Self-pity or Self-promotion

Obviously, I had a lot more obstacles on my way than this fellow. But why don’t I feel in the least sorry for myself? Is he faking it because he knows it’s what sells or is he sincere? I’d much rather he were faking it because the alternative is just too embarrassing.


25 thoughts on “Self-pity or Self-promotion”

  1. Eh.
    Considering what his area of expertise is, it’s not nearly as self pitying as your description lead me to believe.

    Everyone in academia apparently measures themselves against the xth generation college student who has family in academia in the same country and if they differ in any way they say they have it harder.

    I think it’s a style. Like you can react to obstacles but only in a certain way and doing so marks you as an outsider just as much as not checking the right mythical boxes does. I could definitely check some of those disadvantage boxes but intoning that list annoys the hell out of me. I have friends who grew up worse off but the idea they’d blabber about it in this academic privilege ranking way is science fiction.


    1. That’s exactly how it feels. Science fiction. The only thing in this genre that was worse was that rant by an academic who found a tenure-track job and wailed about the extreme hardship of having to find a new dry cleaners in the place she moved to for the job.


      1. Thank you so much for this funny link. This guy had to pay for his own SAT exam; he’s writes it with such solemnity that I’m convinced he trolling white people.
        He had to fill out paperwork himself at 18 years old!
        He’s a comic genius.
        Clarissa, you never fail to deliver the best content and commentary on the web.


        1. Thank you, that’s so nice!

          I also always wonder if people are just taking the piss when they say things like that. Do they go home and laugh at the idiots who fall for this?

          In the past 3 days, I’ve seen so many pompous pronouncements by academics on social media who read this article and are filled with extreme compassion (or condescension) for this fellow.


  2. I feel that first generation is very fetichized. I am not and I have had it thrown in my face a lot, but honestly, the things people expected me to know because of not being, I didn’t. Yes, there ARE things first generation students do not know and have no way of knowing unless you tell them, but many other students are ALSO like that.

    I am perhaps unfair on this point because I went to a public Ivy when there was no tuition, only fees, so there were lots of people who had grown up poor and were there because they could do it, and they didn’t have to feel so different because they were legion. It was public, but it was highly selective, so everyone was a go-getter type — the non-first generation people were, as well — and that, too, contributed to the effective non-gap between that group and the rest. The bigger gap was between those who had a lot of discretionary income and those who didn’t, and first-generation or not didn’t fall along those dividing lines. I think it was the poor, the middle class, and the humble rich all together in one world, and the big spenders in the other.

    The people I notice who are disadvantaged in life generally are people who have never seen anyone persist to get through any bureaucratic system when they meet roadblocks. There are first generation and non first generation people who are like that. I am not like that but it isn’t because of being from an “academic family,” it is because my aunt (who did not go to college) had a good business head and would do things methodically, and my grandmother on the other side knew how to get past the first line: yes, I really want to return this item to your store, and yes, I really want to see a specialist at this clinic.


  3. I’m with Z here because I’m also 2nd generation PhD. I guess I should apologize for privilege, because some things I understand more easily because I know the system from the family dinner table. Obviously I had a leg up from the beginning. But then I had to adjust to an academic environment where people weren’t even trying to be intellectuals as I expected them to be. Poor me, right? I had impostor symptom from trying to live up to familial expectations, in a different way than those transitioning from another social class.


    1. Everybody encounters hardship. It’s different hardship for everybody. I don’t know what it is that people expect. A completely problem-free existence? And if that doesn’t happen – because it never does – they are eternal victims of a cosmic injustice?


        1. Notice all the down votes. You have to fetishize first generation now. But honestly: the Big Alienation would be being first generation and poor at a school where people were multi-generation and rich. I’ve taught at places like that, and it was terribly alienating for me let alone those students, and that Posse program exists precisely because of this problem.


          1. Gosh, when I starting as an undergrad, I had no idea how to buy a cup of coffee, how to take a bus, how to take a book out of the library. Or even that you could physically take a book out of a library. Besides, everybody was just a student while I was a divorcee raising a teenager. The wildest dream I had was to go to Tim Hortons. And it wasn’t just lack of money but also lack of cultural competence. It all seemed so complex, like a foreign ritual.

            But I never felt aggrieved throughout it. I felt happy. It was an adventure, it was super exciting. It makes me feel happy even just to think about it.

            Real hardship, the crushing kind wasn’t on campus or at the coffee shop. It was in my head, waiting like a ticking bomb to blow me to pieces. But I don’t feel aggrieved about that either.


            1. What I am learning is that most people do not see those things as adventures. People are more fearful, less adventurous, and more resistant to change than I, and want their hands held more than I do. This goes for everyone, “first generation” and not.

              I thought “first generation” wasn’t first to go to graduate school, but first to go to college.

              Some people here who are first generation to college secretly believe they don’t deserve to be here. I do find myself having to work with them on that.


    2. On this though, and partly just to take the other side and partly because I mean it, there are disadvantages to being a 2d generation PhD and professor. Everything I do and go through, is something I have seen before. It is as though I had already done everything once, even if I wasn’t the principal, I saw how things unfolded. Nothing was new enough or my own enough, not the way it was for those who hadn’t already closely watched it all (especially the parts that involve desperation). And at the same time, one couldn’t get questions answered because the principals were already too tired from answering those questions at work. It was like: I am tired of talking about that, I’ve been doing it all day so you could eat now, so eat and let’s talk about baseball or whatever.


          1. And it’s not like you ever denied that they experience hardship. The point is that there is complexity that everybody encounters, even if it’s different for different people. Why is that so problematic to accept?


            1. Because of the oversimplification, the romantization of history and the current fetishization of the term working class. People who have absolutely no solidarity or class consciousness, etc., patting themselves on the back for having had some relative or another who was an auto mechanic. Christ.


          2. What irritates me about it all so much is that nobody appears to know anybody who didn’t make it to college, or had something else to do and didn’t go. Their idea of the most abject and pitiable person is someone whose whole family didn’t go to college. And then they mouth pieties, while stepping over bodies in the street. American liberals are disgusting.


            1. Gosh, I so agree. And I’m glad we get each other. Because I’m so disgusted with all this condescending piety of people who confessed their privilege and now want to go preach The Truth.


              1. Confessing privilege is like R Catholic confession but without that pesky need for repentance or change. I can understand those who complain about privilege from the wrong side of the tracks… I don’t think it’s always the optimum strategy but I get it. I despise supposed ‘allies’ who wallow in crocodile tear paroxysms of guilty pleasure and virtue…


              2. That’s precisely why it bugs me so much. There is clear enjoyment in all these privilege confessions. It’s like that person I used to know who’d publish tearful screeds about eating gourmet meals at the balcony of a luxurious hotel while his heart bled for the poor hungry locals swarming under the balcony. That same person berated me for not being a true liberal once.


  4. As a (kind of*) first generation university student I can see the point in some of the original article.

    When I began (second time around, serious this time) I didn’t even know what a major was (I knew people talked about it a lot but what was it?) and remember smiling through a meeting or two with guidance counselors’ who used jargon I couldn’t begin to understand (comp out, transfer credits etc) and leaving them no better informed than when I went in…

    I kind of slowly figured things out on my own as I needed to. So I definitely understand some of where he’s coming from and adding a minority status to that has to be intimidating in lots of different ways.

    Another problem, tv movies don’t even remotely come close to reflecting any reality around post secondary education and this leaves many people befuddled or stuck with a set of unrealistic goals since this is most Americans’ major source of information on how things work. Just working through the disconnect between the media and reality is also a slag.

    But on the other hand… dramah much? I definitely get the feeling he’s playing up to an audience that can’t get enough of minority alienation. And he’s playing into typical American prejudice against higher education (making it seem like a horrible ordeal for protestant work ethic virtue points).

    *nothing in my life or family background is or has ever been remotely linear and when I start talking about it most people just tune out in disbelief….


    1. It’s not even the article but the reactions that drive me around the bend. “We must practice acts of compassion towards our POC colleagues” wrote somebody on FB linking to the article. And immediately people went nuts with privilege-checking and insencere apologies to the less fortunate. I hate this shit.


      1. Privilege checking is some weird masochistic exercise. I have just read up on English peasants of the 17th century and I am very, very privileged in comparison to them, it must be said. However, I remember college: my aunt paid for it, but what money I didn’t spend would be my parents’ retirement, so I chose a cheap college and did it in the cheapest way possible, with the best grades possible so I wouldn’t be wasting the opportunity. I thought about the money I was subtracting from my parents’ retirement every day. At the same time, I wouldn’t apply for good scholarships or cool jobs because, I actually thought, I should nobly leave these things for people whose aunts weren’t paying for college. So that was a lot of privilege checking: everybody else had to go first, and I had to hold myself back. It was pointless. Only much later did I realize that my aunt’s support was a gift freely given and that I did not have to pay it back by removing myself from competition for other things.


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