Chapter Thirty-Five: The Interview
Sucker pressed his hungry lips to those tender bulging fruits and tasted her pert pink nipple. They pushed upward, delicious blue-veined fecund flesh flushed with vibrant trembling desire. He tasted the salty delight deep in his mouth. He felt her warm velvet body next to him. He could feel the warm velvet of her inner thighs. He was almost there when he heard the fucking alarm ring in his ear. He awoke suddenly with a magnificent hard-on. The clock said six o’clock. He had almost made it. Fuck! His cock was not yet aware of the loss, still poised for action, pointing at something on the ceiling. Why did that have to happen? It could at least have been a wet dream. Now it had come to nothing. What a waste. Candy would have enjoyed that early morning stiff mast. Now it wilted, evaporating in the thin morning air. A bad omen for the day. Shit!
He remembered that this was the day. Fuck. The reality hit him like a brick bat in the face. He would have an hour to go over his talk before Professor Dick Butcher would arrive to take him to breakfast. Professor Butcher was the marketing expert. Dick had not been satisfied with the previous three candidates.
Now looking over his notes in the early morning light, he began to realize just how far he was from the agenda of the modern business university. It was not just Mall State. Hell, all the schools had now gone in for the business agenda, marketing, neoliberalism, and the harvesting of cheap labor in Asian countries. Globalization, so called. Globolony, he thought. As a progressive and intellectual, Sucker realized that he was just exactly one-hundred and eighty degrees out from that agenda. How the fuck could he square a progressive agenda for developing countries with the corporate harvesting of surplus labor for profits in the West? It was simply a circle that could not be squared. Fuck capitalism, he thought. It has fucked up the world. It has fucked up the environment. It has fucked up the food. It is now fucking up the universities, turning them into business enterprises. It has certainly fucked up America, now progressively turning it into a third world country, while China and India produce their new billionaires and vast inequality. What are American workers supposed to do except to buy cheap shit from China from WalMart and try to piece together a living on part-time and temporary work? Now this neoliberalism is rolling back all the progress that emerging countries have made since the end of colonialism. It was depressing. But why should he sell out? He was right. The whole fucking edifice would come crumbling down at some point. It was just a matter of time. He would give them the straight dope. He could not pull many punches. Maybe a few. Tone his approach down a little. Nevertheless, one could not face the truth head on and get a job in a fucking American university. That was the simple truth of the situation. It was mission impossible. And now they wanted him to research how to market hazardous waste. They wanted to sell more electronic waste to India and China and other third world countries that would take it. What kind of fucking research agenda was that?
After an hour and a little tweaking of his points here and there for some moderation, he was ready. No more damage could be done. He had showered, shaved, and got into his suit and tie.
When he heard the doorbell ring, he opened the door to see a graying professor in a dark suit.
“Good morning. Dick Butcher. Welcome to Mall State,” came from his broad beaming face. He too was getting up in years. Mid-fifties. A good deal of whitish hair.
“Stan Sucker,” Sucker replied, shaking hands. “Nice to meet you,” he lied.
“Fine day,” Butcher said. “After breakfast, we’ll go over to the department where you can talk to some members of the staff. I think the Dean and Provost would also like to meet you. Depends on their schedule. After lunch down at the faculty club, we’ll come back for your talk. We have also invited the students if they would like to attend. Most of them are business majors. We strongly emphasize marketing. We are a small department in a small school. A friendly place. Are you ready?”
For Sucker, it all confirmed that he was indeed in a world of shit. Fuck it, he thought, eight hours from now I’ll be back on a plane and out of this neck of the marketing woods forever. The events of the day would be a sort of equivalent of a drawing and quartering, a stretching on the torture rack of which now there was no avoiding. His blood would be on the floor. Meanwhile, he would drown his worries in some morning grub. He was hungry. He needed a strong cup of coffee. He needed a beer, but forget that. He needed another shot of that Jack Daniels. It would have to wait. He envisioned having a couple of them on the plane on the way back.
“Sure, looking forward to it,” Sucker lied. “I really like the campus. Quiet and beautiful in the spring.”
“Oh, we don’t have to worry about radicals among the students here,” Butcher said. “Our students are very focused on their future careers in business. A sort of launching pad for executives, corporate leaders. We prepare them for success. They will know marketing forward and backward by the time they leave here. Nope, we’ve never had a student demonstration on this campus. Hope we never will.”
But I saw your students fucking in the bushes behind my guest house, Sucker wanted to say.
They would know marketing but mostly backward, Sucker suspected.
Sucker went for a heavy breakfast, ham, eggs, hash browns and toast with butter and jam. I’ll need it, he thought, to get through this day. God, give me strength.
Professor Butcher walked with him over to the department. Down in the corner office, her door was open. The Chair of the department, Professor Sally Jean Woodley.
She was ready and waiting.
“Welcome, I’m Sally Jean Woodley,” she said.
Sucker saw a middle aged heavy set woman with thick hips from too much sitting. A smile came across her ugly pasty face. She had short, puffed out hair brown hair. Thick glasses perched on her nose. Sucker’s impulse was to back away as if he had encountered an ugly beast, but he had to talk to her. Well, she will never be my boss, he thought. Thank God for that.
“I am happy that we can interview you, Professor Sucker,” she began. “We have brought three candidates previously, but we asked the Dean if we could interview one more person. You have a greater focus on the Third World, so we decided to ask you to come.”
“It’s nice to be here,” Sucker lied. Except for the change of location, he could have done without the bother.
“For this position, we are basically looking for a person that can prepare our students for globalization in business. As you are aware, these new countries like India and those in Southeast Asia and Africa, are opening up their markets. This is a tremendous challenge for the future. There are great opportunities for academic research in these areas, and companies are eager to fund this type of research. You may be aware that we have a strong business-academic relationship with one of the up and coming companies in this area, Cleanwave Corporation. They specialize in waste. Recycling and marketing. They are looking for marketing opportunities in Asia for their products, particularly toxics. They are found in all types of products. Especially electronics. That is the growth aspect of it, of course, today. Fertilizer, building materials, road construction, glass, electronics, you name it. You see where I am leading. I am sure that they are ready with research money for a research focus on how they can market more of what they produce in these countries. We can talk about the courses that you could teach.”
It would be an understatement to say that Sucker was horrified by the vision that she conjured up before his eyes. Not only was the agenda imperialistic, it was flat out toxic imperialism, plain and simple. And his job was going to be to help them in this enterprise. All these young bright eyed students were going to march off to pollute countries around the world with waste, the worst kind of waste, and bring profits to the investors of capital. Thousands were going to be poisoned and die early deaths.
Sucker was somewhat at a loss for words. His impulse was to suddenly blurt out “Get fucked, you stupid greedy bitch, you ignoramus,” and high tail it out of there. But the school had bought the ticket to bring him there and was paying for the ticket to get his ass back to Alabama. He had to go through with it.
“Well, yes, I do love to teach,” Sucker said. “I am wondering which courses I would teach.” Her research agenda was far beyond the pale for him.
“Let see,” Professor Woodley intoned, reaching for a list of department courses laying on the side of her desk. “International Business Asia, International Marketing, International Free Trade Organizations, and International Business Ethics. Those are a few of our courses the department has designed that you would be welcome to teach. Off course there are other elective courses. We are flexible. Oh here are some others: International Currency Trading, International Banking, International Corporate Agriculture, Innovative Marketing. Depends upon the semester. Some courses are taught in the fall, some in the spring semester.
Sucker felt like groaning. What he had in mind was a much less business oriented approach, such as international political economy, International Development, Globalization, Third World Theories of Development and so on. Even democratization. Courses that would include the critical dimension on societies.
“Yes, I think I would like to teach some of those courses,” Sucker lied. He knew that there was not a ghost of a chance in hell that he would ever get the chance, however.
“I am looking forward to your talk,” Sally Jean said. Sucker hated to be reminded of it. He knew that it was going to be a lead balloon in this department. His heart sank into his shoes just to think of it.
His meeting with the other members and officers of the university were not more enlightening. The provost, seeming rattled, engaged in boosterism for the school, emphasizing how quickly the school’s academic rating had risen since the establishment of a partnership with Cleanwave Corporation. The marketing of our electronic waste has grown by leaps and bounds. Whole new divisions are being set up to deal with this innovation.
“It’s the best thing that has ever happened to this small university,” the provost Professor Ben Gopher told him.
It was a relief, when he walked out into the spring sunshine to head for the faculty club. He was accompanied by a young professor who had just landed a lucrative research project from Cleanwave Corp to study the marketing of toxics in ten emerging markets.
Professor Alice Burns kept up a continuous chatter concerning her new quest for knowledge of the economy and politics of these countries for the purpose of marketing waste. She was a thin pale woman who seemed to have never been exposed to the sunlight. She seemed about to collapse as they strolled. Sucker wanted to tell her to go to hell. Did she realize how many innocent people she was going to help send to hell with all the cases of cancer this sort of marketing was going to produce? If she did, she did not bat an eye about it. He wondered if she had had the course in international business ethics. Only later, he discovered that she was the one who taught it for the department.
They settled down to lunch with half a dozen members of the faculty. Except for the salad bar, it was a set menu. Professors greeted each other and discussed their latest golf scores. Anxious to get out on the course, they were winding up their courses for the semester.
`The conversation quickly turned to basketball. The playoffs in the conference of universities was in full swing. Sucker was amused to see Professor Woodley raising her voice about the recent games and getting into a heated argument with Professor Butcher about the talents of the players. Jesus, she is really into basketball, he thought. They were all heavily into basketball. Academics were refreshingly absent, but Sucker began to feel out of his element with all the talk about basketball swirling around his head. He knew little about basketball and cared even less.
He was the invisible man.
“How is the Alabama basketball team doing this year?” Professor Creamer wondered.
Sucker was at a loss for words.
“Well, I am afraid that I have not kept up with that,” Sucker said apologetically. Several members looked at him as if he were a pitiful creature. Not keeping up with basketball at one’s university? What kind of professor was he anyway? He felt like a complete failure.
“Well, I know we played you a couple of times,” Professor Butcher said. “Alabama lost both games.”
Good, Sucker thought cynically. Who cared if those bastards lost every fucking ball game? Only an idiot would.
Dessert came. The meal ended, mercifully. Sucker breathed a sigh of relief to be back out in the spring air with the group of professors, but felt the sword of Damocles hanging over his head. His talk was coming up next. He had the urge to take a dive through one of the hedgerows and never be seen again. He would be the real invisible candidate. What would be the loss if he disappeared over the hill?
At half past one, the faculty gathered in one of the classrooms. Some dozen students drifted in sitting back three or four rows. Sucker headed for the head to take a quick swill before getting to the task. He sometimes still thought in navy terms. Approaching the room, Professor Woodley indicated that in five minutes he should begin. He could go ahead and introduce himself and announce the focus of his talk.
It was the moment of truth. Sucker would have been delighted to have given his talk to a receptive audience, to academics who would be sensitive to his thoughts, arguments and concerns. But he felt that it was not going to be the case this day.
“Hello. As you know, I am Stan Sucker and have spent this academic year teaching political science at the University of Alabama. I am very happy to be here today at Mall State and have the opportunity to talk to you about my proposed research agenda.
I would like to outline for you my proposed approach to understanding political and economic development in the Third World. I have prepared some handouts along with the outline of my talk.
Sucker passed out the one-page hand-outs.
Then he spent twenty-five minutes arguing that while the anti-imperialist thrust of the pattern of Third World development since the end of colonialism had not been completely successful, it had not been a failure either in a number of countries. It had laid the basis for future development. Now these emerging nations in Asia and Africa had reached a turning point. It was true that they must engage more fully with the global market. This will increase the quality of the products they produce, Sucker argued.
But on the other hand, they should assert a good deal of autonomy and control over foreign capital. The pattern of development should benefit the local people and not lead to inordinate inequality. They must be sovereign nations. Sucker cited a wide range of literature, a good deal of it written by intellectuals from third world countries.
There is nothing wrong with globalization, per se. The devil is in the details, he said. If countries do not retain their sovereignty, then it is just a new form of global imperialism.
It was not a direct attack upon globalization, but critical of the present thrust of neoliberalism as it was being imposed upon the world.
Sucker then invited people to ask questions.
Professor Bert Hack, an economist, was leaning far back in his chair, sort of bent over sideways. Sucker saw a scowl on his fat ruddy face. He was clearly an irritated man. Sucker braced himself for the question.
“Professor Sucker, you have given us an overview of all these theories, some that question globalization. It seems to me that it is more simple than all that. If we use the principle of Ockam’s Razor it will be more clear. Let’s take Cleanwave Corp, our partner here, for example. It is simply elementary logic that toxic waste should be sold to India. Why? We know how much it costs to kill a person in the United States. Roughly two million dollars. How much does it cost to kill a person in India? Two thousand dollars. That is a great amount of savings. It is a thousand times more cost effective. It is water tight economic logic. It cannot be disputed. Everyone is going to be worse off if countries like India refuse to buy our toxic waste. That includes electronic waste which is the fastest growing category. It seems to me that political scientists have no business questioning the economists on such issues. I believe you should rethink your approach.”
The fucking fascist. Sucker thought. Who corporations are going to kill is simply a matter of how much it costs to kill them.
“I agree that the logic of sending hazardous waste to the poorest countries is water tight from the neoclassical economic perspective,” Sucker said. “You have addressed a critical argument. We cannot argue with the practice from this neoclassical economic point of view. But I would argue that we should also address the question of whether it is ethical to kill Indians, simply because it saves companies money and increases profits.”
Sucker saw Professor Hack’s face turn a brighter shade of red.
Then a student spoke up. “It seems to me that the people in India just do not know how to run their country. They have way too many people anyway. They are overpopulated. If a few die from the waste, which has not been established, then it will not be a big loss. On the other hand, they will gain from the free trade. So it can easily be shown to be beneficial. Or what is normally referred to as Pareto Optimal. Why not look at it like that?”
“Well, I am afraid that it will be quite a big loss for those who lose their lives,” Sucker said. “And for their loved ones. I am not sure that they would be willing to make the sacrifice, regardless of the benefits that you assume they will enjoy.”
“Oh, but life is cheap in those countries,” the student put in.
Professor Woodley then spoke up. “Professor Sucker, your research agenda seems somewhat esoteric for our concerns here from a business perspective. If we are going to prepare students for the business world, surely we need to instill some basic principles in them. Surely free trade is one of them. The classical principle of comparative advantage. Research has shown that free trade pacts have benefited all member countries by hundreds of millions of dollars. It seems to me that we simply cannot question that. When the market works, everybody gains.”
“I agree that we cannot question these results using the precepts of neoclassical economics,” Sucker said. “But perhaps there are many elements of development which cannot be measured simply by economic variables. For example, free trade has led to thousands of poor Indian farmers committing suicide because they cannot feed their families.”
No one seemed to agree with Sucker’s approach. It had gone over just as he had expected. Like a lead balloon. They were not buying it. He had not made the sale. Just as he figured, it had been a wasted day.
He noticed the economist Bert Hack shuffling out with a completely disgusted look on his angry red face.