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May 19, 2008 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

President’s Column

If there’s one thing I’ve picked up from graduation, it’s this. Faculty of Education have the best collective group of singers of all the graduating students who’ve passed by the Michael Fowler centre so far, with commerce seemingly the best applauders. One thousand, nine hundred students are having their degrees conferred over what would have been last Wednesday to Friday (for those reading this column in the paper). A lot has been said about the sole similarity of the group being their newfound possession of a piece of paper (not actually made of goatskin nowadays), as well as their collective entry into the real world again, as this university environment is most definitely unreality!

It’s this entry into the real world that sitting through what should end up being twenty one hours of ceremony had me thinking. What does the world look like? What does it represent?

A university education is not the certificate of security that it once was. Ten’s of thousands of people graduate each year with degrees in various spheres. In respect to any vocational status it represents i.e. three years (hypothetically) of balancing life and learning (aren’t they the same?). Where once degrees were esteemed and few and far between, a degree is much more likely to now give you a place in the queue. Reality bites.

We face a world that is rapidly building up in pressure on a number of fronts. Economically the world is diverging down two different tangents. On one hand the countries of the first world have let slip their productive industries to a price-taking 3rd world, replacing the void left in its place with the empty production that the service industries represent. In order to lift growth and implicitly consumption as well, workers have been pushed into a situation of working longer and harder to earn the same of less income as in previous years. Credit cards and mortgages can help hide this in the short term.

New Zealand specifically is one of the worst in this respect as its technology/capital investment rates are some of the lowest in the OECD. There’s only so much extra wringing that can be forced from those currently in the wage slavery wringer. Credit bubbles have been de-rigour for the last twenty years in place of any actual new value creation (bar maybe agriculture and in most of the 1st world it is essentially a subsidised sop to entrenched political powers), with the speculative play involved in the housing industry being the current area of abstract value creation.

In the third world, those aforementioned price-taking states have no ability to develop any real structure beyond the sustenance levels that regular tightening of the economic notch requires on them to keep the exploitative industries from leaving as quickly as they came.

The United States borrows something approaching $2 billion a day to sustain itself at its current level of consumption. The fiat nature of currency speculation itself, much like that of the property market is based on the universal belief that the value of each respective field contains a real measure of value. Once that evangelical belief is gone, when this global game of chicken breaks down (a when not if scenario) we will see again economic crisis such as those in the 30’s,70’s and 80’s. Some would see this as opportunity whiles others would see it more as catastrophe.

This is the situation that current and future graduates face as the re-enter that “real” world once more.

Individual solutions and escapism will not provide much help in this situation, neither will a degree, no matter how many A’s are contained within. Guns and land? Maybe, depends what everyone else has…

The saying goes, that students and academics are the conscience and critic of society, that students are versed in critical thinking. In the society that we exist in, of steep and deep hierarchal structures and the numbing ideas of a hegemonic “end of history”. The critical point is to analyse the faults, gaps and misconceptions strewn amongst society. The point of conscience that follows is looking for a way forward. It’s one thing to sit on the sideline and point out the glaringly obvious, but a completely different thing to get off the fence and do something to change. This system has a track record of leading us to ruin, it is not enough to try slow it down, the last seventy years are testament to that.

Because it’s gut instinct to knowing what side of the fence you’re on, and it’s theory that gives insight into who’s on both sides, and why.


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Comments (3)

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  1. Kerry says:

    Reasonable, Joel.
    dammit, I should have come in last Thusday just to sub your column…

    Must get one of those t-shirts ;-)

  2. Brunswick says:

    Instead of bringing back degrees made of goatskin, could they be fashioned from hide stripped from the ass of the student president?

    Jacksonism of the week: de-rigour a. without effort [F]

  3. Jackson Wood says:

    Ahhhhh…. Jacksonisms have expanded! and when are we going to make this book?

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