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Liberalism and the absurd in wonderland

The Gothic Wonderland is a continual blessing and curse--always so much to say, yet such little space to say it. I have, for a long time, agreed with the great journalist Auberon Waugh in believing in the need for vituperation and critique; that is, to expose those truths and insights least desired to be heard to a crowd that most needs to hear them. For a campus often rife with contradictions and oblivious to itself, I would like offer the following observations on some recent happenings:

Don't save the environment: Anyone walking around and enjoying the wonderful weather of the last week undoubtedly noticed the large yellow flyers that littered the campus offering summer jobs to "save the environment." In addition to promising salvation for Mother Earth, these posters also advertise thousand-dollar jobs over the summer. Seem a little too good to be true? Well, it is.

Perhaps one of the biggest scams to profit from colleges in the last 10 years, some of the public interest research groups that sponsor such programs are just political money machines for fringe environmental causes that cannot find support on either the right or the left. The summer job actually consists of going house-to-house harassing people for money for the environment. However, up to 50 percent of this money collected for the "environment" simply goes to pay the people who go door-to-door, according to both the national office and independent environmental think tanks. The other 50 percent goes to fund political campaigns that may or may not do anything constructive. If there were any truth in advertising, these yellow flyers should say: "Harass people in their homes to give you money, keep half of it, and turn the rest over to finance ambiguous political goals."

Double standards: Did anyone else notice the cartoon that ran on The Chronicle's editorial page this past Tuesday? A general behind a podium labeled "Homeland Defense" quipped, "To safeguard innocent civilians, we're instituting round the clock air patrols over Catholic churches...." I am amazed at the tolerance with which certain types of bigotry are met, and the outrage that accompanies others. If the cartoon had said, "To protect innocent whites, we're instituting round the clock air patrols over NAACP meetings," there would have been hell to pay. I'm the last one to suggest that Catholics should picket The Chronicle for being slighted but would like to note the hypocritical double standards which pervade the way we think about different minority groups.

Minority rights: Apparently, this University thinks they are important in some cases and not in others. Case in point--smokers. Even more shocking than the announcement that students will no longer be able to smoke in their private dorm rooms next year, was the Duke Student Government poll that found a near majority in favor of these restrictions. Next stop: Health nuts and do-gooders combine to rid this campus of red meat (it is so unhealthy). It is a sorry state of affairs when people don't recognize the legitimacy of freedoms other than those they personally exercise.

Major speakers: The Union's Major Speakers committee is hosting the arch-feminist Gloria Steinem this week. In my three years here, the University has brought in Ralph Nader, Jesse Jackson, Jocelyn Elders, Al Frankin, Carl Bernstein, Spike Lee and now Steinem. Does anyone see a pattern here? So much for diversity of ideas--the one diversity this University lacks.

Playing hardball: Responding to some of Duke's incorrigible student activists, President Nan Keohane recently announced Duke's decision to continue its boycott of the Mt. Olive Pickle Company. It is estimated that this bold move will deprive the company of, get this folks, $3,000 in annual revenue. Short of boycotting denture adhesives, I cannot imagine a more meaningless stance for a University. However, since any economist on campus will tell you that such boycotts hurt poor workers at the end of the day, we can be glad that the only victim of Keohane's latest political posturing will be the integrity of the University.

Housing: I really do not want to open this can of worms again, but let me reiterate to any deans who might be reading: Students don't like surprises, and making the residential changes transparent to the student body will help everyone in the long run.

Bill English is a Trinity junior.


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