Tuesday, October 18, 2011

vox populi's vanity.

Twice today, shaded.

Circling the electronic pony express this noon are two articles that more or less delineate the shadow spirit of my peer group.

The irreverent Gawker posted a kvetch entitled "The Oversharers Win," in which I am  personally attacked a generation of twenty-first century prosers are acerbically detailed.

"This has the effect of destroying not just privacy—all this oversharing is voluntary, after all—but also of diluting the river of public dialogue with endless quantities of worthless self-absorption. I'm not talking about Twitter and Facebook; they're made for worthless oversharing and self-absorption, and wading through it is the price you pay for choosing to partake. I'm talking about writing. Stuff that is published, for others to read. Again, I won't argue that narcissism and a garish lack of self awareness is anything new among writers; I'm just arguing that if I keep reading posts on Thought Catalog, I am probably going to hurl myself in front of an oncoming subway train in despair sometime this winter." 
"Note what Ryan O'Connell did not do, regarding this most private and secret aspect of his life: shut up. The idea of keeping something to one's self is wholly out of the question. The only course of action, when faced with something that one wants to keep private, is to write a 433-word blog post declaring to one's readers that this private thing exists."

If I state that I enjoy Thought Catalog, does this make me part of the problem? Is this a problem.

You're a bunch of narcissistic and circumlocutory beatnik wannabes.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. James Joyce's unabated semi-autobiographical Künstlerroman, published pre-World War I.
Philosophers of antiquity pontificated in lofty stream of consciousness basic principles that a slightly precocious toddler has probably scrambled in their smushed peas at one point or another.

Epictetus: "First learn the meaning of what you say, and then speak."
Stewie Griffin: "Wquahat?"

Technology may have expended the saturation of the literati and diffuse, but people have always and will always desire to exalt their ideas. It do what it do.

Case dismissed.

Essayist William Deresiewicz published "The Disadvantages of an Elite Education" in The American Scholar. His critique of our miseducation ranges from an inability to connect with those outside of our exposure and the failure of the elite research universities to encourage the "humanistic" scholar within. Unequivocally put, Yale pumps out Presidents, Harvard produces Nobel Laureates, Cornell yields Captains of Industry, Williams fosters Cultured Advocates, Colby creates Artisans of Thought, and NONE of them able to engage fluid conversation with Joe the Plumber or Tyrone the Janitor.

"It didn’t dawn on me that there might be a few holes in my education until I was about 35. I’d just bought a house, the pipes needed fixing, and the plumber was standing in my kitchen. There he was, a short, beefy guy with a goatee and a Red Sox cap and a thick Boston accent, and I suddenly learned that I didn’t have the slightest idea what to say to someone like him. So alien was his experience to me, so unguessable his values, so mysterious his very language, that I couldn’t succeed in engaging him in a few minutes of small talk before he got down to work. Fourteen years of higher education and a handful of Ivy League degrees, and there I was, stiff and stupid, struck dumb by my own dumbness. “Ivy retardation,” a friend of mine calls this. I could carry on conversations with people from other countries, in other languages, but I couldn’t talk to the man who was standing in my own house."
That's sadface.
Belonging to a historically disadvantaged ethnocultural minority, we code-switch. Regularly. I wobble in South Phillay and buy my hair products next to Western Unions and Church's Chicken. Judge me later. This particular faux pas of elitism, "Ivy Retardation" - the denouement of über privilege.
"We were “the best and the brightest,” as these places love to say, and everyone else was, well, something else: less good, less bright. I learned to give that little nod of understanding, that slightly sympathetic “Oh,” when people told me they went to a less prestigious college. (If I’d gone to Harvard, I would have learned to say “in Boston” when I was asked where I went to school—the Cambridge version of noblesse oblige.) I never learned that there are smart people who don’t go to elite colleges, often precisely for reasons of class." 
True. Depending to whom I'm speaking or the context of the conversation, when asked of my undergraduate experience I reply "I went to school in Ithaca." or "I attended college in upstate New York." More conditioned modesty, than noblesse oblige.
Throughout much of the 20th century, with the growth of the humanistic ideal in American colleges, students might have encountered the big questions in the classrooms of professors possessed of a strong sense of pedagogic mission. Teachers like that still exist in this country, but the increasingly dire exigencies of academic professionalization have made them all but extinct at elite universities. Professors at top research institutions are valued exclusively for the quality of their scholarly work; time spent on teaching is time lost. If students want a conversion experience, they’re better off at a liberal arts college. 
Should I have gone to a Vassar or a Bates or a Pomona? Did I part university gaining my most transcendent and enriching experiences from the College of Arts & Sciences where pedagogy of the purest form reigns extant and not courses on various business metrics and analytics? Am I a dirty hippie scholar who only sometimes fantasizes picking the brain of the Master Papa Smurf Bernanke? Am I a compromised liberal?? A fledgling moderate???

Our generation is not as screwed as The New York Times sensationalizes. And if we are, we're going to make you suffer our existential lament.

We are vox populi. As each generation claims. We Occupy Wall StreetWe are Wall Street. We honor the implicit hypocrisy. We blog about it.We advocate for Main Street. We romanticize Main Street.

But we aren't Main Street. We then tweet this paradox.

We aren't the voice of the people. 

We know nothing.



Anonymous said...

Way to do a vair clever mash up of the two articles. loves it!

J♥mes. said...