I’ve often been shocked by how utterly boring and anti-intellectual a lot of academics are. They’ll happily gossip about their colleagues for hours, but if you start talking about ideas at the dinner party they invariably give you this exasperated look and say something akin to “Do we really have to talk shop tonight?”
Most of the academics I know can’t remember the last time they read a serious book cover to cover. Sure, they keep up with reviews of serious books (thanks New York Review of Books!); but there’s nothing particularly intellectual about their leisurely pursuits. How thoroughly disturbing this is! Writer’s block is excusable. Sometimes you just don’t have anything to say. Or you can’t find the words. But a prof who doesn’t read is like a preacher who doesn’t pray.
I wonder if the increasing popularity of cheap moralism and formulaic ideologies amongst academics is really just a sneaky way of hiding the fact that they’re not reading like they used to. After all, who needs to read when you already know everything? Who needs to read when your pre-fab grad-school ideology has a ready-made pigeonhole for everything new under the sun? Why be curious when you can be outraged? Why be right when you can be righteous? Food of an inferior quality is often drowned in spices. Perhaps there’s something of a similar stamp going on here.
Why anyone who finds playing with ideas so tedious would choose the academic life is a mystery to me. After all, it’s not like we’re curing cancer or saving starving children. Nor are we making the big bucks. So what are we doing this for? Well, to my mind, the only good reason to pursue this life is because you find it inherently rewarding.
—John Faithful Hamer, The Myth of the Fuckbuddy (2016)