Thursday 11 December 2014

Blessed are the Poor

I am not a fan of the American Culture Wars, which spread to the Catholic Church in the USA long, long ago.  And I particularly loathe how they are used within American Catholic academic theology to punish the weak. e.g. students, and flatter the strong, e.g. American senators.

I am also not a fan of graduate programs in the humanities, which strike me as a kind of pyramid scheme. Programs accept too many students, knowing full well there are too few academic jobs. Even if an intelligent, talented, hardworking lay man or lay woman (i.e. not funded by a diocese or religious order) can manage to support him/herself and his/her family through a long program, weather departmental politics without going insane and complete all the work demanded, resulting in a usually unsaleable if splendidly expert book-length essay, there is no guarantee that they will get a decent job afterwards.

Caught between the American Culture Wars and the academic job market is lecturer, theologian, blogger, Polish translator and Polandball fan Artur Sebastian Rosman, a married father of three and author of The Catholic Imagination of Czeslaw Milosz.   

(I know Artur solely through the internet, and the only thing I know we can agree on, besides the basic tenets of the Roman Catholic Church, the beauty of Kraków and the talents of Miłosz and Herbert, is that Polandball cartoons are funny. We have some Jesuits acquaintances in common, and so we are Facebook friends.) 

Meanwhile Artur has a blog, Cosmos in the Lost, which was snapped up eventually by the American blogger conglomerate Patheos, who pays. I suspect they wanted something brainy to be leaven in the populist lump. I notice that they have never approached ME.

Anyway, as Artur struggled with post-thesis defense joblessness, poverty and stay-at-home fatherhood, he was stuck for things to blog about. So, sensibly, he wrote about his joblessness, poverty and stay-at-home fatherhood. He pondered ways in which the Church could help families like his at the parish level, which I think fair enough. I seem to recall that the Church in its earliest days helped its poor families at the parish level. Three children, HELLO!

However, Artur's ideas stuck in the craw of another Catholic blogger, which does not surprise me, as some of Artur's ideas are not to my taste either. But this blogger went after Artur in a big way, using tactics not even the Mafia uses, e.g. attacking him through his wife and kids. He called Artur a freeloader and even... 

an unemployed Polish Catholic immigrant who, instead of showing gratitude for his new home and the higher education he’s received here, fantasizes about establishing a centralized Church-State that punishes his American neighbors as “heretics” for daring to form a political order that isn’t obedient to the Vatican. 

As a matter of fact, Artur arrived in the USA when he was eight and grew up in...wait for it... DETROIT, where not only was he caught in the middle of the not-so-subtle racial war, being neither bird nor beast, he was the butt of Polack jokes. So it is not like his new home was a bower of bliss; I wonder if he wouldn't have been better off in Warsaw. Meanwhile, I didn't realize Artur was into the social kingship of Christ the King, so good for him. (Interestingly, the critic's sole fan in the combox comes this close to calling Artur a Polack. Instead he just hints that Artur, being proud of his Polish heritage, is a fascist, which is, like, sooooo much betterrrrrr, eyeroll.)

Artur's critic also cast it up to Artur that his wife, who "bears his children", also "earns the family bread", and I don't think you have to be a man to know what that feels like. But if you don't, Artur blogs about it here. And speaking as a wife, (A) I would be HORRIFIED if someone used my work to hurt my husband and (B) I am myself haunted by the thought that I am not pulling my financial weight, and why did I do an M.Div. instead of something more practical,  I don't even have children who need a parent at home, etc., etc. 

Apparently Artur's critic is politically to the right of Artur, but I bet he is politically to the left to me, since I have a vague feeling that it would be cool to have a Catholic prince to be loyal to and pay rent in exchange for basic security services. But never mind that. The point is that a married Catholic father of three has been kicked by another Catholic when he is down on his luck--BECAUSE HE IS DOWN ON HIS LUCK--and what are we going to do about it? 

As for me, first, I am going to read Cosmos in the Lost every single day in the hopes of adding a penny or two to the mite Patheos pays its content providers.

Second, I am going to think about what else I can do.

Update: Thought of something. Could all readers on Facebook link to Artur's post on Facebook? I think it is quite uplifting in itself, though I was horrified to find out someone did that to Artur.


  1. "I am also not a fan of graduate programs in the humanities..."

    Neither am I. (Although am I technically doing one? I'm doing a Master of Music Performance. Does that count?)

    A friend is engaged to a philosophy student. Great guy, but I'm terrified that their fate will mirror Rosman's. I also know a young married couple who are both doing Master of Teaching degrees but who both plan to undertake postgrad studies in Theology. That's an expensive idea (at least my degree is free, plus I'm on an Australian Postgrad Award scholarship.)

    Yikes. I'm confident in my ability to provide for myself as a freelance instrumental teacher while I remain single (it can be done) but I would be VERY nervous if I had a husband and children who were relying on my income alone. Perhaps I will not have a choice -- husbands lose jobs, after all.

    This sounds awful, but yes, I would prefer to marry a man who earns more than me and has a stable job. I'd be happy to contribute to the family income, but I'd really prefer to not be the main breadwinner. I earn enough for me, pretty much, but not enough for a family (at the moment, anyway.)

  2. What you have is a useful trade. You can teach music and you can play music, and as long as people still pay live musicians and hire music teachers, you have two professional skills you can take everywhere. Hopefully your young married couple friend will be able to get teaching jobs. If they are Catholics, they may find postgrad studies in Theology an impossible luxury. Still, I suppose its a route to becoming head of a Religion department at a high school.

    The idea of being the main breadwinner terrifies me, but I hope I would rise to the challenge. If we were to suddenly move to Canada, not only would it be WAY easier for me to find a good job than it is in Scotland, it would be way harder for B.A.

  3. It is way easier to find a good job anywhere than to find a good man.

  4. A consoling thought for an old married lady like me, but not for Single readers! The good men are out there, though. It's just a question of being found by them.

  5. The attack on Artur was despicable. I will also follow his blog, and hopefully that will be of some help.

    As for humanities degrees and jobs, it doesn't necessarily mean disaster if the person is prepared to step out of their field. Transferable skills are the most important thing, more so than the actual degree.

  6. Current humanities grad student here, and I think it's a defensible life choice ;) That being said, I'm glad my husband isn't a humanities grad student as well (he's currently finishing a PhD in engineering while we wait for his work authorization/green card to come through -- he's not a US citizen, which is the main reason why he's still in school). Anyway...the director of the American Historical Association just came to speak at my department and had lots of good advice. Basically, current grad students should take advantage of all the opportunities they have right now to prepare themselves for future jobs, possibly outside academia. You should be able to take classes in other departments for free, so take a class on non-profit business management, statistics, or web development. Volunteer with a non-profit organization in your area and see if you can get on the board of directors so you can learn budgeting. Develop your foreign language skills. Work on identifying what skills you have and how those "translate" to a non-academic job resume. Of course, your professors/your program will mostly be preparing you to be a professor, so you'll have to be the one being proactive and seeking out these opportunities.
    Basically, being in grad school offers you a guaranteed (albeit low) salary, lots of flexibility/free time, and the opportunity to do something you find fulfilling. It shouldn't make you *less* qualified for the kinds of jobs you could've gotten straight out of undergrad, and might even make you a more well-rounded candidate.
    If, however, you're focused on getting the kinds of jobs that you can *only* get with a PhD...then yes, your chances are less than 50%, from what I've heard.

    1. I also think his advice was helpful for the starry-eyed undergrad who wants to major in Philosophy. Go ahead and do it -- it's better to get through college and enjoy it than waste time dragging your feet studying something you hate. BUT also minor in business, or web development, or advertising. With so many resources around you, there's no need to choose between intellectual development and practical training -- you should be able to do both.

  7. I've never understood why Patheos never came calling. Even Orthogals is getting picked up by an Ortho-equivalent (Ancient Faith Blogs).

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  9. Apologies if the new blog has the same "guys, don't post" rule and I missed it. I just wanted to comment on the situation with Artur, having read his comments on it last month and understanding where he's coming from.

    Personally, I'm in that weird limbo of being a mid-30s single guy in a part-time night M.A. humanities program that doesn't even pay for itself much less pay for anything. Of course, that's because I had to drop my acceptance for a doctoral program a decade ago to take over pretty much full-time as caretaker for ill elderly parents (my mother died about two years later, so I've been my father's sole lifeline through a series of surgeries and progressive deterioration ever since over the last decade), so I've been stuck in an area where my field isn't represented and spend most days searching in vain for applicable job listings, much less applying places (I DO have part-time office work, but I'm running on financial fumes, since it all goes into tuition, bills, and savings).

    I can only imagine how Artur deals with the stress of Catholic Complementarianism. I have enough issues where every Single Catholic Woman who I meet while serving at church interrogates me about my job (for 'provider' purposes) and marks me as a failure – it sucks being in a professional suburb – and that's life NOT under the blogosphere microscope.

    The well-meaning formulae on getting men to "man up," support their families, go to church, et cetera have had really terrible backfire for any men who aren't quintessentially successful (particularly among younger generations, who much of the parish population generally looks for any excuse to brand as Bad Catholics). I see the effect most strongly on those Single Men actually IN church who have no social support mechanism (I actually get frowned at when I talk to others about my desire to marry; it's been decided for me – I've been outright told – by other parishioners that I've been single long enough that I should become a priest to serve them), but younger married men have similar problems because they've navigated the same choppy generational waters and had the same economic concerns inflicted upon them (concerns not understood by a parish leadership and Catholic Cognosci generally retired or otherwise upper-management/well-heeled).

  10. Brian, I can't make out why you are in the humanities MA program, handing over your wages over to well-heeled university administrators, unless you expect the degree to pay dividends later. I very much hope it does, or I fear you are a victim of the academic pyramid scheme.

    I hear you completely about contemporary economic hardships, and I hate the expression "man up." You are living an honourable life by supporting your father in his old age, having supported your mother, too. I hope you meet an attractive single woman who sees how honourable that is. In the meantime, being able to tell a woman what you hope to do in future, once you can give up your current job, might be helpful. On the women's side, if they want to stay at home with their children, and many young women do, then they do want to make sure this is something a future spouse would honour. But there are other women who are open to working---and indeed would prefer to work--once their maternity leave runs out.


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