❝ We are witnessing and sometimes personally experiencing a sharp de-classing of intellectuals. Our precious credentials are increasingly useless for generating income and — let us hope — social prestige, too. This should mean that most intellectuals view ourselves as sinking, economically, into the lower-middle or working class, and that “meritocratic” markers — the contents of our bookshelves and iPods; our degrees — accord us less and less social status in our own and others’ eyes. Not to say there won’t remain a self-protective cultural elite hoarding its prestige: the hostility to criticism among mutually appreciative writers, artists, and academics — an aversion to meaningful disputes — is contemporary evidence of such a siege mentality. But we can also hope for something else: perhaps intellectuals’ increasing exposure to socioeconomic danger will give a new political dangerousness and reality to what some of us produce. Might the continuing commitment of de-classed left intellectuals and radical artists to their vocations, in spite of withered prospects and eroding prestige, give our work an antisystemic force, and credibility, it has lacked?
❝ Even luckier, your mom decides to stay home during your formative cognitive years so she can read you storybooks on the sofa, and help you play alphabet building blocks on the carpet. Except, in that case, she hasn’t been able to earn anything in the free-enterprise system enabling her to put aside for your college tuition, and so—even though you really excelled in public school and are all excited about going on to university—there’s no money to buy the tuition with, in which case you become a customer of one of the more lucrative operations in the American free-enterprise system (the student loan business) and borrow the dollars for your college tuition, which means that when you finally graduate and get that good first job and start earning, a substantial portion of what you earn will have to go towards paying off your $29,000 student debt instead of buying the things for your good life. If you happen to marry someone in the same boat, your young, starting out family now has a combined debt of nearly $60,000—and you haven’t even bought anything yet! Which you won’t be doing anytime soon, either, because not only do you have pay back the $60,000 (plus interest and penalties) you have to start saving immediately for the day care expenses for your future toddlers (what else did you get married for?) which you’ll be forced to incur because staying home to read them storybooks is not an option since it’s going to take all of two incomes to pay off your college debt while at the same time saving for your kid’s future college tuition.
❝ He’s trying to change who he is, something that I couldn’t do. If I can help him do that, then maybe… maybe I can live with myself.
— Azriel Odin, Gemini Rue
❝ I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center.
— Kurt Vonnegut