Got an email from my conference flame yesterday, checking if I'll be at the next one. Tush, you say, or some other disapproving sound. But don't fret. My conference flame is simply the man who I would allow myself to be pursued by every time our paths cross at conferences (which they often do) if I was on the market (which I'm not) and if I was the sort of girl who baited men at conferences (which I'm not) and if I was attracted to Teutons (which, you've guessed it, I'm not). Things being what they are, our relationship is comprised of eating our buffet breakfasts together and chatting about things that are more interesting than our jobs or the conferences at hand, like Brazilian cuisine or European foreign policy.
Obviously I'm touched to have heard from my conference flame because my self-esteem is a voracious monster that undiscriminatingly devours any reinforcement at all. But he is illustrative of a larger point, or rather I am, by enjoying his company, and it is this: business people, yuppies, are not by definition boring, soulless creatures. They haven't necessarily given up their dreams (although if he's ever dreamt of us having room service instead of buffet breakfast, he should) or their interest in life. I'm talking out of more than defensiveness here - I have an escape strategy from Businesswomanland, so I have a hard time identifying myself as a current denizen. I'm talking against the conviction that I see from far too many people from where I come from that once you take the good upwardly mobile job and decide to keep it, that's it - that's the end of a thoughtful life.
Most Europeans, I think, would agree that's wrong. A small part of this is that Europeans tend to have a better generalist knowledge of the world around them than your average Anglo because of all the things that get crammed into their head in highschool, and it gives them the right background to stay interested in things in general as they age. Anglos, Brits included, are the ones who tend to fall into the trap of thinking yuppies can't possibly be interesting or interested. And yet I appreciate the Anglophone method of education, which is far more self-directed, far more critical, far more egalitarian, and far more creative than methods in France, here, Italy, and Germany - also far less generalist; I did one non-arts course in my final year of highschool in Ontario, which I was quite happy about at the time but which is also a fucking travesty which has left me, at the grand old age of 29, furrowing my oft-furrowed brows at the 1946 British version of 'Geology for Dummies'.
But I don't blame Anglos' education for the way they think a thinking, thoughtworthy life ends upon entry into the rat race, to be re-started again only with the sort of midlife crisis that has spawned an entire revolting genre of movies about wretched men getting their boners back and wretched women getting their groove back. No. I blame how our holidays are too short, our working hours are too long, and we watch too much television.
I would love to think that sort of quality of life issue was up for debate in the upcoming Canadian election (which I won't be participating in, not paying taxes there anymore) or the upcoming American election. But no. No, no, no. God fucking forbid. Instead it's all bread and circuses without the bread. Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country; for example, you can work twice as many hours as is necessary from a productivity point of view, and you can abstain from clinging to any 'spare time' that would give you the freedom to learn about the most urgent political issues at hand, or to make informed decisions as an electorate, and or to educate your children to be anything but a semi-literate cog in the wheel of a car that's lost it's brakes and is careering down into the rising sea levels of our own suicidal societal stupidity.