Saturday 18 February 2012

The Inadvertent Non-Conformist

I could just as well have named this blog The Inadvertent Non-Conformist. It wouldn't have attracted as many anti-establishment archaeologists, or them as wants to watch a slow, train wreck of an academic career, but it would have been a truthful admission, just the same. Non-conformity, as an example of what Marxian philosophers (especially Pierre Bordieu) have called praxis, has a long and glorious history. Think Protestants. Puritans. Suffragettes. Conscientious Objectors. Beatniks, Hippies, Punks, Goths, 99%ers. I don't think I'm in their league because I believe I never made a conscious decision to be this way. Others made that decision for me while I was still young, by pushing me away because they thought I was 'different' or by foreclosing on any form of discourse because they didn't like what I said.

And, in contrast to those heroic groups I mentioned a minute ago, mine's been rather an inglorious non-conformity. It's no doubt the reason I'm sitting here right now, at The Subversive Archaeologist's World Headquarters (amidst a virtual pile of papers I've written that'll more than likely never make it into the canon of archaeology and palaeoanthropology) instead of being the fossil hunter they profile in National Geographic magazine, or the presenter you see on the History Channel telling you what to think about the Neanderthals, or moderating an NPR radio broadcast on the question of who came first, the chicken or the egg.

In fact, I believe that I came to be this person who tries to undermine silly, or illogical, or false knowledge claims because, all those years ago, I was marginalized, brutalized, bullied, and beset by other children who were, in reality, making false claims about the worth of my person. I've received the same treatment in the academy, as many of you know. Always remember: I never went looking for a fight with my discipline or its practitioners because I learned on the playground and in the neighborhood that you gain nothing from physically confronting your abusers--you merely become like them. Instead I fight their ideas, which is much more satisfying, and situates the fight where it belongs, in the realm of ideas and not feelings.

If I have a purpose in this life, it's to remind people that they aren't infallible, or always right, or entitled to Lord it over the weak and powerless. This perch of mine, on the web, free to say virtually anything I want, is a most happy platform, where anyone can see who I am and what I think, unvarnished and unfettered by worries of pissing people off or being made fun of or having to pull punches for professional reasons or to get published or to advance my career. I've been all of those things all my life and, believe me, it feels worse than awful. But, at the Subversive Archaeologist, if anyone chooses to revile me or tries to dismiss my criticisms without confronting them, or  to close ranks, or impugn my character or my preparation, or ostracize me, I can take comfort in spite, because in behaving in that way they're revealing to others that they're paying attention. 

Don't go away. This only gets better.