Jesus. This is really a fuckin’ can of worms, isn’t it? Even though it’s relatively minor news right now, I can see that it’s a moment, a sort-of defining incident of the times, determined by and bearing the remote relation and trace of everything that’s happening right now.
So, apparently, at this little cloister of a humanities college, there’s a tradition where all the Black students and faculty stay home for a day, in a show of their presence and being and the roles they play in the running of the institution. This year, (such a mindfuck of a year it’s been) it was suggested that the roles be reversed, and all the white students and faculty should stay home, and let PoC experience a day in solidarity. Very interesting.
But one professor, an unfortunately nasal, uncouth and grey-haired white man, had to be a curmudgeon about the whole thing. Mind you that the idea was on voluntary terms. He didn’t have to do it. I haven’t read his statements, nothing particularly inflammatory was reported.
And the students have reacted fiercely, savagely, insanely. The dude had to move his family to safety. Apparently he realizes he’s gonna need a new job after it all blows over, because he started blogging about it, using the media coverage as an excuse to charge a fee on his articles.
An entrepreneur. Okay. But watch the video.
The main narrative consists of a write-up in the NY Times and one in the Washington Post. Both of which sound like they were written by very tired, owl-eyed journalists on their 1000th cup of coffee, sick of the world and their task of documenting the slow crumble of civilization. Endless diatribes and descriptions and prescriptions are festering out of the undead corpses of the alt-right internet (a realm no amount of protective charms or psychic armor would induce me to enter). All in all, I’m pretty reluctant today. What a shit-show. The alt-right fucks are making horrible fun of these zealous students. It’ll give them talking points for years.
I don’t want to put the video on here and taint the blog with it’s presence. There’s so much to say, to explain. Fuck it. I’ll just go with some bullet-points. That’s fitting, right, for such a spectacle? El. Oh. Fucking. El. America.
- I’m not so very far away from these lunatics. It wasn’t two years ago that I was another middle-class liberal arts student, wearing skinny jeans and a bandanna, reading Foucault, Spivak, and Derrida. My girlfriend and I would always debate whether or not so-and-so professor was ‘reproducing capitalism and colonialism’ by their methods in the classroom or if they could possibly be some kind of unconscious racist or bigot. I think probably we were the only ones, or maybe a small group, of the most angry or ‘the most serious’ about our ideals. And we weren’t that bad, I promise. It was only one or two professors we would debate over. (:
- One of the greatest things about college is that it’s sort of a… how should I say… a sealed realm, a little monastery where you can fuck around and experiment and generally be a young idiot. And the professors expect all this, they put up with it. They’re always on your side. They’re educators. They love what they do, helping young people think and grow. It’s pretty shameful how these angry kids are treating their superiors, their professors. The professor they’re crucifying was a progressive. The height of American Higher Education Liberality. Go after Donald Trump. Go after the Young Republicans or the Tea Party.
- ‘Some Lord of the Flies Shit’ reads one of the comments. I had to chuckle a little, and then tremble a little, at that one. I’m reminded, once again, of Fisher’s Exiting the Vampire Castle. People compare these zealots with Calvinist preachers or Puritan witch hunters. Except that we’re even worse, us young lefties. ‘Stalinists without the Utopia.’ Fisher said somewhere. All the witch hunt and the pyre without the heaven. All the Thought Policing without the socialist economy. Why is this happening? Why is this the ethos of my generation? Why is this our defining political movement? It’s my understanding that you generally have to be very careful when talking about this strain of identity politics. Feelings run high.
- I don’t disagree with these students, or the social ideas we value. I’m more interested in expanding the discourse, to include the political-economic, which has been left behind. I can never support attacking individuals in the name of dismantling institutional racism. I am more interested in establishing something positive, working on a solution, rather than exorcising ‘retrograde elements.’ Capitalist society will always generate racism and inequality, no matter how many supposedly-racist individuals we expel from our institutions.
- One reflection I have, regarding my own liberal arts education, is that the students are educated on only the very latest, most cutting-edge theory and scholarship. We read Irigaray without Lacan. Then Lacan without Freud. We read Derrida without Levi-Strauss, then Levi-Strauss without Saussure. We read Marcuse without Marx. Fromm minus Freud. Adorno and Benjamin without any kind of general background of philosophy. Materialism, like Hegel never existed. You get the picture. How can you understand Derrida without ever reading a basic logic textbook? How can you critique ‘the consciousness of duality’ without knowing what reason is? There’s some connection between a generation educated with only the critique of the critique of the critique and a political movement that is capable of only introspection and witch-hunting individuals. Blind spots.
- Bare in mind that I was very much one of these kids. I probably would’ve joined them, had this happened on my campus. Maybe. It scares me to ponder it. I read this somewhere, maybe it was Trotsky who said it. Out of a class of 30 students, 3 will be very smart, very confident. A large mass in the middle will not care very much about anything, they just want to be safe and not bothered. Then there’s a group in the back, who just don’t get it. Something like that. It was very sharp in Trotsky’s quote, which I can’t find anywhere. Anyways, the group dynamics of this little witch hunt must be fascinating. There’s always 2 or 3 people who really, genuinely believe that their teacher is a racist bigot whose existence is unbearable. Then there’s a large group who just don’t want themselves to be called out on being apathetic or perhaps secretly racist. Then there’s an even larger group that just wants to be the first to put it all on social media. In one video, the kids were discussing, maybe it was like a coming-down sesh or something, and they were applauding and snapping each other’s words like it was a poetry slam, being very supportive of each other’s expression after having chased out a professor who, frankly, maybe… didn’t… sayanythingracist. I blush.
- Maybe these kids really do go to protests, like BLM or Fight for 15. Who knows? I don’t know any of them personally. But with so much horror and terror going on in the world, the 8 or so nations our Empire is bombing and starving, the destruction of the last vestiges of the social safety net, the death of the Planet, the republican strangle hold on every level of government… maybe there are some… dare I say it? Bigger problems than a clumsy liberal professor at your cloister of a humanities college. Just Sayin’.
Well. That’s it. I guess it’s not so very important in the end, what with climate change coming to wipe humanity off the face of the Earth and out of the realm of Being entirely. That’s just one possibility of course.
Sit back, close your eyes, and try to really imagine the world ending.
Do you still want to bully a 60 year old biology teacher?