Yesterday, after my comrades and I had wrapped up our declaration of SJ War on the entirety of mankind, finished the lattes our meagre student budgets could barely afford, and set off into the world with the fresh-faced—and totally invalid—vigour of the young, I was forced to ask myself a question: “what do I want to be when I grow up?” In two years I’ll have a B.A., in two more I’ll have an M.A., and—fingers crossed—around the time I should be considering retirement, a Ph. D., all in the mysterious, ostensibly useless field of English theory. It is not only my mother, father, grandparents, brothers, sisters, cousins, and the occasional cantankerous grocery store cashier asking this question; I find myself asking “from whence do I go from here?” on a near daily basis.
I think it’s time for me to provide an answer: I want to be Hegel on the verge of declaring the master the slave, and Heidegger turning the being and the dasein back in upon itself; I want to be Nietzsche declaring “God is dead,” and Sartre refusing to explain to any old passerby that “existence precedes essence;” I want to be Derrida on the verge of différance, and Freud as he decentres the mind; I want to spend my mornings terrorizing students with the convoluted models of Lacan, and the evening protesting the “reproductive futurism” of Edelman; I want to… I want to be… well, specifically nothing. No, not, nothing specifically—my abuse of grammar does not take this particular bent—but specifically nothing.
I ask myself, what was psychoanalysis before Freud? Would the word ‘tree’ remain floating over the crudely drawn image of the tree forever sans Derrida? Who could we task to write God’s epitaph without Nietzsche? Who would ask these questions in a world without English majors? Who else could we trust with those questions you ask yourself as you stand around the water cooler, intimately engaged in determining if Mike’s Freudian slip on last night’s episode of The Bachelor was indicative of his relationship to Laura; it is with these pivotal, important questions we English majors engage. It is with our answers that you can misquote and misrepresent your way through psychoanalysis and existentialism in the same phrase. It is what we do that opens the minds of, not only the intelligentsia, but mankind at large.
Seriously though, what’s your other option? Shall Donald Trump be tasked with examining the nature of consciousness, shall we turn to the academic works of Milton Friedman when we need answers beyond the scope of economics? If not English majors, who? Without our sacrifice, without our mother’s desperate tears, we leave the world in the hands of politicians, economists, accountants, and philosophers (both wax and otherwise.) Without us, who?
So, to answer your question, what do I want to be when I grow up? I want to be the guy who bothers to read Beyond the Pleasure Principle before declaring Freud a quack and examining Mike’s parapraxis around the water cooler. I want to be the guy who can say with a straight face “human sexuality was invented in the 18th century.” I want to know things, and I want to disagree with things based on fact, not opinion; I want to understand things and discover new ways to apply them. I want to think, for the rest of my life, I want to think.
Does this answer your question? Probably not, but it’s not really your question I’m trying to answer, it’s mine. It’s mine in the same way my career is mine. Now in the best possible terms, please fuck off and let me think. Maybe, in time, I’ll think of a way to get us out of this mess you’ve let the politicians, accountants, engineers, and philosophers create. Adieux.