Thursday, November 6, 2014

PhD And The New Mafia Entrant

One of the advantages of doing a PhD is that you will invariably have the good fortune to interact with an exquisite collection of human species. I mean in normal life, you will come across one or two odd balls. But, the abnormal life of PhD allows you the once in a life time opportunity to meet quite a few odd balls in one place. Mind you, most of them are very nice and quite brainy (just like very brainy and nice grocery store owners and Mafia dons). Most refreshingly most of them have a kind of politics which does not believe in eating thy neighbour or shooting immigrants, poor people, single mothers etc.

The motto of PhD life is minimum human contact and most of the oddballs detest wasting time in mere conversations unless it is done in structured reading groups about Zizek's psychoanalytic bulbrum or Benjamin's mechanic of the art of the reproduction of the age of new chicken. So again, you don't get the opportunity to chew fat with this unique collection of humanity very often.

As for self's oddballness, it has often been certified by most members of the human species self has come into contact with. There is a near hundred percent consensus about the topic. So, in theory, PhD life should be an uneventful episode as far as self is concerned. Generally the most exciting experiences occur when one academic calls another an idiot in nicely veiled bablooz language within the cover of some moth eaten book which a total of two people in the world would read.

So, it was quite a surprise when self went ahead and picked up a fight with a teacher who was trying to direct his flock to the horizon of wisdom through deep reading of selected texts written by mostly dead men and women. As a rule, self has a deferential attitude towards teachers. Even the maths teacher in class 6 who threw self's notebook out of the window (for contesting a fine point about why should a maths equation mean what it did) will certify that self is not a hooligan when it comes to teachers.

And, in UK, whatever  might be the country's faults ( this will take an encyclopaedia...bad food, UKIP supporters, Tories, red Tories known as Labour, CCTV cameras, bad weather...blah blah), self gets along very well with the teaching community. The best teacher self has ever had is from this small island and as for the supervisory team, self considers them as sort of nice parents with whom self doesn't have any issues. (Aside: self has real issues with real parents, so there might be a thread for psychoanalysts to pick up)

Coming back to the point, after shooting a nasty email to a teacher (who probably only wanted to direct his reading group to wisdom through right contextualisation), self felt like a rookie Mafia entrant who has shot aimlessly into one's own group.

The unwritten and difficult to understand rules of academic life are quite similar to the Mafia codes. Both are a bit tough on the new entrant.And, just like a bullet which has left the gun, an email which has been sent cannot be taken back. The strange rituals of the British academia has always baffled self. So far, self has been trying to fit in by asking people how many hours they worked with all the earnestness of a new Mafia entrant who wants to know how to fire the gun properly.

For some reason, like the Mafia swagger, self has picked up anger and a propensity to burn in one's own intensity. This might have to do with self's research topic or the general friendly racism at train stations, pubs, shops, British library reading rooms and similar citadels of the empire which  the small island finally lost for the good of everyone concerned.

With no legitimate target to burst upon, it some how fell on the teacher's insistence on deep reading in the precise manner in which he envisaged. Heretic questions like why read that way?,why should one deep read?, is deep reading like deep frying?, why can't one structure the session differently?, why should one sit through quite a few sessions which might be about Benjamin, Kant, Zizek or similar blighters from the heart of Europe who were blessed with unique thinking genes etc., passed through self's mind and the email was send. One might say that self regrets it. But, as a new PhD Mafia entrant, should bite it and move on as if nothing has happened.

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