Today pus erupted out of the cats head all over our bed and he was so relieved. He ran down stairs for a snack. Poor Mitch has been through the wars recently with an intruder cat or possibly a stoat or a rat or even a squirrel. We don’t know which. His brother sure doesn’t care but we do.
Anyway along with that news came an epiphany. I was clearing my shelves to return books to the university library, some of which I have had for 9 years and I was struck by (a) the number of books I had no recollection of whatsoever and (b) the number of books meticulously marked up with Post-it’s for reference purposes for the dreary, largely pointless academic papers I have published (my predictive text spell check just gave me ‘dada sic’ for academic hmm). I realised that I really did not care who said what about whatever I only really cared about what I said. More particularly I only really cared about what I did on the basis of what I said, if anything, sadly often nothing. Of all the academic things I have done the only one I am really proud of is the film I made and the melodrama I conceived and co-wrote. I believe these were the only things I did that made any difference and that was just to make people laugh with people with a disability (cut the crap we laughed at them as well). I am secretly proud of my PhD mainly because I managed it at all –not being the sharpest knife in the drawer, I still can’t do sums. Of course all this dismissiveness is an exaggeration. I have always plundered the great for ideas but still the notion of copying their great stuff from one very worthy manuscript to another slightly less great or worthy, when you could be writing, drawing, engineering something of your own, does seem silly. We teach our students to do this and some are brilliant but others should really be let of the lead, despite registering for university they are not trainee academics and by forcing citationism down their throats we throttle their creativity as effectively as the Christmas Turkey.
My epiphany was probably accelerated by a dear friend who told me he had not read for pleasure for years – nowadays he reads for citations – what a shame. Still he is a professor and I ain’t.
Where does this lead bookish scholarship – well I suppose, not for me, is the answer. Is this a suicide note addressed to academia, of course not! I have every respect for great scholarship but not a lot for bad variety, the all long words and not an original thought in sight, the complexity for complexities sake, the reading of papers at conferences (for gaud sake we can read it for ourselves) the pomposity of some academics, the pretentious robes and rituals and of course the dada sic. Academia should be a great place for doers and makers as well as thinkers and writers. Academia should be a magnet for bright interesting people not obsessive compulsive citationers who cannot think for themselves. It may not be what Plato had in mind but I would not be so sure of that.