The Education of Heywood Jablomie

This pile of slop made the cut as a “Class Note” in the Fall 2016 issue of Dickinson Magazine:

Neil Weissman, who is now serving as our interim president, is a stalwart Dickinsonian. He began his Dickinson career in 1975 and has served our beloved alma mater in several senior leadership positions. His institutional knowledge will help foster a smooth transition for the next president. Another notable leader was Charles Nisbet, who was asked to be Dickinson’s first president by founders John Dickinson and Benjamin Rush. A scholar who spoke nine languages, Nisbet traveled from Scotland to take the reins in 1785. A few months later, Nisbet resigned due to professional and personal reasons but was re-elected to the post in 1786 and laudably served for the next 18 years. He also was a professor of moral philosophy and taught several courses (Source: Dickinson College Archives & Special Collections). In today’s complex world of higher education, it is hard for a president to simultaneously teach courses every semester while serving as the chief executive officer. Though it is important to be a published scholar, a president has many roles, including fundraising. During the search for the college’s next president, it is imperative that we alumni continue to financially support Dickinson. Our new leader will have 233 years of success to build upon while shaping the college’s vision for its next phase of development.

Source for paragraph formatting: Dickinson Magazine, Fall 2016. Kevin Vickers is a great Canadian. Another great Canadian was Tommy Douglas. What in the Land of Rape and Honey and Keith Morrison they have to do with one another is beyond the American mind’s capacity to grasp. In today’s complex world of Canadian Forces base command, a commander has many roles, including modeling your daughter’s underwear in her bedroom, posing in handcuffs for fundraisers, flight attendant disposal, and fuel procurement. A few years after taking command of CFB Trenton, Colonel D. Russell Williams was discharged due to personal and professional reasons but was reassigned to Port Cartier and laudably served there for the next 25 years to life. Though it is important to have a neighbor who will share information about his favorite hunting spots and wonder in horror and confusion why the OPP is interrogating him about a murder, a base commander is also responsible for coordinating air and ground transportation for visiting heads of state. One of these was Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. A wartime driver and motor pool mechanic, Elizabeth returned to London to marry the most uncouth man in Christendom and stoically raise a disgraceful brood of boors, leches, and wastrels. She also was an annual lecturer at Parliament who according to secondhand reports “very much enjoyed the tikka masala” and visited a number of German footballers, notably asking them, “Oh. Do you come from Germany, do you?” (Sources: Like, Some Stuff I Saw on the Internet & Also PBS*). (*Diagnosis: subversive monarchist rubbish; recommended treatment: defund immediately.) During the search for the base’s next commanding officer, it is imperative that we international CBC viewers continue to tastelessly meme Colonel Underpants. Our new target for canucksploitative ridicule will have 233 years of intercession by St. Jean de Bréboeuf to build upon while shaping the base’s vision (which should be better than the good missionary’s was by the end on account of the Indians) for its next phase of mentally disordered sex crimes of the sort that any sensible Humor in Uniform reader would sooner expect of an NCO.

As it happens (TM), I know the dude who wrote the sycophantic hot mess that I excerpted above, or used to know him, in any event. But first a point of clarification: who forgot to turn “Off” the 24/7 Tim Hortons supply to Carol and her mullet buddy Jeff? Those two friends don’t need help from an officer and a gentleman to go flying. Radio that will make you choke so hard that Big Ears Teddy will turn himself around! Shit, guy, that’s bad even for the CBC. The problem is that Canada doesn’t try to brainwash me for money, so it’s less disgusting than my old school and hence a more appealing abyss to ogle. Joint Pablo Cruz/Vince Li memes of the heart are an improvement for you, since you probably came here for Dubai Porta Potty. On second thought, they might be nothing more than a new frontier of disturbance, but they’re definitely an improvement for me, since I’m the one who’s mixed up with Pot-o-Shit Friend, Dickinson College, and a colony of winery rats. I’m the one who knows the twit who wrote that horseshit about Neil Weissman, Charles Nisbet, and the imperative need for a homeless, sporadically employed college graduate to give Alma Mater, Tried and True his money.

No, we weren’t taught the critical thinking skills to engage a world that includes surplus liberal arts graduates. Nor were we taught to imagine that I have been more productive by any objective measure in my sorry career than our twit from above has been in his. He brownnosed the everloving shit out of Bill Durden, too, in spite of Durden’s crude fraudulence as a Scholar, because none of this was ever really about education, learning, or the life of the mind. I know this crowd all too well. It uses its studied conceit of scholarly excellence as an organizing myth to justify its own rightful position in the natural aristocracy. As a practical matter, this means that you’d have to be an absolute fucking genius with a pitch-perfect, Leon Bridges-smooth reading of the Eastern Seaboard’s highbrow social norms to get the time of day from these assholes if you’re an autodidact or you’ve been taking some courses at HACC as your schedule permits. I’m pretty sure, in fact, that Bridges knows more about boats from singing about his very loose Dallas Metroplex conceptual theory of excessive ladings maybe having something to do with a vessel’s seaworthiness than these twits do from their parents renting the same shore house every month, and again, some dude from Dallas who’s on heavy rotation on 92.5: The Krush as part of the smooth, smooth soundtrack for the Central Coast’s winos is not the first person I’d flag down to take a look at my parents’ pontoon boat and see if he can’t tell what’s wrong with it. They aren’t quite that highbrow.

Maybe that’s part of the problem. Maybe they have a chip on the shoulder and feel like they’ll always be arrivistes. It’s clear enough that some of them are overcompensating. Mind you, this still doesn’t explain why they’re so pig-ignorant about so many things that a college graduate might be expected to know. Like, when the child of a practicing lawyer and grandchild of an ordained minister is at a total loss to pronounce “Kyrie Eleison” when it’s displayed on the car radio and has no idea of what it means, maybe that betrays a half-assed liberal education. “I never thought of the library in terms of books” could be a red flag, too. In Post-Soviet America, Highway of Night School must travel YOU!

Frankly, I’m able to relate well enough to some profoundly ignorant and downright stupid people. The retarded we will have with us always, whether we call them intellectually disabled or feebleminded or moronic or *TIMMEH*. Some of us travel the highway in the night at a slower pace than others. Some of us can’t even tell that it’s night. Being ignorant is not the same thing as being stupid, and being stupid is not the same thing as having delusions of education overpowering one’s much more limited education. I doubt that ten percent of Dickinson’s students and alumni could articulate a decent layman’s overview of Scottish intellectual history, or that a third of the student body is aware that Scotland ever had one. Pennsylvania is not part of Scotland, so under normal circumstances I wouldn’t give a shit, but these particular circumstances are abnormal. What we have is an obscure junior university administrator using an alumni rag to pompously intone about some kind of C-List Scottish Enlightenment figure he read some shit about in his alma mater’s archives as part of a self-directed project to badger his schoolmates for money and bask in the glimmer of any institutional glory he could possibly spot. If he can’t coherently and accurately summarize Scottish politics today from memory on demand, he’s a fraud.

What makes this spectacle even weirder is that this dude is actually pretty damn intelligent and well-read. He’s no dummy; he just sounds like one. The aesthetic, organizational, and intellectual embarrassments of his run-on paragraph aren’t anything that I’d want to earnestly publish under my own byline. But that’s what cults do. They trash the intellects of otherwise intelligent people.

It isn’t a novel insight that cults are mentally poisonous. Well, around Dickinson, I guess it would be. It’s the easiest thing to learn from just about any material on the sixties or seventies. The Boomers were down with shit like Synanon and Jonestown, and damned if it wasn’t a horrifically captivating mess. The object lesson is unmistakable: for the love of God don’t go there. Cults ruin the mind and the spirit. This is like saying that if you jump into a pond you’ll get wet.

The standard term for unlearning all of this is brainwashing. *Very Jezebel Voice* It happened to me: I went to school in Brain Washington. It could happen to you, too.

I’m basically in the position of telling grown-ass, college-educated adults not to stick that fork in an electrical outlet, and their response is to condescendingly make fun of me for being the kind of humorless killjoy who believes in electricity. It’s like dealing with the mentally ill, except that the mentally ill sometimes know that they’re crazy and don’t usually expect the reality-based communities around them to live in their particular alt-reality communities. Far be it from them to expect everyone to live in the same universe when they hardly know which ones they’re passing through from hour to hour on their own pilgrim journeys. A crook like Bernie Madoff is easy enough to understand: he dry-labbed a bunch of absolutely bogus accounting and Madoff with a bunch of money, and now he’s a valued member of the Jewish Gentlemen’s Kaffeeklatsch at Butner. It doesn’t really start getting scary until the active membership of an entire association starts becoming disoriented by its own gaslighting campaign. How the hell does anyone establish a safe space for reality then?

If you got the feeling that the author of that bullshit about Weissman and Nisbet is a strange ranger, you felt me right. Dude dwells in an uncanny valley between insufferable earnestness and Cheshire Cat Sarc 10 cynicism. He comes from an eccentric wealthy family deep in Deplorable Country, and I’ve been told that he eats french fries with a napkin. So of course Dickinson would give this Fauntleroy, of all people, a bully pulpit. I don’t get the same consideration for having a shitty dating life and hanging out with people my parents’ age because I don’t scurry around shoving my nose into the most prominent asses within my line of sight.

I’ve known even worse around there. One of the nastiest bro-ass shitheads on campus got Durden to all but suck his cock on the steps of Old West in exchange for a donation or pledge of something like $2,000 during the fall semester of his senior year. Bro and I had mutual drinking buddies, some of them pretty nasty in their own right, and I wasn’t aware of anyone else on campus who was such a pointlessly vicious piece of shit. At the time, I gave Durden the benefit of the doubt and figured that maybe he didn’t realize he was publicly celebrating possibly the most meanspirited individual in a community of about two thousand. These days, I doubt he could have been bothered to care.

Dickinson supposedly has admissions standards. It supposedly screens out unfit applicants. What the hell these standards actually are is impossible to say for sure. It was hard to believe how little social acumen many of my schoolmates had, and not just the nerd-savants. I’d look at or hear about some of these people and wonder how on earth they’d be able to function appropriately in a white-collar workplace. I knew a guy who was caught dangling from a tree like a fucking lemur, his much prettier but spergier girlfriend with a habit of smiling in all circumstances, most of them inappropriate, people who cursed at the top of their lungs indoors, and a guy who always smiled at his food on the way to his seat in the cafeteria. Just today, while I was rummaging through my storage unit for the title to my car, I found an old fundraising letter from my class reunion committee listing all the classmates who had duly tithed to date, along with exhortations to do likewise and make US News & World Report love us longtime. (It sounds like accounting fraud because it is a sort of accounting fraud.) What cracked me up about this donor list was that it included a girl who had offended the hell out of one of my roommates on either their first or second date. This roommate was preternaturally charming but weird in his own right (a mutual friend, normally reticent about such things, once aptly blurted out, “[Weirdo in question] is fucking bizarre!”), but he sounded like he was quite reasonable to take offense. He had her over to his room and played for her an Australian mourning ballad dear to him about a group of pearl divers who were killed by the bends when they were forced to surface abruptly during an emergency. This chick’s response to this song was to stand up and do a sort of Irish jig.

I wasn’t the only person with social deficiencies around there. God. What’s next: The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, featuring Riverdance? And that doesn’t even account for all the alkies and druggies, or the guy who mailed in the anthrax threat and got to do his year abroad at Ray Brook. At least he got us free meals for a week while the FBI did its thing. Quite a bit of carryout pizza, I recall. These fuckers couldn’t seriously have been a prime recruiting pool for anything. Why, then, is the laconic preppy clotheshorse who got punched out by the hothead in the laundry room for stealing everyone’s shirt working in some kind of midlevel policymaking position at the FDA? What gives? Point: “Oh my God, that’s my Lacoste shirt! He’s wearing my shirt!” Counterpoint: “What Lacoste shirt?”

The chick who got ridiculed as “Emily Bailout” after her parents bought her a bottom-level graduate sinecure with a $50,000 charitable (sic) gift to the college looked normal enough compared to these freaks. That is, I never took a look at her and immediately got the inchoate but unshakable feeling that HR wouldn’t want to deal with her social problems or have her mental health history in its insurance risk pool.

It isn’t a meritocracy that’s hiring and promoting this crew. It just isn’t. If it were, I wouldn’t be the only graduate trying to establish a work-life balance between menial farm jobs, please God bless me this day with deposit bottles, and the Starbucks lobby. Not in a shit job market like we’ve had since 2008 I wouldn’t. It’s funny, though, that the news about medical residencies and veterinary practices comes so quickly, while the news about PhD’s in the hard sciences holding down gas station clerkships for years on end never gets two lines in the alumni rag because some fuckjob with a master’s degree in bation needs all seven inches for his Nisbet nonsense.

Ain’t no fancy-pants Cumberland cracker suppressing MY alumni updates. Dickinson bitch this still is not, and neither is WordPress. Suck on that if you get tired of Nisbet’s little nisbits.

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