As the attention of the world shifted to those few US states that are still counting, my „I’m-not-even-playing-this-wicked-game” libertarian soul (while aware of all the big picture political and global chessboards behind the scenes) thinks… What is going to change in our life? We will probably get the same coffee. The same pastrami sandwich. Love our kids, pet the neighborhood cats, get annoyed with noisy cousins. Whatever patterns of behavior we had in our life before, we will have in the future, unless we choose to work hard and change them. We will only have control over that little portion of time and space that was given to us, and we will have little power and energy at our disposal, so it would probably be wise to carefully direct these resources – and focus on what we can change… Therefore, if you’re not in a geopolitically unstable place – and you know what you can and cannot do – why does global politics inflict such emotions? Why do families break up over something that in the end doesn’t matter in your day to day life? Is it worth it? Is it worth it to put yourself through all the anger and hate, and then go to sleep in your cozy as always bed, ask for the usual in your breakfast cafe – and go to the same workplace? The only thing different is your feelings over something that is not in your power.
Yes, my memories from the aftermath of the 2016 elections are still very vivid. And this is what I obviously allude to. I was in a very different place at the time – a lonely Polish student in the international environment of academia. In Western Europe. I was slowly processing one cultural shock after another – how the atrocities of communism are not properly acknowledged and recognized, how basic symbols are not even understood – by appointed professors… The ignorance and arrogance I witnessed was bewildering, and, to top it all off, at the end of my failed contract I had to learn about the toxic world of narcissism. It is a long story – and one day, I will be ready to share it in English.
November 2016 came when I was already at the brink of a breakdown. The professors surrounding me seemed childish and were openly advocating their liberal – in the American sense – beliefs, to the point of assuming everyone has to be like them. They did not even issue proper arguments – the conversations (forced upon everyone around) seemed like emotional outbursts more than anything else.
And believe me, I do enjoy a good respectful political discussion – by good and respectful meaning one that happens when both parties agree to. One with interesting and mature arguments, conducted to understand the perspective of the other side. Ideally – and oh, how naive I was to think it is the case now – academia should be a place of this kind of debate…
Then Trump got elected and it messed up my life.
I mean it. And alright, it was a rhetorical figure. His election did not directly mess up my life. But it did create an environment too insane to do research in. Or rather, it exposed the groups I tried to work in as toxic and childish. It showed that Western academia is a damned place of hysteria, and the ideals of the Golden Age are dead.
Is my language too strong here? Yes, I do come from a traumatized place, so keep that in mind, still…
If Trump didn’t get elected…
That one professor would not greet me with „I think I’m becoming religious, because the world is going to hell”… INSTEAD OF A „HELLO”.
I wouldn’t have to worry about mentioning conferences in the States during lunches at the risk of my boss getting all heated up about Trump… just because I talked about another timezone. „Nobody goes to the States anymore” – he would instantly comment with this contemptuous tone, while I was thinking to myself how this – suddenly growing, but always present – aggressive anti-Americanism of academia, Hollywood and the media suspiciously resembles a grand finale of a successful PSYOP…
I wouldn’t have to listen to my advisor’s nervous shouting because someone got a stipend in Colorado… „Oh no! How can she go to the States when she’s an educated woman?!” Of course, because of the new president everyone in the States suddenly became jerks and educated women are no longer welcome there. Do you even hear yourself?
I wouldn’t be physically assaulted from behind by another professor – over a gossip that has evidently labeled me a Trump supporter (which was never true, and nobody spoke to me directly about that). Can I file a claim? Of course not! She made sure there would be no evidence.
I wouldn’t have to witness members of CPUSA distributing way too disturbing flyers at a conference. I wouldn’t have a dissociative episode due to my intergenerational trauma. I wouldn’t wake up with broken blood vessels.
I most probably wouldn’t have to avoid lunches at the second best polytechnic in the world. Why did I isolate myself? I was so tired of each conversation being either small talk or Trump-related temper tantrum… The world is so much more than that! Don’t you travel? Don’t you love the mountains? Don’t you have feelings? Don’t you experience life? But in order to seem like the self-and-falsely-described „elite”, you show off by childishly attacking Trump during every meal… You know you can do it like an adult? In an appropriate social setting, with some good arguments? I forgot, you can’t. You have a PhD. I should talk to factory workers instead – unlike you, they know life and can criticize politicians rationally.
I wouldn’t have to worry that a conversation about snow will turn into another shouting session. Because you know, global warming and Donald T. It’s evidently not safe to mention the weather unless you’re ready to diss the president again. And better be ready! Because if you’re not on our side, we will make sure you get bullied! Oh, and you don’t have to even support Trump to be labelled as not on our side… Not experiencing the same emotions is enough!
None of these people had an American citizenship.
My PhD was not in any kind of politicized field. It was in geophysics.
This is the picture of your universities, Anglosaxons and the rest…
Maybe… maybe if Trump didn’t get elected, my environment wouldn’t be exposed as this inappropriate and soulless. Maybe – and there was a number of underlying issues there – I wouldn’t have these recurrent panic attacks, maybe I would finish that PhD.
But in a way, I am grateful for this brutal exposure. I have seen the truth to the bone. I have seen that modern academia is not a place for a rational person, and if you choose to work there, you will have to distance yourself and wear a mask of basic shallow courtesy… Is it why people entered universities before though? Weren’t they looking for an… intellectually stimulating environment instead? Well, forget about that. It’s all in the past. And now, if you have to conceal your thoughts and background anyway, better get a job in industry. You’ll get more money, and there’s more quality control of human interaction.
Thank you for the tough life lesson, American voters.
So yes, an election outcome CAN mess up your life… In my case, when others get way too emotional about it. And when – instead of taking a few steps back and a few deep breaths, and thinking what will really change in their lives – they have to show off their politics in the most inappropriate way. Causing some collateral damage nobody notices until it’s too late.
By the way – in reality, their funding is mostly insensitive to monetary policy or changes in taxation rates. They live off grants. Sheltered. They can afford to spend their quota on Intercontinental hotel rooms while discussing the merits of worldwide socialism, because nobody taught them any history… and they didn’t have to experience poverty, see and feel with their own hands where things really come from.
It’s a kindergarten that comes with better toys – not teddy bears anymore, but supercomputers and electron microscopes. If you can play all your life… Shouldn’t it feel so amazing? Shouldn’t you be grateful for the prosperity and progress that made it happen? Shouldn’t you wake up dancing and singing that you stand on the shoulders of giants, that you have the privilege to live off the ideas that shaped Western Europe into a civilized place where you can afford to flourish? Shouldn’t you be thinking „man… I live in the XXI century. I do fascinating research. I hop on planes and live in hotels. I don’t have to be a factory worker. I don’t have to die of polio. I don’t have to die in a mass grave. I have more than a bowl of rice per week…”
And yet, these people were unhappy. They were defining their whole identity by one election result that wasn’t even in their country. They felt attacked, they had to show off they are at war, that they are fighting for a completely made-up cause while living off the same grant and drinking the same coffee as during Obama’s term… And they couldn’t even see how much it took to afford to be so unrealistic. That indirectly, they are advocating for cutting off the very branch they are so comfortably sitting on.
Because if you forget about your history, your philosophy and your provenience, you stop seeing your luck. You won’t notice that the experience of the vast majority in human history was very different than yours. You won’t even notice how ungrateful you are. And for you to have the nerve of praising communism in front of an – indirect, but still – victim? If you had any awareness, you would be so ashamed.
And how little perspective these sheltered people must have to be acting out the way they did. When the infamous, contemptuous „nobody goes to the States anymore” sounded out in an empty dining hall of a certain Dutch university, millions of people worldwide – abused by their governments – would work hard to get their Green Cards, their golden tickets to a better life. A number of North Korean defectors woke up in the States that day and cried post-traumatic tears of joy. When my „professors” called out the US for some unnamed, imprecise „terrible things” just because a man they’ve been taught to hate lives in the White House – slaves were being traded in Libya, political prisoners poisoned in Russia, Uighurs forcefully sterilized in China. And each of them would do anything to wake up as a waiter in New York and learn it was all a nightmare. If you have to virtue signal how preoccupied you are with human rights violations, why don’t I ever hear you talk about North Korea, about the Saharan slaves, about the CCP or Venezuela? Why is it just the States, which in truth is – a bit deteriorated today, but still – mostly a haven for those abused? Do you think if you had the wrong army on your soil, you wouldn’t suffer so much? That you are so much better than us because you’re lucky enough to be born in the West, so anything that is not a part of your rich world is out of your sight? No, if you had the wrong army on your soil, you would risk your life to cross the Berlin Wall and end up in Washington. As some people did…
That’s something invisible from your ivory tower, isn’t it… The distance from Minsk to Amsterdam is merely 1744 kilometers, or 1083 miles. My friends got tortured there – by the Lukashenko regime. Months of protests, people going missing, getting beaten up and raped, emotionally abused by some nameless creatures in uniforms that tell them they will be killed… None of your eyes ever went there. You only think what’s across the Atlantic Ocean, obsessed with Trump and blind to the world around you. Oh, and if only you could criticize Trump well! If only your reaction was rational and proportional!
It only tells me this is all but a show. If you really cared about human rights… Forget politics. Forget being realistic about history and the world around you. Just take a peek outside of your office. Academia itself is a hierarchical place with a huge imbalance of power between tenured professors and the rest. People are being ruthlessly abused right under your nose, their careers broken, PhD projects abandoned. And the same „professors” that pretend to care how Trump is going to be mean to black people – ignore serious workplace mobbing happening on their own corridor.
I don’t believe in any of your good intentions anymore, academia. Maybe there was a time I did, years ago, but I did not expect this ignorance and this arrogance. This pretense of virtue covering a deeply narcissistic structure. And how much certain propaganda departments messed with your heads, either directly or indirectly. You are childish and fake – or cynical and fake. Whichever it is, your beautiful minds are busy kissing up to your own mindless thought police.
So now, even though I will be the first one to say that election results mostly matter way less than we think they do, that you should focus on your own life, that the geopolitical games will be played regardless, and that politics is oftentimes just as toxic – and way more Machiavellian than academia… Even though I am openly that libertarian who refuses to play, and I am trying to see through my own politics-related emotions, and analyze the patterns and the chessboards…
Yes, there was a time when US election results messed up my (alien’s!) life.
So please, step up when someone is bullied. Stay strong and grateful. And however you voted, don’t let it get to you too much. You will only make yourself and others miserable… And nothing else will really change.
[Update: as expected, Biden won when I was editing this post. Yes, who the president of the still-first superpower is does matter in the big picture. For a number of reasons, foreign policy being probably the main one, however… This obviously was a personal, down-to-earth, will-my-morning-cigarette-change kind of post. Does it matter for me now? No, unless something travel ban related happens again. I will still stay home, pop my pills for PTSD and publish, and get ready to finish old projects. Would it matter for me if I was still in academia… out there? YES. I would be able to work better because nobody would be causing a riot around me. But knowing what I know now… I wouldn’t want to work in a place where it’s normalized to behave that way. I wouldn’t want fragile peace just because right this moment nobody is having a tantrum. I wanted adult relationships… And it turned out to be too much to ask for. ]