As I made one of my regular strolls around the campus this week, something began to seem a bit queer to me. Instead of the abhorrently neon-colored pants and mesh-like tops that the students seem to prefer, I saw students far more in keeping with my vision of the University. No, I admit, there were still far too many ethnics for my liking, but even they were… professional-looking. Realizing something was amiss, I entered into that abhorrent structure that bears that fourth-marriage-ruining scumbag Joseph Bryan’s name.
Everyone, I realized, had begun his (I default to the masculine pronoun and only the masculine pronoun, as any student of classical Shakespearean English ought to) search for gainful employment. The mass of students, standing in line as though one continuous mass, for banking firms (which many students assured me were “like consulting, but with a better paycheck”), consulting firms (which many students assured me were “completely different from banking”) and many other pillars of society today.
It was as if that great rush of capitalism had washed them clean, scrubbed of all the social and political preoccupations that seemed to dominate their time on this campus. They were completely free, free to choose which person they would queue in front of in order to—as those children of Moses call it—“schmooze.”
However, in the midst of all of this wonder, I had an initially confusing, then enlightening, encounter with a student who had designs to mock such a meeting. After hearing him decry this productive career fair as “mindless corporate capitalism” and “the soulless entrenchment of previously embedded structures,” I asked the insolent child what his name was.
He said, “Don’t you know? I am you.” Having confused me, he further said, “I am the one in control of your words, even if you do not know it. We are one, and yet not.” I responded, “Son, you’re not God, you’re a dumb kid, so I ask you cease the pretentious meta-ness and simply say what’s on your mind. Neither I nor anyone else have time for more of your absurd thoughts.”
“Well,” he said. “I’m simply appalled by the mindless displays of wealth here, and the terrible conformity of the whole thing. These people ought to find what they really desire to do, not just the mindless pursuit of wealth.” And he left his words at that, thinking he had made a great point.
Of course, he never stopped to consider where he was in life, and how a child such as he not only has never had to provide for himself, but for others, for a family; such a life requires real financial assets. I responded in a way that would resonate, “Well, son, I’m glad that you’ve realized that there’s nothing that attracts women more than abject poverty. I’m sure your inability to find employment will find you many a mistress.”
I continued, “Levity aside, don’t you find your endless neo-Luddism tiring? You’re not going to survive on wit alone, especially judging from your constant attempts at “wit” that begin with bad jokes and end with preaching that lacks even a shred of a humor. Do you think this life is easy? Do you think I always aimed to be a national resource tycoon? I wished to be an academic, studying the rise of the British Empire. But then there was the nasty business with Gertrude and the pregnancy, and I made a noble decision.…
“I don’t mean to bore you with the details of my life. But I’m not a mere foil for you to mock: I am human. And simply ragging on the structures of wealth, no matter how absurd they may seem to you, when the words ‘financial needs’ have no day-to-day impact on your life isn’t going to cut it for much longer. Get a job, young man.”
I wonder if he, or those like him, ever will.
Even the Grumpy Trustee himself must admit that senility is partially responsible for the fractured nature of this week’s column.