I am an accomplished failure in the American meritocracy. Where do I go from here?

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(Getty)

Almost exactly one year after receiving my Ph.D. in History, I was ready to down an innocuous-looking bottle of green-and-white pills to try to end my life.

I was never a straight-A student growing up and had been diagnosed with a learning disability very young, so earning a doctorate was perhaps an even brighter moment for me than it would be for some others. Still, I knew it was no golden ticket to a good life and career. I was aware of the horror stories of adjunct instructors living in poverty and literally dying from lack of healthcare. All along, I had read published articles in publications like The Chronicle of Higher Education about how even hardly glamorous teaching positions at state universities are being monopolized by people coming out of the Ivy Leagues. And early on, I learned about the torturous realities of academic journal publishing, where placing an article can take months to over a year, yet university hiring committees still demand proof of strong publishing records from even early-career scholars. One job ad I saw a few years ago asked for early-career scholars while also stating that applicants should have a record of published articles in top journals. …


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In March, activist Charlotte Clymer reminisced on a moment when George W. Bush addressed Congress and warmly congratulated Nancy Pelosi on breaking the glass ceiling as Speaker of the House. Aside from a few spoilsports (myself included), the resulting thread was a celebration of the virtues of civility. Many noted how much they disagreed with and even hated the George W. Bush administration for its awful acts…but things were so much better then, they quickly added, when presidents embraced politeness and kindness!

The most fascinating and disheartening comment read, “I just burst into tears. I miss having a president.” One person replied, “Bush and Cheney killed over a million people.” “No doubt,” the original commenter wrote back wistfully. …


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“What a sight is this of the royal family and a few hypocritical and grasping courtiers raising the banner of opposition to the fixed sentiments of the whole nation…”, wrote the Marquis d’Argenson in judgment of the reign of King Louis XV in mid-eighteenth century France. Argenson’s memoirs are more or less a bitter registry of complaints about not just the king and his family, but an entire political system that seemed to be suffering from paralysis. …

About

Chad Denton

Chad Denton is the author of “Fall of Empires: A Brief History of Imperial Collapse” and is the host of The Medici Podcast. And, yes, he has a Patreon.

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