Keep Building Brown

December 20, 2009

Everywhere: we are working, thinking about the work we have to do, talking about it, stressing about it, putting it off, forgetting to do it. “How was your weekend?” “Oh, pretty good. Not very productive though. I have SO MUCH WORK to do this week.” “Yeah, me too. Finals are ridiculous.”

We keep fueling our engines, we keep focused, keep clean, keep occupied, keep rested. We keep in line so that we can keep working, performing our assigned tasks, so we can blow off the release valve two days a week, faithfully returning to work every Sunday night.“We get down on all fours to climb the ladders of hierarchy, but privately flatter ourselves that we don’t really give a shit.”

We Keep Building Brown and ourselves with it. A school is its contents, its students, its faculty, its staff. A school is its structures, which our tuitions (invested) pay for: dividends accumulated in endowment. The endowment must always grow bigger, and as it does those on the higher rungs of the pay scale climb even higher and become more numerous. The workers become less of a burden and their benefits (financial aid for students, health care for staff) and jobs are temporarily safer. More gets invested into attracting more and better (wealthier) students. Up go the Building Brown signs. Like all institutions under capitalism, The University is nothing but a Once-ler, biggering its money. Everyone needs money. Non-profits still profit, simply having greater privilege, rewarded for “altruistic” behavior, a crucial function of self-preservation in perpetuation of our world-system.

Students are The University’s reason for being. Without students – workers training in specialized forms of labor to fulfill specialized roles – the society in which we live could not continue. We are its future, and, already their diligent workers, its present. So we work, together with the faculty and staff, to reproduce the status quo. And without any particular reason but momentum, we keep on keeping on, day after day. Sure, some of us are more productive than others – and that’s what college is about: finding your place in the division of labor, picking your path, and gathering skills to make you a more effective cog in the machine.

We have become convinced that the change we want to see in the world can be bought with the change we have in our pockets. We throw this change at the University so we can work in its classes in order to acquire the knowledge to be able to work so we can pay for this change. But it is precisely this profit counting calculus, this throwing money at problems, this constant work, work, working which drives the tank engine we are all careening along towards a brick wall at the end of an unlit tunnel of indefinite length. Every four years we vote for a new “change” while the change we had changes into the change we are, the same change and the same world we started with.

Let’s be honest, our school is nothing but a factory. A construction site. An assembly line of knowledge where we, the students, are simultaneously producers (writing papers, doing assignments, taking tests), consumers (absorbing lectures, reading books, memorizing facts) and products (money goes in, “useful” students come out). We line up and swipe our cards to redeem credits for meals and to enter buildings. We line up to play the next game of pong. Sitting in rows, networks of rows, clusters of chairs all day, at lunch, at the library, in front of computers. Even our free time is spent productively: recharging our batteries for more work, playing with commodities, relating to each other through these commodities, sitting in front of our favorite television shows, watching youtube videos, producing ad revenue profits, singing along to someone else’s carefully crafted songs.

More and more we are doing these tasks alone, in front of our computers. At our most radical, we pirate these digital products. Even this has been normalized, turned acceptable, made profitable. We are always working; even our play is productive. Parties, like Casual Friday at the office, are regularly scheduled events, all part of the system’s functioning. We work to get messed up to work.

When does anybody ask

All solidarity with the student occupations of California, New York, France, Greece, and around the world.

Stop working, occupy everything.

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