Meetings are rituals, and rituals need symbols, and decorations. I’ve been to a lot of meetings in my time as an academic where I sat bored and confused, but still fulfilled my function as a decoration, and clap on cue. And to a large extent, that is what such ritual is about: clapping on cue about that to which you are brain dead.
Perhaps Rousseau was thinking of such academic meetings when he wrote in the 19th century “On this showing, the human species is divided into so many herds of cattle, each with its ruler, who keeps guard over them for the purpose of devouring them” (Rousseau).
Which of course starts me thinking about the many times I do indeed act like a herded cow, and so do my fellow academics. The most obvious place I am such a decoration is in May graduation ceremonies. I march into a stadium to a lively tune in an ungainly outfit, and then with the other faculty who all react in unison. March, clap, stand, and sit all in unison moving rhythmically just like the her do cattle waiting to obediently rush down a chute, at the end of which we might, ro all we know, be devoured. We then sit—decorations for the larger ceremony, just like the potted plants on stage. In fact, when I sat on a stage recently in Chico State’s graduation ceremony, there were literal potted plants on either side of the stage, bookending the potted plants in the robes. The redeeming value of the whole thing was the excitement and joy that many of our students and their families felt. (gehiago…)