.
I personally blame this oversensitivity to what people say on the same philosophy that brought us political correctness. Yeah, yeah, I know, PC is one of the sacred cows in our field. I don't care. We've gotten so wrapped up in the idea that words are all that matters, that it's easy to forget just how important actions are. Sure, if I write something and it makes sense people might listen, but on the other hand I could tell ass jokes 24/7 too. Will people listen to that? Probably, but I doubt there will be very many. Would you care? I doubt it. I'd just be another random voice in the sea of crap that is the internet. It seems we only object to speech when a lot of people are listening.
"But Drek," you exclaim, "What about those with more power and influence? Don't they have more of a voice than everyone else?"
Yeah, they do. What do you suggest we do about that? If we restrict their speech, we're just priviledging some other group. How is that any different from what they do? Either we all get the right to speak or, ultimately, none of us do. For me, I think that any peaceful social change depends on the ability of people to organize and express themselves, and I don't believe I am wise enough to know exactly how society should be organized. As a result, I believe in the right of anyone to speak their mind, because at least that way society has a way to figure out what it should be from year to year.
What bugs me even more is the outright hypocrisy we all participate in. A while back I wrote a post about the masculists that was a little less than complimentary. Before that I wrote similarly structured posts about Ralph Nader and about the Bush Administration's attempts to justify the war in Iraq. Nobody said shit about these posts. There were no comments about how it might be threatening to my career to treat the Iraq War as a mistake or about how Ralph Nader deserves more respect. Why is that? Could it be because many of us are liberals, and don't support the Iraq war or Bush? Could it be that most of us are pissed at Nader for potentially throwing the election to Bush? So, what is it then, over-the-top speech is okay so long as it's over-the-top about people we don't like? Guess what people: it doesn't work that way. Either restricting people's speech is a bad thing, or it isn't. You might be able to argue that the speech of those we don't like should be restricted, and ours shouldn't, but I ain't gonna be any more impressed with that than the argument from the other guys who want to do the same thing to us.
In sociology we study social movements, but the movements we study tend to be things like civil rights, or the women's movement. Further we tend to be sympathetic to social movements, even though in their heyday they were extremely disruptive. The thing is, if you think social movements and civil disobedience are fine, you have to be willing to accept what comes along with them: right-wing militias, skin heads, the KKK, and their buddies.
"But Drek!" you gasp, "Those are HATE groups!"
You want a hate group? I'll give you a fucking hate group. I belong to a group that hates every one of the movements I just mentioned... we're called "rational human beings." However, just because YOU disagree with them, does NOT mean that they don't have the right to organize and say what they want. Either we all have the right to speak and believe what we want, or we don't, and if we don't, it doesn't matter who decides what's "good" speech and what's "hate" speech, someone is still imposing that decision.
You know what? I fucking HATE the KKK. I think their brand of ethnic belief is totally and utterly repugnant. My best friend growing up was hispanic, I've dated women from several different ethnic groups including Jewish, African-American, and Caucasian, and one of my best friends in college was Palestinian, so I'm a little more than slightly likely to take issue with anyone who says people of non-white ethnicity are inferior. You know what else? I think the KKK should be able to march right down fucking main street. I don't like the assholes one bit, but they have the RIGHT to express their opinions whether I like them or not. It's likewise the case with homophobic groups, anti-Arab groups, and any other shithead I would call a hate monger. That's just the way it works: if I want to have the right to believe as I do, and to speak my mind, I have to give that right to everyone else, whether I like it or not. Otherwise, I'm not being enlightened, or liberal, or even fair, I'm just demanding that everything be my way. Welcome back to the fucking dark ages.
Now, obviously, it would be remiss of me to argue for free speech and not to observe that we all have to take responsibility for what we say. This is a fair statement, and I would be lying if I said that anonymity wasn't at least partially an attempt to sidestep that responsibility. In my defense, however, (1) I state more than once that this blog should not be taken seriously, (2) I have previously allowed someone to use my blog to disagree with my opinions, which is my own very Drek way of taking responsibility, and (3) posting anonymously allows me the freedom to keep this blog fun. If I wrote under my own name, I'd constantly obsess that everything had to be perfect, or I'd only write about the most vanilla and uninteresting of topics. Anyone who really wants to know why I prefer chocolate to strawberry, you just let me know. Anonymity allows me to just be the smartass sumbitch I actually am, without having to worry about the professional sociologist I want to be. I don't think it's too much to ask that I have the option to do that. Nor, I think, is it inapproprtiate to point out that this is just a blog. Who cares what some anonymous grad student says? If you really think my opinion (at least right now before I have legions of screaming fans. *snicker*) is going to make or break your career/effort... things must have been pretty damn shaky to start with.
People, I'll be the first to admit that my brand of humor tends towards the sophmoric, but I never claimed it would be anything else. If you find it funny, great. If you don't think it's funny, great. If you think I'm smart... that's a bit surprising, but ok. If you think I'm an idiot, you've obviously been paying attention. Just don't take yourselves so goddamn seriously. I do funny shit all the time. I walk into walls, I trip on smooth sidewalks, a include typos in blog posts (amazingly, that particular typo WAS an accident. I just decided to leave it in), I fart really loud. I'm a regular human who puts his pants on one leg at a time, unless I'm lying down, and then I might try to put them on two at once until I remember that I'm an academic and, hence, not all that coordinated. If I forget that, and start thinking I'm something grander, I think it's my own damn mistake and I deserve to get smacked around a little.
A lot of the grad students I know love to hang out in coffee houses. I've even gone with them now and then. They have an appeal, (the coffee houses) I'll admit, with their wireless LANs and coffee drinks so bloody fucking complicated you need some sort of coffee-periodic-table to figure them out. At the same time, though, I never choose to go there on my own. You want to know where I go instead? I go to the friggin Waffle House. It's a little hard to take your academic concerns and departmental turf wars seriously when you're having a conversation with the waitress about whether or not she should buy a used car from the short-order cook's buddy. I can't really keep a straight face about my conference woes when the staff are explaining about how they've just become "licensed beef servers." I can't really care that much about how some author misreported a variable when I'm listening to two guys who pave roads for a living commisserate with a waitress who doesn't get the primo shifts anymore, and so can't afford to pay for phone service. It's called a "reality check."
Hell, I can be at least as much of a pompous fucktard as the next guy. Often times I'm a helluva lot more pompous than the next guy- otherwise I wouldn't bother to write this shit. I'm including myself in this problem as much as anyone else. But at least I try to make sure I'm aware of both the fact that I'm arrogant, and that I'm more than a little ridiculous. If people want to make fun of me for it, by all means. There are enough logical fallacies and absurdities in just the posts I've written so far to allow someone to keep me stocked with humble pie for a long-ass time. As a discipline if we take ourselves too seriously, we're just going to turn into a herd of humorless asses nobody trusts or respects. I'm all for professionalizing the discipline, I'm all about doing a kickass job, but at the end of the day if I can't put it in perspective, I've failed.
I'm not scolding most of you who read my blog (Which is pretty funny, considering that it calls my entire purpose in writing this into question) but rather just hurling my annoyance into the depths of space. We've gotta take ourselves less seriously. We've gotta stop being offended at every little thing someone says. We've gotta respect that other people might disagree with us, that they might say things we don't like, and that we should see exactly that in a free society. We've gotta laugh at ourselves, folks, because life is too short for anything else.
And, I swear to god, if you think my post title is intolerant of sheep-fuckers, I do not goddamn want to hear it.
UPDATE: Apparently I'm not the only one bitching and moaning about this just now. Check out Josh Sortelli's comments from the 21st of this month.