The other day, however, I was perturbed by an article I read at Chronicle Vitae, "Sharecroppers. Migrant Workers. Adjuncts?" by David Perry. I thought the author might have been referring to my page, Adjunct Justice, when he wrote about the slaves of Egypt. Although he cited another piece, he left me thinking that I should clarify my use of metaphor and image, and that I should please my friend while I was going about it — hence my explanation for my use of the scribes in Egypt.
The image I employ in Adjunct Justice are scribes, the best paid of Egypt's society. Yet as a modern society, many of us do not know this. Many of us do not appreciate this fact now — the knowledge these scribes had — though we do appreciate what is left behind from their learning, and their teaching.
Thus, I use scribes as my ongoing theme with everything I write concerning contingency because they were always the most learned of men in their society. Yet even when bringing riches not only to their world but also to posterity, they were still "slaves" under the pharaoh. They had no freedoms in the higher sense of the word. I see that as a parallel to us, who “slave away” under an unjust system for indentured wages, though our academic standing should give us a completely enriched view in terms of the world at large. And to most, we are supposedly revered as academics, professors — people with knowledge.
But how many know that we are incredibly indebted from years of study? And then, when we are compensated, how many really understand that we receive wages which will not let us survive? In that sense, we are not like the Egyptian scribes at all, who were well paid.
Thus the parallel to me is clear: both scribes and contingent faculty are among the most learned of their society. The scribes from Egypt brought riches to their world and were treated with high regard; contingent faculty, while also bringing riches to our world, at the same time struggle daily to make ends meet.
One of these days I may change my Egyptian motif; but I will always keep the scribes, somewhere searching in the vast reaches of the world. I will always try to maintain that duality we share, which is so inscribed in our very essence today.
Hopefully one day we will break free.