These days when I think about careers in academics and indeed the academic project in general, I also tend to think of onerous burdens; the way in which the achievement of a productive life in the academic mainstream is a clear symbol also for a decayed and limited personal life, forsaken income, compromises in integrity and creativity, and a kind of repressed despair that results in some way from betrayed idealism.
Sometimes it strikes me that this runs in strong parallel to what we presume when we see someone that is successful, in an honorable way, in politics, particularly at the local level.
And of course in both cases, there is also the secondary truth that when we see someone in either field that is tremendously well-known and successful, we also tend to know that they have “sold out,” that they have traded integrity for financial success, have darkened their legacy with unseemly and untoward dealings of various kinds, and so on.
And in both cases, we increasingly bemoan the fact that the best and brightest young people, and particularly the best and brightest young people with high levels of honor and personal integrity, increasingly eschew participation in both spheres, often after making a start and then experiencing disillusionment along the way.
These similarities make me think that there is a deeper cultural undercurrent here that informs both situations, one that deserves some thinking and analysis.
If only I was still in the business of doing this sort of thing. Who knows, in the future I may be again. But for the moment, I count myself amongst the number that I have just described, fully aware of the irony of the situation, and of this post.