Ultimately, the Intergenerational Debate confirmed rather than disrupted the theories of prominent sociologists, who already held that humans must cling to some forms of tribalism or “othering”, lest they die of frustration or wither away in motionless introspection. It would appear that accepting a few “isms” here and there is a necessary condition of our existence, and so it is merely a matter of choosing which ones may be the least distasteful. Ageism survives, as does Zoneism1, and fieldism, whose milder subtexts are politically acceptable to most individuals, is thriving.
As may be typical of an inhabitant of the LEZ, I discovered fieldism last of the above. Having passed my teenaged and earlier years in initial schooling, and having fathers who hardly spoke about their workplaces, I had no notion of what intrigue went on amid the grind of working life until I was treated to a speech from my superior (or rather, the only person whom I could identify as a possible superior, hierarchies having become unfashionable again over the past century) in my first few days of work:
“Don’t trouble yourself if the marketing people downstairs ask you for something. They don’t seem to appreciate that we’re just as occupied as they are, and they always manage to arrive at the answer they wanted on their own, anyway. There’s some confirmation bias down there, unfortunately. But of course they didn’t study mathematical thought or scientific method in any real depth. It can’t be helped.”
This, to a newly-minted Mathematics major straight out of the sheltered environs of the Amphitrian Tertiary School at 121°06’39.3”2, seemed remarkably backhanded, full of layers to dissect. I must admit that I was impressed. And it proved attractive to draw mental lines and paint invisible markers in the defense of my chosen field of work, which others quite simply could not understand3, especially because it so happened that I had adjustments to make in the transition from university to work.
Happily for my goal of distraction from real problems at hand, it is difficult to be bothered by an “ism” when everyone-is-doing-it-and-its-hardly-controversial-let-alone-personal. Forays into fieldist streams of thought made it possible to draw lines about my very cubicle, half-virtual though it is, eschewing such blatant differences as marketing vs. applied trigonometrics, such that my own work was on a pedestal that needed no external validation. Within a year or two it became apparent that the fact that I went out in the field with a PLOC, for instance, and took records of objects burned over time, was immensely important. This lead to little occasion or desire to consort with my next-door neighbours in the office.
Things had finally reached a pleasant, isolationist equilibrium (to which I have since returned, I will have you know, though without any dependency on fieldism or related notions) when another recent graduate of initial studies, who I will dub Hellinder, moved into a nearby cubicle and proceeded to give proofs of his extroverted nature.
By that time several other young-ish people had materialized in my corner of the office, clearly an end to some kind of hiring drought, as at the time of my appearance I was the junior of everyone in sight by ten years or so – ten years being an exceedingly long time when one is twenty-nine. The new hires therefore constituted a permanent change to the makeup of the office, and to observe these individuals speaking together was to be minded of looking through fluoromicroscopium at queer, pulsing little Eubacteria in Secondary School4.
The advent of Hellinder was, apparently, the final catalyst necessary for these younger individuals to form a social group of the type that convenes to drink artisanal juln after work. Quite suddenly, where I had been settling into my routines and ways, there were people coming and going from the cubicle opposite, and finding music to drown out conversation – the collegial-veering-toward-rambunctious sort of conversation one is wont to encounter on the campuses of Tertiary school, mind you, much more intrusive than regular office-talk – was a prerequisite for doing work. I had to check my shoulder frequently to be sure that nobody was in line-of-sight of the back of my head or the nape of my neck, an exceedingly uncomfortable situation.
Now, in stressing the disruptive nature of their speech I do not wish to degrade Tertiary students themselves. I enjoyed my time as a student immensely – in my view, the marvelous thing about schooling was its flexibility, with only a few compulsory hours here and there, and a pronounced lack of nervous superiors. One could retreat to one’s rooms, barricaded according to one’s comfort, whenever in need of a bit of solitude. This in perfect harmony with an abundance of social interaction lurking outside, bred by close proximity with students preoccupied by the same theorems and quizzes, an environment conducive to regular doses of nonsense, flirting, and earnest discussion. Although I never placed a large bounty on any of these things, I naturally became accustomed to them.
In an office, however, one treads a set number of hours and can never be alone, yet for all the impossibility of alone-ness there is a dearth of human interaction. It can be an oppressive state: people on all sides to hear you cough, but none with whom one would wish to speak above one minute, let alone eat lunch. The contrast between university and office was, I admit, jarring at first, and having adapted to change once already, I was most perturbed by this reversal in workplace culture heralded by Hellinder.
For one simply could not look away, or go deaf, when the newly-formed social group was nearby, and one could not very well fail to notice Hellinder when he tapped on one’s HUI and asked innocuous questions like, “Do you know what form X3-184B is?”, or “Do you have a spare spoon?”.
In this manner I was brought into the fold, and began to drink overpriced juln on a regular basis.
1 Who does not believe that their Economic Zone is the superior?
2 The spur of a sad little cape, where the Tertiary campus dominates and is encircled by a town with that wavering, near-temporary atmosphere intrinsic to places where the majority of its people come and go, never meaning to stay. As those who come and go are apt to enjoy themselves rather than be preoccupied by the flickering of streetlamps in the wind, the manageable property values and preponderance of bars are perfect for students, if not so welcome to the inhabitants.
3 Although I am being a trifle facetious, one must admit that they wouldn’t understand my work, nor I theirs; contrary to childhood lessons, we are far too specialized for universal understanding and bonhomie.
4 I had, and have still, an avowed dislike of biology