Christian virtues may seem something very far from a desert lioness like me, and yet I do possess one, and to a considerable degree. I'm very humble and meek, and modest, even more here than I used to be in Warsaw. At least in Warsaw, I'd never use the kind of sport shoes as I do here (they costed me 10 euro in the supermarket, and I wear them by devotio moderna, or just feeling they fit the kind of countryside I'm in anywhere outside Amsterdam...). I've even dropped down the "professor" title that people used to give me -- not quite legally -- well over the last decade. I'm just fine with my neutral, unassuming "doctor". Which is indeed a treat of distinction in relation to many an Eastern colleague who calls himself (usually men accentuate it stronger) "professor". While actual Western professors don't run after this kind of fellowships, of course. By the way, it's funny -- or precisely not as funny as that -- to verify that what is seen as "prestigious" in the worm's eye view of Poland, becomes woefully un-prestigious as seen from inside. In fact, I suppose the experience would make many people, not as greatly enriched in Christian virtues as I happen to be, delve in frustration. While I face it stoically.
But taking things under the angle of efficiency, not spirituality, I do wonder if my meekness is truly a winning strategy. Being so meek, I just saw myself denied the hall to organise my conference, scheduled in the framework of my Marie-Curie activities. Because the secretaries universally step over the meek, as I know very well out of my long and varied experience. This one has even been rude, as far as you manage to be rude while writing an e-mail in French. And meekly, I made a rather polite mess around it. Once again, perhaps overacting the distinction in relation to the kind of post-Soviet PhD students I knew from Poland.
Anyway, it doesn't actually matter, as long as we are outside Amsterdam. But in the long run, how far can I go being meek? Perhaps I should think about developing winning strategies beyond my meekness.
In the past, my main strategy beyond meekness was something that might be resumed under the metaphor of pulling the tablecloth off, possibly together with the best porcelain tableware. The strategy of pulling the tablecloth off could be observed at my very quiet "saída" out of the Jagiellonian University (the Portuguese term is taken from a printed comment on this situation, published in one of our scholarly journals). I'm pulling the tablecloth off also here in Tours, as I've suggested them very quietly I could just find some other place to make this conference. Finally, I do wonder if those guys in Poland ever noticed that the tablecloth had been pulled off, right beneath their dinner. So very quietly did I do it.
They are feasting, anyway, in my old faculty, because they finally got their A+ category. Mashallah. I did want it, some years ago, but of course, now, it doesn't matter. Some years ago, I would consider it might add some shine to my CV. Now, as for my curricular credentials, the very name of the faculty is rather discretely omitted; I just mention, in a more general way, the University of Warsaw as my affiliation, hoping that people will simply interpret it as the main institution of my remote country of origin, the best available place I had to be in, given the relatively unpropitious circumstances I'd struggled to turn to my advantage. Yet I do feel a bit uncanny about it. While they celebrate their success, I regard the institution as academically non-viable. It is not even the problem of my aspiring for better; I see some essential flaw in it; this is indeed very hard to explain and I'm not in mood for trying it right now. Evidently no one has ever asked my opinion about it. Yet sometimes it makes me think about that old Spanish joke, in which a husband, wishing to kill his wife, was advised to do it "a polvos". After a month, as he was dragging himself up the stairs of his house, totally exhausted, he overheard her singing. So he muttered under his breath: "Canta, puta, canta, que te queda poca vida"... Perhaps it is like this with me and my faculty, and the other way around, my faculty and me. They expect me to come back one day, meeker than ever, having failed in my Western adventures. And they will still be there, with their A+ and their consortia and their great project leaders shining bright... Heading into nowhere, against the falling darkness do they shine so bright. While it's simply not that kind of "powders"...
But most probably I'm only a frustrated marginal, envious about the success and greatness of my colleagues. Look to my shoes...