Invisible letters

A lyrical reflection on the culture of fear in academia


You don’t want to be intimidated

you don’t want to be ruled by your fear

you don’t want to give up

on your sense of justice.


You engage with a logic

that destroys the creativity

and spurns the vibrancy

of many years of daily endeavours

by cutting them into little pieces

and mercilessly categorising

and counting each of them.


You engage with a logic

that  dismisses the human complexity

that disregards the courage

needed to understand the world

a little bit better

and a little bit different

than it was understood before you.


You have to abide by a logic

that does not want to see

let alone value

the emotional labor

needed for guiding students

towards the big

never answerable questions.


You have to tolerate

that “working conditions”

never appear on any form.


But if you do not play this game

you fear to give in to the fear

to accept structural injustice

to end up shrinking into yourself.


You think you play by the rules,

but you learn that no one knows the rules

if a certain form of power

has taken over.


This power

forges its own arbitrariness.

It is creative.

It invents ever more and ever new


It feeds on institutionalised insecurity

and on vagueness.


People want to recognise people.

Power only wants to recognise itself.


Under its influence

human beings being human

trying to signal

support and reliability

saying “you are okay”

and “we want to help you”

appear increasingly helpless.


The power that rules is relentless

it does not condone such attempts

it resolutely narrows the room for decency

it purposefully disorients everyone

pulling away the ground beneath the feet

of those who try their best

while they are caught in the web.


This power

does not empower anyone.

It is a faceless force

created and sustained

by an intensifying hierarchy.


It enjoys everyone’s fear

and everyone’s helplessness

because it is constantly made stronger

by both.


Something is written on the wall

in invisible letters.


“Be careful what you do now,

because we have our methods.”



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