Monday, 15 February 2010

Ambition and The Passive Aggressive Academic.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

Ambition is the last refuge of failure.

Basically you have to suppress your own ambitions in order to be who you need to be.
 Bob Dylan quotes (American folksinger, b.1941)

Many outsiders may look in on academia and think, "what a lovely cosy world it must be, full of quiet thoughtfulness, intellectual stimulation and supportive encouragement". As a postgraduate you expect people to be mature, adult even in their approach to life and their work. Perhaps you even expect them to have learned a thing or two along the way and to realise that sometimes the greater good is far better than pursuing personal advantage.

Apparently not.

Recent events have conspired against me and I have been unable to get into my office today to attend a rather unimportant meeting. I contacted one of the committee to extend my apologies and at her suggestion, she kindly offered to postpone the meeting for a week and emailed the others accordingly. I quietly waited to see what the response would be, confident that I could almost smell one person seizing the advantage to hold the meeting without me and thereby push forward her own agenda with little resistance or opposition.

I was right in my assumptions. An email came winging out pushing for the meeting to be held today without me. It was transparent in its blatant desire to take advantage of the situation. Even when another member expressed her willingness to postpone (making that 3 -1) she was adamant, replying as quickly as I have ever seen, 'Right, let's make it today then!'

I smiled to myself.

The next email brought the news that a second member is now resigning, because of the increasing time commitment. Up until recently the time commitment has been minimal as we have acted like responsible adults and been able to conduct ourselves with reasonable aplomb and success, ( by actually increasing the turnover of attendees and presenters at our monthly meetings). However now one person is pushing for 'constitutional reform' and 'carefully constructed missives' and wants to see the demise of the Facebook group which was set up prior to her joining the committee and for the convenience of members of the PG community; her reasons? because she feels FB to be a 'social networking site of an extremely informal tenor' - pomposity thy name is C******e!

If I felt this desire for change was for the good of the community I would be keen to support it. But it seems pretty obvious that it is about getting herself 'known'. A recent idea by myself was seized upon by said person, because she immediately saw an opportunity to impress the faculty with her stunning inventiveness. She failed to even acknowledge that it was my idea and merely began trying to wrest control of it from me. Her condescension is all the more insulting as she assumes me to be oblivious to it.

Whatever the outcome of the meeting I shall simply smile and carry on doing my own thing my own way, because stepping on people is not the only way to get ahead, and one day this person will maybe realise that naked ambition is a pretty ugly sight.

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