“No one knows who will live in this [iron] cage in the future….” – Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
I would prefer not to relay the following very strange story given to me by a fellow sociologist, but he had done me a number of favors, and since he asked me to do him a favor in return, I feel obligated. I don’t know what to make of the whole thing. Following this brief introduction, you will find the manuscript he handed me. I realize you are getting this third hand, but there’s nothing I can do about that. I don’t know his friend. When he asked me to print it for him, I told him I would prefer not to, but then guilt got the best of me, so here it is.
This is one of those stories hard to believe. When I first heard it, I thought it was a joke, some sort of parable, and my friend who was telling it to me had had too much to drink or was just pulling my leg. I’m not sure. Like so much in today’s world, the difference between fiction and fact has become very blurry.
Let me call him Sean, since these days holding a strong dissenting opinion can cost you your job. He is a professor who, like the character David in John Fowles’ story, “The Ebony Tower,” teaches art history. And like Fowles’ character he is a very frustrated academic. In Sean’s case, he has had to contend with the transformation of his college from a place of learning to a place where “Woke” ideology stifles dissent. Perhaps more importantly, he has suffered from extreme writer’s block. He had just been telling me how, after years of writing copiously in his private journals, he had grown nauseated by it because it seemed so self-involved, concerning self and family stuff he was sick of. He wanted to write articles and books, yet when he tried, he couldn’t. All his energy had been going into his futile daily journals, where he felt trapped by family matters. Until one recent day at the bar where we regularly meet, he heard this strange story. It jolted him.
Here is what he told me over beer at the tavern. I am paraphrasing, but because his tale was so startling, I know I have the essentials right. He said: