Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Tactic of Non Engagement

I cannot say my rile is where it once was.  I blame the current administration at UF law which is demonstrating an unprecedented and alarming  lack of indifference to the welfare of the students, fiscal responsibility, and even handedness.

But there is an interesting condition that seems to afflict the privileged more than others.  I am not sure it is laziness, boredom,  a character flaw, or a political tactic. It a is cousin to the obsession with civility as a means of stifling dissent and maintaining the status quo. You know what I mean  - its not what you said but your tone.

It's the reluctance to engage. Here is an example. Someone on your faculty, or any workplace for that matter, does something that you think is wrong -- let's say he says everyone in a faculty meeting who disagrees with him is "insane."  It that bothers you there are a couple of ways to go. You could go to the person and say, "I'd like to convince you that broad non substantive statements like that are a problem." Or you could go to your own little mini mob and complain that the person is a jerk and add to that all of the other offenses by the person.  And, in future years you could describe the incident in slightly more extreme terms - he said we were insane and then starting cackling like a hen -- to get even more converts to your view that the person is truly evil or a nut case. This happens all the time.

Other than the law professor priss factor of which I have written before, what else is true about non engagers? Two things, but for this I need a better example. Let's suppose that a professor has a long list of speakers come to his class and none of them are gay. You decide this is a sure sign he or she is homophobic. If you engage the person, that means that you are conceding that he or she has something to say. Now you would not want that would you because, after all, you, the non engager always knows there can be no  room for discussion. You are not about to change your judgment because after all, on matters of homophobia, you are never wrong.  In effect, not engaging but spreading the word to your mini mob is just a fancy way of silencing. The other prof cannot speak to the issue because he has no idea it is an issue.

The other possibility is just plain sloth. In this case, it's just easier to go next door and complain. But what this really means is that you did not actually care that much about, in this case, the possible homophobia at all. Naw, you're just engaged in recreational BS.    

1 comment:

Mo said...

I've enjoyed your recent posts although I can't account for the loss of "rile." Hope it isn't writer's block! There's plenty to be riled about in academia but perhaps the hard part is sustaining it over time. Speaking of "priss" and tone over substance, there was a recent teapot tempest in Nevada when the former bar president said a few impolitic things in the bar's monthly lawyer magazine. Boy, did he get the faculty riled up there.

Here's to your rile-meter going up!