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May 25, 2009 | by  | in Opinion |
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Be proud of your BA

Humanities Necessary to Weather Coming Storm

Let’s face it; these are some interesting times we’ve inherited. World markets crumbling, wars across the globe, food shortages, America on the brink of collapse, traditional values uprooted, corporate-owned armies, overpopulation, a dying planet—all these problems will be ours to shoulder in only a few short years. How will we weather the storm?

The predicament we find ourselves in today is the product of the actions (and inactions) of generations before our own. We can only play the cards we’ve been dealt and, in our case, the deck has been stacked against us from the start. Such is the way of history. Still, our world is changing, and it now becomes our responsibility to ensure that change is a positive one.

In 1997, Jane Kelsey, University of Auckland law professor, warned us, “In a market-driven system, student assumptions of what the market demands will increasingly dictate what courses and perspectives universities provide.” As students, our time at university will dictate the course of our futures and, in a greater sense, the future of our world. Kelsey’s warning came from knowledge of this fact. We choose our path of study either out of passion (in rare cases) or, more commonly, a desire for a financially secure future.

Success, in our world, is measured in terms of money and power. We assume, and correctly so, that our level of ‘success’ depends on our ability to navigate and manipulate the system into which we were born. This system demands knowledge of practical information and skills. For this reason, the prestige and popularity of Commerce degrees, Law degrees, and Science degrees have been on the rise; while Arts degrees are repeatedly dismissed as “bugger-all”.

While no one can argue that non-Arts degrees aren’t essential to the progression and improvement of society—we need lawyers to champion justice, we need economists to peruse prosperity, we need doctors to guard our health, and we need those able to understand the natural world around us—all of these degrees, generally speaking, centre around a set process and how best to execute said process. We are learning vocations; we’re learning how to be doctors, lawyers, businessmen, economists, analysts, managers, etc. It’s what the market demands. At no point do we ever question the market itself.

So why then all these problems? There’s been no shortage of lawyers, economists, or managers; yet injustice, disparity, and chaos are as equally plentiful, even among ‘developed’ societies.

The times in which we now live are a culmination of decades committed to the advancement of staunch professionalism, neo-liberalism, a corporate culture, infallible markets with invisible hands, and a ‘trickle-down’ hierarchy now permitting every form of societal organisation. As we are now constantly reminded, with every headline we read and every news-hour update, the fruits of these labours have now come home to roost, and in a very big way.

The corporate elite are now revealing just how much power they wield, as entire governments and economies—particularly the United States, our global superpower—are crumbling under the weight of their intricate financial instruments. The same restructuring programmes once exported by the United States to promote free trade and a globalised economy, intentionally undermining state sovereignty, now threaten to undermine the sovereignty of the Unites States itself. We’ve created a monster whose tentacles have a hold on every economy and government on Earth. What’s worse, we don’t even know who’s at the wheel.

The academic argument as to whether democracy leads to a developed market, or a developed market will lead to democracy—a lecture every first year POLS student has sat through, rolling their eyes—is hopefully now dead and settled. We know now, as I suspect we’ve always known, that freedom and democracy are contingent upon more than just the existence of a free market. We were lead to believe the opposite because enough people, with enough letters behind their names, kept telling us it was true.

It is these same people who are now holding the reigns of power. Their economic policies—globally dominant and largely unquestioned—are designed to keep themselves in control. They are the architects of the system in which we all must live and operate.

The storm is coming. The vacuum left by the United States will be filled not by a rival political power, but a globalised corporate entity—answerable to no one but their shareholders, valuing nothing but their bottom line. What else should we expect when we’re taught to see everything as a commodity, of no intrinsic value other than monetary, or to how much it can be exploited?

Chris Hedges reminds us, “The humanities, the discipline that forces us to stand back and ask the broad moral questions of meaning and purpose, that challenges the validity of structures, that trains us to be self-reflective and critical of all cultural assumptions, have withered.”

It’s no longer acceptable to be contented with a degree that guarantees a comfortable niche in their corporate system. In the United States, now only 8% of university students graduate with a BA. The most popular degrees are now in business and business management. There, corporations write our laws, force us into wars, rape our natural resources, manipulate our media, and promote consumerism as success and happiness. All of this is achieved with the willing help of those who’ve never questioned the system.

In closing, to those of you pursuing other degrees—be wary. Keep things in perspective, get a conjoined degree or at the very least diversify your study as much as possible. To those studying the Arts, study hard. You’ll be needed the most in the days to come.

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About the Author ()

Andrew Mendes is an American studying International Relations and Public Policy at Victoria. He enjoys following politics and reading lots of news.

Comments (8)

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  1. Floral Undies says:

    I love my BA.

  2. Giant Phallus Man says:

    I love your BA too. Oh yeah!

  3. jay.dawgg says:

    BA’s are worthless not because of the content but the lack of workload. I’ve done more reading in a semester of an LLB than in my entire BA.

  4. Guy A says:

    H. L. Mencken once said “Giving every man a vote has no more made men wise and free than Christianity has made them good” and “Most people want security in this world, not liberty.”

    Andrew, I think you would enjoy reading ‘Secrets of the Federal Reserve’ By Eustace Mullins. You can download a copy here:

    http://www.whale.to/b/mullins_h.html

  5. Semaj says:

    Andrew, how come you never come to Publ 306 amymore?

  6. Andrew Mendes says:

    Very valid point jay… You hear that Vic Uni?!

    Semaj: real long, boring story. I’ll in on Friday. Clock’s ticking ey.

    Chur Armstrong, will do. Though recent political events have been making the skies seem a bit bluer. Ever feel like you’ve just unraveled a mystery? Happenin’.

  7. Guy A says:

    you better be at the thing on thursday to give me the lowdown hodown yeehaw

  8. jay.dawgg says:

    Don’t get me wrong that I don’t value BA’s.If you did one at Oxford with its tutorial system where you’d have to write an essay a week and verbally defend it against your tutor would be a hardout academic experience. Instead in NZ they’ve lowered the threshold so low that any munter could graduate. How shameful would it be to say that you failed?

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