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Why grad school is like communism

Welcome, comrade! Congratulations on defecting to graduate school, an endless march from darkness into light towards a bountiful utopia, guided by scientific principles and strict adherence to the Five-Year Plan. Rumors that this utopia does not exist are the work of capitalist reptiles and class enemies. Heed them not!

No doubt you would like some advice on how to succeed in our worker’s paradise. First, remember that everyone else is smarter and more diligent than you. Nevertheless, if you just work twice as hard as your comrades and meet all your production targets, you too will become renowned as a Good Worker, and will be happy. Probably.

Nothing matters more in graduate school than being a Good Worker. Good Workers gain the respect of their superiors, and are rewarded with research grants and meetings in California. They are also kept away from the unwashed masses of undergraduates—the proles. Although the proles provide us with our livelihood, their plebeian tastes can grate. Indeed, most of them have a poor grasp of Correct Doctrine, and some harbor capitalist sympathies. Pity them, even if they seem to be happier than you.

The great task ahead, comrade, will be adherence to the Five-Year Plan. All must be sacrificed to the success of the Glorious Five-Year Plan! (In practice, of course, the Five-Year Plan ends up being the Six-And-A-Half-Year Plan. Or the Eight-Year Plan. Did they not mention this when you defected? Oh. Well, don’t tell the other workers; it would only demoralize them.)

Being a Good Worker and meeting production targets may sound like a wearying existence. But sloth is for capitalists; it has no place in our paradise, where we happily work all the time. Thus, shirkers who indulge in effete music, intoxicating substances, or frivolous hobbies are rightfully viewed with suspicion by the Central Committee; they may be committing the thoughtcrime of Not Taking It Seriously. Why would a Good Worker waste valuable work time dining at a fancy restaurant (assuming, for the sake of argument, they could afford to)? The only acceptable food for a Good Worker is leftover noodles, eaten at one’s computer. Sometimes there is even free pizza. Who could possibly want more?

Indeed, such healthy austerity demonstrates the moral purity of graduate school. Not for us the new cars, nice clothes, adequate dental care, and living wages that are the decadent trappings of the reactionary lackeys in the professional schools. Lickspittle lawyers! Running-dog doctors! We mock the inanities the class traitors! Remember, Good Workers selflessly help each other meet production targets, unlike these cutthroat capitalists. Their gaudy luxury is tempting, yes, yes, but adhering to the Five-Year Plan will allow us one day to equal or even exceed their standard of living! Then we shall dance on their graves. Although our dancing will be somewhat rusty. (Note how weaklings and malcontents who defect to the capitalist lackeys are Never Spoken Of, and their names expunged from the records. Be strong!)

Ultimately, comrade, your happiness in graduate school depends on the favor of the Central Committee, also known as the Gang of Five. The Committee is your friend. Trust the Committee. Because one day you will undoubtedly be dragged before it and interrogated on your grasp of Correct Doctrine. In Room 101, you will gabble forth your knowledge of the Approved Writings for hours, undertaking frank and forthright self-criticism until you break down, hoping desperately that the Committee will find you innocent and say “Congratulations, comrade! You are a Good Worker!” Never fear; they usually do.

If you progress according to schedule in the Five-Year Plan, you may even be invited to join the Party one day. Membership has many benefits, such as fine wines and caviar; your just rewards for service to the collectivist ideal. Party members fondly remember the days when they too were Good Workers; remember to nod respectfully when they reminisce. Strangely, attaining Party membership seems to get harder every year… but not for a Good Worker like you, I’m sure!

Anyway, enough chit-chat! Why aren’t you working? Onward! Forward!

Mike Dickison is a graduate student in zoology. His column appears every other Wednesday.



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