A Prefect’s Token

A title is a strange kind of token, one with a value that is often extremely difficult to measure, and yet one that is just as often pursued with cut-throat ferocity.

Having the right title will grant you entry into the hidden chambers of our most prestigious ivory towers, but the value of those mysterious towers themselves is… equally difficult to measure.

If the token is a “Doctorate” from a school of prestige,

Then the stated purpose of those vast and impenetrable bureaucracies is to provide an open space for intellectual pursuit.

And yet… the people within can spend most of their lives pursuing the bureaucracy instead of their intellect.

And of the open spaces those poor souls were promised, they ultimately find very little room to navigate.

Or so they tell me.

If the token is a “Partner” at a firm of prestige,

Then the stated purpose of the vast and impenetrable bureaucracy is often simply to build its own practice into a newer, better, and grander version of itself.

And yet… like their academic counterparts, these token-holders can also spend too much of their time in hot pursuit of the empty paths in an overgrown bureaucracy.

And of the working world they were supposed to make better, they ultimately find that almost nothing works as designed.

Or so they tell me.

Do not fall into these traps.

Do not spend your life wandering up and down these Escheresque Towers, these Libraries of Babel.

Find a tower where you are not forced into such bizarre and unknowable systems against your will, against your mind, or against your better nature.

Indeed, not all ivory towers are created equal, and it’s not uncommon to find that the tower matters more than the token.

For within any given ivory tower, a title brands you as prefect – a keeper of the secret ways.

But the nature of the secrets and the nature of the ways will always depend on the type of your tower, as well as all of its specific peculiarities.

So be vigilant.

By all means, work on the system if you can, work in the system if you must, but never work for the system.

Not if it’s a broken one.

If the system is truly broken and beyond repair, the only option is escape.

That is, of course, if you have the option.

Do you?

So if the only choice they give you is to publish or perish, choose perish.

If the only choice they give you is up or out, choose out.

If anything, we’re lucky they give us the option at all.

If the bureaucracy could prevent it, then it would.

And they often do.

But there is always a reason overgrown bureaucracy tries so hard to constrain your choices, and it is almost never a good one.

Their byzantine orders always come with strings attached—and I guarantee those strings are not the ones you seek.

And besides, in the cracks of their paperwork labyrinths, in the gaps where no one oversees the overseers, that’s where you will almost always encounter the hidden problems.

You will almost certainly find neglect. You may also find the gross distortions of ambition, or sometimes outright fraud. You’ll find pointless power games, or vast changes made with no material reason or impact. You will sometimes even find… abuse.

And all too much of the time, you will be utterly powerless to stop any of it.

So choose your tower carefully.

And your title within that tower?

Even more so.

— yoav golan

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