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Round Robin

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Feb. 7th, 2012 | 07:30 am

I recently read an online article by Corey Robin, a political science professor at CUNY whose book, The Reactionary Mind (which I have not yet read), is getting some attention. I liked his article, and must have followed a link from it to his blog, to which I now subscribe.

This morning he posted something about a TA at the University of Michigan who was retaliated against because of her union activism. He related this to his time as an organizer for GESO, the graduate student union at Yale, in the 1990s. I was there at that time, and I participated in GESO, and in an instant I had a mental image of what he looked like at that time. I hadn't made the connection until then.

I had opportunities--both as an employee and as a graduate student--to participate in union activities while I was at Yale. My participation was limited, and I was cautious, mainly because my financial situation was rather tenuous. Something, no matter how little, was better than nothing at all.

I also remember feeling uncomfortable with the social-pressure aspect of union organizing. In fact, at the time when GESO was vying for recognition, I was feeling drawn to Sufism. I even remember reading Idries Shah's Sufism at the time and feeling conflicted about where I should be directing my attention.

Within the past several years I have been faced with the catastrophic failures of my intended social support systems--whether spiritual groups or therapists--to meet me where I needed to be met during my experiences of loss. In fact, if I'm not careful, such people and situations will take advantage of my vulnerability during periods of loss, and add substantially to my burden, thereby complicating and prolonging my healing process. Nice, huh?

Those experiences, combined with reading David Smail's analysis of the capitalist-consumerist illusions underlying most psychotherapy)  (among other things), have led me to question the dogma that "inner is better" and "outer is bad." In fact, if inner is so important, why is it necessary to constantly surround oneself with (potentially highly manipulative) people in order to reinforce that idea? What if "inner" actually supports the status quo, in an embarrassingly (or even destructively) conservative way, while directing attention away from vulnerable people who are actually being exploited (including, perhaps, ourselves)? If we are to increase our awareness of what is going on in the world, to increase our compassion for those who are suffering, how can we do that if we are constantly preoccupied with sexual guilt and whatever else some "spiritual" people would use to distract us? Won't learning something about how fucked up things really are teach us some detachment and increase our ability to stand back from common collective myths?

So, back to Corey's post: he suggested that readers of his blog email officials at the University of Michigan about the illegal firing of this graduate student. I did that, and made sure to include information on my degrees, my current position, and the fact that I am a former GESO member. They're probably douchebags who don't care anyway, but why not?

It's nice to see that Corey is still doing his thing, and that I am still learning something from him.


Om Kreen Kalyai Namaha,

ak

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