We are in the path of the full solar eclipse and over 1,500,000 people are traveling to the region to see it. And I have first day of classes. Some people are cancelling because they want to see the eclipse. Should I? How big of a deal is it? If it were during the semester, I’d just ask students how important it is to them. But it starts before I get a chance to meet them.
We are not in the exact spot where you can see the totality of the eclipse. For the totality, one has to drive about 20 mins south. People say there’s an enormous difference between the totality and just 99% but I’m definitely not driving anywhere. Crowds of eager eclipsers on the highway are not the environment I want to be in.
And here is a fresh example of how great of an idea it is to let vox populi supersede that of experts.
In Solzhenitsyn’s First Circle, there is an autobiographical character who is a very bright, well-read young man and who always wanted to meet the common folks he idolized and imbibe from the fount of their eternal wisdom. Then he was jailed and sent to a concentration camp where he finally met common folks. To his great surprise, he discovered that said folks possessed no eternal wisdom and laughed at him when he asked them to reveal it to him.
I really enjoy reading all of those gushy books and articles telling us how the Internet and the social media are democratizing politics and making authoritarianism impossible. True freedom was going to come from the Internet. People would finally get a chance to speak out and make themselves heard without any oppressive institutions standing in their way. The true wisdom of the common folk will find a voice! The youngsters who are so good with social media will sweep the boring oldsters out of the way! Yippee! The wealth of knowledge held by the “common intelligence” “hovers in the air on the Internet, accessible to everyone.”
These books and articles were very popular from around 2005-6 and all the way until November of 2016. The ones I quoted in this post are from 2006, 2008, 2012, and 2015.
And then a 70-year-old man who learned how to manipulate social media very well made a total joke out of all these predictions. And we discovered that vox populi was not filled with eternal and essential wisdom but was nasty, angry, resentful, trivial, and extraordinarily dumb.
The weirdest jobs I’ve had were not remunerated with money. But they were often remunerated with things that were more valuable than money. For instance, I took jobs instead of having to attend physical education classes at both my colleges in Ukraine. I hated PhysEd because there was no place to take a shower afterwards and the idea of going back to class after sweating at PhysEd for an hour felt humiliating. Nobody among my classmates agreed (story of my life), so collective action was not on the cards. Another PhysEd-related injustice was that PhysEd was only for female students. Male students had a free hour instead. I don’t react well to injustices, so I let PhysEd instructors exploit my free labor instead.
Job #1 was selling books and coffee at the entrance to the college stadium. The PhysEd instructor wanted to augment her income and needed salesgirls who would hand over the profit to her.
“You sell for me twice a week for 3 hours, and I’ll give you a B in PhysEd,” she said.
I loved this job because all I did was read books and guzzle coffee by the liter. I’m not sure people bought much from me because I was lost to the world behind my book. And then I dropped out and didn’t even need that B in PhysEd.
Job #2 was washing floors at the stadium of the college I went to after dropping out of the previous one. The conditions were the same. I wash the floors, and the PhysEd instructor gives me a C (my expectations became more modest by that time.) I was and still am so ridiculously bad at washing floors that the instructor glanced at my forlorn and aimless manipulations of the mop and started yelling, “What kind of woman can’t even wash the floors right? Who will want to marry somebody like that?”
“I’m already married,” I said stupidly, even though I knew that the instructor was single at 35 and obsessed with finding a husband. So she threw me out and expelled me from the college.
Those were pretty weird jobs.
The most surefire way to lose faith in humanity is to see on Facebook a topless selfie of your favorite writer.