Here’s a thought I had:
Recently, I walked through the campus of the University of Utah, where I went for several semesters (see a previous article on similar issues called “Some thoughts on my experience at the University“). It brought back many experiences and one aspect in particular.
I really only went to the University for two semesters. I withdrew at the beginning of the third semester. It was during the second semester that I began to feel that I didn’t want to be there. “Something” as if seemed to tell me to leave. I did not really know why, exactly. It felt like a revulsion . . . something seemed to disgust me about it all (and still does). Something seemed “amiss” or “wrong” about the University. Because of this, I started to see if I could find ways to leave the University that would be “acceptable” to everyone (such as my parents). I racked my brain trying to figure a way to leave. Basically, I was looking for an “excuse”. Finally, I was told, in a class of mine, that the statistics for getting into a graduate school of Psychology wasn’t good (as I was studying Psychology at the time). It was so bad it would be an ample “excuse” to leave. I almost jumped up with joy. In fact, some months ago, while walking through the same campus, I passed by where that event took place and said, “that room is very special in my life . . . it was there I found a reason to leave the University” (I spoke of other reasons why I left psychology in my article “Thoughts on why I didn’t go into psychology“). With this “excuse” I found an “acceptable” reason to leave the University. Everyone thinks I left for this reason but the real reason is that I didn’t want to be there.
But the exact reason why I didn’t want to be there has always been vague, as if clouded in a fog. I knew aspects of it but I never seemed to quite “grasp” the reason completely. As I reflected on it, while walking around, a more complete image seemed to appear. After a quarter of a century I seem to have a better “grasp” of the reason why. To put it simply, I didn’t want to be what I call a “systemite”. This is a term I use for a person that is nothing but an appendage to the system. They conform and make themselves a part of the system and, thereby, become its servants and slaves.
It became clear, to me, that the University was geared to creating “systemites”. I could see that “education” is not really learning but, rather, learning what the system wants and in the way it wants, primarily to serve the system. Because of this, “success” is measured, in actuality, by how well you do what the system wants. To be “educated” means you have learned this fact “properly”. In other words, things like ‘truth’ and learning tend to take a back seat (in many cases, they’ve been left out completely!). As a result, “education” becomes more a lesson in systemism than of education, truth, and learning. In that way, a “systemite” is a form of conformism. “Education” then becomes nothing but learning to conform to what the system wants. In fact, one could very well describe it as a conformism to excess, to the point that you believe, and do, whatever the system says (which is what students generally do . . . see my article “Thoughts on the ‘learning threats’ – a hidden tension in learning and education“). In some respects, “learning” and “education” is nothing but learning to believe what the system says. In so doing, you will have the support, and validation, of the system. When you have the support, and validation, of the system it becomes “true” but, in actuality, its not necessarily true. Its only true in relation to the system. I often speak of this as ‘system truth’.
Generally, ‘system truth’ is considered true because of the authority and power of the system and the more authority and power in the system the more “true” the ‘system truth’ becomes. In this way, the authority and power of the system is what determines what is true, not “inherent truth” (I mean the truth that “just is” with or without the systems support). As a result, the determining factor of ‘system truth’ is its association with the authority and power of the system and, at this time, the system has great authority and power which makes ‘system truth’ very prevalent nowadays and something sought. As a result, catering to ‘system truth’ has this great quality of “truth” in it which, really, is an illusion . . . it a “truth” that relies on and rests on the authority and power of the system.
But, because the ‘system truth’ is based in the system, it tends to be narrow in the systems perspectives. Not only that, it is limited by the authority and power of the system. This creates a narrow form of “truth” overall. As a result of these facts, there are always people who always tend to go beyond the limits of ‘system truth’ and seek more ‘inherent truth’. Oftentimes, this becomes at odds with ‘system truth’ but, more often than not, it becomes an alternate way of looking at things. To me, ‘system truth’ seems narrow and confined, almost like looking at life through a tube. This is what I felt at the University. I could tell that, to succeed there, I’d have to “learn” to look at life through a tube, which I did not want to do.
In conforming to the system, and believing in ‘system truth, the “systemite” is really displaying a form of mindlessness as conforming to the system replaces your mind. That is to say, you let the system “do your thinking” or you “match your thinking to the systems”. This is part of the failure of ‘system truth’ and the “systemite”. This is because mindlessness, by its nature, entails an absence of ones self and person. That is to say, by giving up your mind you give up your self and person. This is because the “measure of the self and person” is how one conforms to the system. Therefore, a person is not a “self or a person” but, rather, an appendage of the system . . . the self and person is either reduced or absent. As I reflect on it, this is what I saw at the University, a bunch of people with an absence of self and person. This not only includes the students but the faculty as well. No doubt, this absence of self and person is primarily what caused the revulsion and disgust I felt. In fact, to this day, this fact still gives the University (and “educated”) a quality of “a place where people drape themselves with facts, knowledge, ability, and social status to hide their absence of a person”. Its this absence of self and person that, in a way, creates the “systemite”. As part of the “systemite” quality, the absence of self and person gives people a quality of a “robot” or “automaton”, oftentimes, sometimes to the point of being “unhuman”. This is no surprise . . .
The absence of self and person makes it so that the “systemite” becomes diametrically opposed to human nature and human qualities, which I call “humanness”. My experience, and observation, is that the system actually undermines “humanness” overall. In short, the more a person follows the system (that is, becomes a “systemite”) the less “humanness” they have. I’ve never seen it any other way. The most “human” people are always the ones who do not follow the system and generally stand removed from it, at least from my experience.
I should point out that I am not saying that to be a “systemite” is completely bad. For some people, that is the way to be. In fact, I would say that a “systemite” is an aspect of the human character, which is why its so prevalent and why people “slip” into it so easily. But its not a defining trait of the human character. For some of us, it is destructive and undermining. It is this fact that I discovered while at the University: I discovered that I didn’t want to be a “systemite” nor be around it. To me it causes a revulsion and disgust, which still continues to this day.
The modern world, though, has made the “systemite” necessary for survival. It needs “human machines” to survive and exist. In other words, the modern world has made the “systemite” an appealing and desirable trait. In many ways, “to get in with the modern world is to become a systemite”. This is because the modern world is so powerful and influential . . . it requires you to conform. Because of this, to follow the system, and become a “systemite”, has benefits. This primarily comes through monetary benefits and social esteem and status. Many people are motived by these things alone. As a result, many “systemites” are often people who value these things primarily. This gives many “systemites” a quality of an opportunist, which seems quite prevalent at the University . . . they aren’t there for learning or education but for the opportunities it offers (another example of how the University isn’t about education and learning).
Because the system is so strong, nowadays, a person who maintains their “humanness” tends to suffer in many ways. It can include things like:
- They don’t make a lot.
- They are not socially esteemed.
- They may have low social status.
- They may be ignored or trivialized.
- They may even become outcasts.
This fact shows that the system has created two conditions:
- That you are a part of the system.
- That you are not a part of the system.
In other words, the system, by its nature, has created a narrow path. Basically, it favors, values, and esteems the “systemite” only. The result of this is that “humanness” is not esteemed or valued that much in the system. In fact, as near as I can tell, I’m the only person emphasizing the “human”. Its almost as if the system is squashing it out of existence and replacing it by the “systemite”. But, by becoming a “systemite”, a person as if trades their “humanness” for the benefits of the system. This gives them the benefits of the system but a loss in their humanity. This fact describes a basic conflict of the modern world: the “human” versus the “systemite”. In fact, I’d be inclined to say that the conditions of the modern world have basically created a “war for humanness”.
Oddly, this “war for humanness” is a silent war that many of us are now quietly fighting. In fact, as far as I know, I’m the only one who has acknowledged that this war is even happening. It seems silent for a number of reasons, such as:
- The systems emphasis on the ways of the “systemite”.
- The authority and power of the system which devalues anything else.
- There is no adequate “expression” of this war. That is to say, because its not been acknowledged it has no “form” or “substance” . . . it hasn’t found a “voice”.
- It involves deep-rooted qualities of our humanity. In fact, its so deep-rooted that many of us aren’t aware we are fighting it. Not even I was aware of the fight I was waging initially. It sometimes appears as a reflex action that is so innate that one is unaware of it. This makes our reactions somewhat “hidden” oftentimes.
For many of us, though, we find ourselves fighting this war . . . its a war that is forced upon us. After all, who would think that a “war for humanness” would exist? I’m sure there are people who would deny that it exists at all. But, to me, it seems a real war.
One group of people, it seems, that are fighting this war, silently and unaware, are white males. Interestingly, this often appears as an avoiding or abandoning of society by the male, which I call the ‘male exodus’ (see my article “Thoughts on “failing” boys and males “dropping out”: “the male exodus” . . . another account of the fight against dehumanization???“). This is not surprising as, in general, the best way to fight the war, at this time, is to avoid the cause (namely, being a part of the conditions that cause it). I did this by leaving the University and by avoiding modern society. Many males do it by various forms of the ‘male exodus’.
This avoidance is a good start but a person needs to know why they are doing it and that they are moving in a healthy direction. Most males do neither . . . they avoid and end it there. As a result, the exodus is incomplete and ineffective. The reason for this, no doubt, is that they are only reacting to the condition. But they don’t know why they are reacting that way. This is one reason why its important to admit that one is fighting the war and why and to pursue a healthy direction. It took me many years to realize why I reacted the way I did. The reason why it took so long is because I had to give this situation a “voice”, a “form”, and a “substance” . . . and there was no one to help me. Much of this began when I began to feel these revulsions and feelings (such was caused by the University) and began to wonder why and what they meant.
In short, my basic conclusion is that my dropping out of the University was me saying:
“I don’t want to be a “systemite” . . . I’d rather be a human being!”
Copyright by Mike Michelsen