The Russian Time Machine: (who I am and what I'm trying to do here)


"Hey- I’m the dumbest guy on earth."

We just went through 50 years on a time machine. While the planet whirled, stars moved in their courses, the seasons came and went, we were obsessed with an abstract noun: “kommunism!!” Then one day it went away. Poof. Ha. Made you look.

Hey- I’m the dumbest guy on earth. I have no credentials at all. There’s no reason you should believe anything I say. After all, I’m not pretty or rich or tall, not published, not on TV. Big hair? Feggiddaboudit. Wait. “Feggiddaboudit?” That’s a meme.

Even a dull little nobody in Fort Wayne Indiana knows this: never before in human history have we been able to press out so many cookie-cutter people. We all catch the same memes and dream the same dreams. Cookie-cutter real comes out of a cathode ray tube.

The trees are brown sticks whirring by our passenger window. The ocean is that big wet thing on Baywatch. The galaxies pass silently unseen over the shingles of our drywall box. But Sk8tr Boi is real. Grind an ollie on our adult gestalt. Whassup widdat?

After I popped out of my pod at the cubefarm like a bad seed, I decided to do this: listen to young people— older folk-- people who go to a university because they think there’s something real out there that might not be on TV. And you know what?

I was mistaken. Most people go to a university to get their ticket punched so they can get a better job so they can get more money and buy an even bigger drywall box and cathode ray tube. Live to shop to live: will it ever end? Yes it will. Here’s why:

Even an Indiana cob-roller with no Economics degree like me knows that 30% growth in “earnings” is NOT SUSTAINABLE. It takes no special tricks or gift of geophysics to guess the planet is not filled with petroleum. And then what?

Well then, me bucko, it all comes a-cathartin down on our toiny heads. Then we’ll want to march and carry torches and have a war on something. Some of us here in faculty-student-research land are quite concerned. But what can we do?

We can build awareness of the memetic cookie-cutter. You get that first dream job at MergeCo, and they ask you to facilitate detail-oriented team-player market-focused entrepreneurial vision strategies by multitasking in today’s competitive environment to create shareholder value.

What does that mean? What does it REALLY mean? What if Linguistics professors up at Oxvard who know all that can be knowed told you that “create shareholder value,” roughly translated into Standard American English, means, “eat your children?” Can you write a modest proposal?

Subversion? Sedition? Socialism? Not at all. This is simply a thought exercise. Better thinkers make better writers. Better writers make better employees. If “common sense” were all that “common,” it wouldn’t be an oxymoron. Isn’t that ironic?

So that’s what we’re trying to do here: teach writing. Teach the writing of modest proposals. If in the process of process-based writing, we throw in some handy tools like “irony” or “critical thinking,” all the better to build the required skill-sets.

Perhaps, as an added perk, we can perceive a better world.

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