Society’s educated, humane members are being systematically sucked into a destructive reorientation program orchestrated by and for the benefit of a corporate establishment centered on the practices of finance and management, writes veteran British journalist George Monbiot at The Guardian.

“I watched it happen to my peers,” Monbiot says:

People who had spent the preceding years laying out exultant visions of a better world, of the grand creative projects they planned, of adventure and discovery, were suddenly sucked into the mouths of corporations dangling money like angler fish.

At first they said they would do it for a year or two, “until I pay off my debts”. Soon afterwards they added: “and my mortgage”. Then it became, “I just want to make enough not to worry any more”. A few years later, “I’m doing it for my family”. Now, in middle age, they reply, “What, that? That was just a student fantasy.”

Why did they not escape, when they perceived that they were being dragged away from their dreams? I have come to see the obscene hours some new recruits must work – sometimes 15 or 16 a day – as a form of reorientation, of brainwashing. You are deprived of the time, sleep and energy you need to see past the place into which you have been plunged. You lose your bearings, your attachments to the world you inhabited before, and become immersed in the culture that surrounds you. Two years of this and many are lost for life.

In the course of an investigation with researcher John Sheil, Monbiot saw that “Recruitment begins with lovebombing of the kind that cults use”:

They sponsor sports teams and debating societies, throw parties, offer meals and drinks, send handwritten letters, use student ambassadors to offer friendship and support. They persuade undergraduates that even if they don’t see themselves as consultants or bankers (few do), these jobs are stepping stones to the careers they really want. They make the initial application easy, and respond immediately and enthusiastically to signs of interest. They offer security and recognition when people are most uncertain and fearful about their future. And there’s the flash of the king’s shilling: the paid internships, the golden hellos, the promise of stupendous salaries within a couple of years. Entrapment is a refined science.

In survey questions sent to eight British universities with the highest average graduate salaries (Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial, the London School of Economics, the London Business School, Warwick, Sheffield and Edinburgh), Sheil and Monbiot asked whether administrators try to counter “lavish recruitment drives and defend students from the love blitz.” Most gave no evidence that they’d given any thought to the question. When pressed, Monbiot writes, they cited “their duty of impartiality”—a purported obligation to minimize their influence over students’ choices.

“But they appear to have confused impartiality with passivity,” Monbiot writes. “Passivity in the face of unequal forces is anything but impartial. Impartiality demands an active attempt to create balance, to resist power, to tell the dark side of the celestial tale being pummelled into the minds of undergraduates by the richest City cults.”

Oxford University offered an exception to the silence, asking Monbiot and Sheil if it wasn’t “preferable” that corporations recruit “bright, critical thinkers and socially engaged graduates who are smart enough to hold their employers to account when possible?”

Monbiot’s response? “Oh blimey. This is a version of the most desperate excuse my college friends attempted: ‘I’ll reform them from within.’ This magical thinking betrays a profound misconception about the nature and purpose of such employers.”

By their institutional nature, those employers respond primarily to their concern for profit and the demands of the regulatory environment and their shareholders. They are not influenced by “the consciences of their staff.” If a reader needs proof of this, Monbiot writes, look only to their treatment of whistleblowers. “[T]hese universities are failing in their duty of care,” he says.

Monbiot concludes:

At this vulnerable, mutable, pivotal moment, undergraduates must rely on their own wavering resolve to resist peer pressure, the herd instinct, the allure of money, flattery, prestige and security. Students, rebel against these soul-suckers! Follow your dreams, however hard it may be, however uncertain success might seem.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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