Tuesday, May 20, 2014

notes from a suburban coffee shop

      Despite my recent blog posting, I haven't been involved in the union since our strike on the first week of the quarter.  To be honest, I wish I had gotten another week to work for the union, because I didn't have the chance to clean up the office, which wasn't in the best of shape due to a month or so of strike organization.  I'm not too fond of a number of my successors, but they certainly deserve the opportunity to start with an orderly office.  I would have also liked to finally get the orientations grievance settled, a process that I ironically started at the beginning of my tenure as Irvine's campus unit chair.  My hope is that process will get resolved without me, but despite some genuine bureaucratic experience amongst some of that grouping, I'm not terribly optimistic that the grievance will be made a priority.  I'm also fairly concerned that there isn't much effort to mobilize the Irvine membership for the upcoming strike in June, which is crucial for challenging the various unfair labor practices of the management of the University of California system.  I hope I'm wrong, and I'm even willing to put in a little labor into the process if it was necessary.

      Despite unemployment, I'm glad to be out, to be honest.  I've been done with the university since late December, and while I thought it made sense to stick around a bit longer to provide some transition, it doesn't make sense to have someone representing grad students who was finished with their studies.  Still, my final months were spent doing a lot more of the on the ground activities that I wanted to focus on.  I got to talk to folks across the campus about the strike, from the physical and natural sciences to the humanities and social sciences.  It was work I liked, but, to be honest, I was a bit burnt out by the institutional politics of the union, and even by the reform process that brought me into electoral office.  At the most immediate level, that frustration was created by the intransigence of the former leadership, who never accepted the election of the reform group in any meaningful sense, but it also expanded to the divisions and contradictions within the reform group, which has been defined by a number of explosive fights along with long running tensions.  In each case, the problems often stem back to the relationship has with our International union, who has left the local with very little ability to meaningfully act in its own interests.  I'll discuss these issues at a further date, but I'd like to give myself some time to discuss those issues with a cooler analytical framework.

      Other than that, I'm spending a lot of time looking for work.  At this point, I'm largely stuck looking for employment in the precarious spaces of academic employment, ranging from lecturer position to post-doctoral fellowships, and even positions as tutors for the summer months.  The process is fairly dreary and depressing.  There aren't a lot of jobs available, those jobs available aren't terribly high paying or stable.  However, this is a topic that has been covered by a lot of folks already, and no doubt their analysis offers more than I can currently offer.  Beyond that, I haven't been doing a lot.  I've been reading, and I attended the historical materialism conference in Toronto.  I have to confess that the conference left me feeling disconnected and alienated, an experience that I suspect has more to do with my current state of mind, rather than anything to do with the conference at all.  I just haven't felt any particular urgency to write at all over the past few months.  This isn't because I don't have anything to say.  I have some ideas about a essay on Robert Heinlein and Samuel Delany and about Butler and Jameson's readings of Louis Althusser to name two random ideas, but it just feels kind of pointless.

      I want to make it clear that it's not an emotional, but a kind of analytical malaise this is at the heart of this issue.  It just seems kind of pointless to make any  sort of intervention right now.   At one level, that sense of futility can be linked to a sense that anything I write won't get much attention, but more significantly,  there just doesn't seem like there is much potential for substantial transformation within the current political conjunction.  It seems fairly reasonable to assume that my field of vision is affected by my withdrawal from union activism, and lack of political projects, but it also reaches farther to my failed interventions into the reform process itself, that left me isolated from both the dominant northern group, and the discontented largely southern group as well.  More than anything else, I miss a sense of being a part of an intellectual and political collectivity that I both contribute to and learn from.  Which is not to say I'm lacking in friendship, but in a kind of collective engagement that has transformative potential, either on political or epistemological grounds.  At the same time, it doesn't seem like our current political terrain is particularly hospital to such interventions, as well.  I suspect that this will change with time.

1 comment:

  1. It IS hard to write when the target of the writing is hard to envision.