The problem with college education isn’t the actual education. That much is all right. It’s with the air of superiority and the arrogance that the degree confers upon those holding it, regardless of their actual education, if any. There’s a brisk cottage industry of hot takes on college men and women (however nauseatingly sic) who are manifestly semiliterate, pig-ignorant about things that ought at least to ring a faint bell for the educated, or otherwise embarrassing to the intellect. I’ve personally known some, and I’ve written about some of them, even in my last essay, as I will again here. It’s fun to make fun (duh) of such people. It may even be praxis. The innocently, humbly ignorant don’t deserve to take such shit, but those who lord it over the less educated with their degrees and then sound like cagier versions of Sam Cooke on a slow day when engaged in routine discussions of things they ought to have learned somewhere along the line sure do.
College, as construed by those who define themselves by their college, has fuck-all to do with learning, wisdom, veritas, engaging the world, or whatever the hell else got spilled into the mission statement. It’s about class, as in we right here are the only ones who have any, so sux 2b u. For some of the more honest wastrels in the gaudeamus igitur set, college is mainly about the appetites. I’m past the point of caring about the morality of this stance; these appetites will either be satiated in one way or another or spill over unpredictably and unhealthily into other areas of life that ought to be approached without such deranging passions. We want to eat. We want to drink. We want, per Kid Rock, to smoke funny things and maybe even try different things. We want, per #Thicke, to hug, and to rhyme. Hey hey hey! Blundering around fruitlessly but honestly on the base of Maslow’s Pyramid is better than pretending to transcend all that while sharpening one’s knife in preparation for a lifetime devoted to living large at every level of need on the hierarchy at the expense of anyone and everyone who gets in one’s way. It may be a truth that would make Vaclav Havel put face to palm, but the gaudeamus igitur live in it abundantly.
The Insurance Schmuck has no fucking idea what “gaudeamus igitur” means. I don’t positively know this for a fact, but I totally know it. He’s clueless. This isn’t because the academy has shitcanned the classics curricula in a campaign to appease cultural Marxists and SJW’s and fellow-traveling shitlibs. A lot of this stuff is easy enough to pick up by osmosis with an interest in it and a bit of attention. There’s plenty of instructional material about it that’s easily accessed as long as it doesn’t interfere with one’s deep reading of Tom Friedman. Since I’m about to roll down Ankeny Hill after dark once I’m done vomiting this screed onto the internet, I might as well mention that “kyrie eleison,” an awfully common liturgical line that the Insurance Schmuck presumed gibberish when it came over his radio display, can be explored with Mr. Mister, a sort of Christian musical act, and if your school offers Eighties Studies, surely Victor Davis Hanson has been paid to eloquently complain about the intellectual dead weight that it graduates into his economy and his civics.
The Insurance Schmuck was an incorrigible cockhound in college, if he isn’t again in the aftermath of his ex-fiancee burning bridges and moving to Pacific Beach to post yoga videos on Facebook, and he drank a bottle of NyQuil every night, but that hasn’t stopped him from returning to campus to lecture Greeks (who might be familiar with “kyrie eleison” and its meaning, but probably aren’t) about how college is a test of ascetic discipline that whose passage will enable them to get their drunk on after they graduate and get jobs. To the extent that I drank heavily in college, it was not why I had trouble with my studies (I could explore my intersectional bipolar/I can’t get a date thing at great length, but I have work as the asscrack of dawn tomorrow, or whenever I straggle in due to my being le tired), and I hardly touch alcohol when I’m not visiting family these days, so the Insurance Schmuck is out of his mind about this sober living horseshit.
More pertinently, the stance that heavy drinking, or even blatant alcoholism, should be tolerated as a bar to fundamental employability and socioeconomic viability, or that it should be used as a justification for poor outcomes, is offensive. As I discussed before, I was firmly on the side of the Greek Life drunks in the Insurance Schmuck’s standoff with them, and I usually keep Greeks high on my list of recommendations for a Maoist study abroad period. I’m allowed to say these things because bitch I’ll be picking fruit again tomorrow and also because bitch this is the internet. Substance abuse can majorly fuck people up, but if alcoholism were a bar to academic and professional accomplishment, we’d have no lawyers. God help us, I’m recruiting for the Women’s Christian Temperance Union now.
From an ethical perspective, it’s worth asking why we should take kindly to these shabby sermons on the just world theory from Lord Nyquil-Muhdik. The Insurance Schmuck started drinking during his senior year in college, when he took up with his batshit crazy, possibly borderline girlfriend of the semester who made his swear off the Nyquil nightcaps. Some of us, it seems, never get to the point where we stop taking that cup of comfort because it plainly tastes like shit. There’s no way he doesn’t drink more than I do on a daily or weekly basis. If he weren’t full of shit on the sober living lectures, he’d be the one sleeping in his car, but I can’t stop him from explaining professional outcomes in ways that completely elide sociology.
A few years ago, the Insurance Schmuck got annoyed with a colleague’s boyfriend who failed the NCLEX-RN exam after completing an accelerated BSN program. He ended up going into real estate instead, at least for the time being. The Insurance Schmuck’s explanation for this guy failing the NCLEX-RN (whose do-or-die seriousness he apparently wildly exaggerated, as far as I could tell when I looked into the retake policy) was–what else?–that he drank a lot when he should have been studying. I’m not sure how much he actually meant drinking and how much he meant socializing. Maybe the dude didn’t have a winning study ethic, but he got work in real estate, so I gather that he isn’t a total wastrel, unlike the Insurance Schmuck’s duly barred lawyer relative Addison, whom ISB calls “a kept man” because he’s shacked up with his girlfriend and making no effort to look for work while his mother pays for and looks after his apartment and refused to pay for him to travel to Cancun for the Insurance Schmuck’s sister’s destination wedding. I don’t usually use real names in these pages, but Addison the willfully unemployed lawyer is irresistible.
Addison passed the bar exam. This other dude who isn’t a nurse isn’t one because he failed the NCLEX-RN, but as Bruce Springsteen likes to tell him, you ain’t Lynn Majors, but hey, you’re all right. Me, I’d sooner show a little faith in the magic of the night than in the promised land coming out tonight to case me. Having work this month doesn’t change this. I still have weak to terrible prospects in a country full of people with hideous prospects, and I’m luckier than many Americans.
The temperance shit is particular to the Insurance Schmuck, but countless other bougies advance more mainstream bigotries about why the poor deserve their poverty due to their poor self-discipline: because they didn’t stay in school, because they smoke, because they’re fat (which they might not be to such an extent if they smoked; ooh, Cosmic Brain thought!), because they eat sugary, fatty shit and drink too much soda. Meanwhile Stephen Colbert wants us to gorge on Oreos as a way of sticking it to Donald Trump for rebuking management for threatening to move an Oreo production line from Chicago to Mexico, but that’s okay because in this case eating crappy cookies is a way to show one’s solidarity with management against that impertinent oaf in the Oval Office, not a way to just stress-eat and maintain that low-class physique.
Sometimes I wonder how many assholes in Washington presume themselves superior to me because they eat at Prêt-a-Manger and call that praxis while I, homeless, fress at Burger King. Nice lanyard you got there; shame if something happened and you choked on it. Nah, I’m not really that heartless; watching a supercilious lanyard dork snag her lanyard on some protrusion while looking at her phone and fall flat on her ass on the way into a Metro station would be adequate. Probably a good tenth of the Burger King that I’ve eaten has been to spite health food scolds, mainly the Family Shrew, but I certainly don’t mind also spiting some Beltway fuckheads while I’m at it.
It’s all too easy to find college-educated urbanites, mainly Democrats but some of them anti-Trump movement conservatives, who comprehensively hate the poor. They hate our food, our religion (or alternately our lack of religion), our poor health, our lack of formal education, our not having money, our poor taste. I’m not even that poor, culturally or socioeconomically, but I’m a poor by bougie standards.
And God do they hate our affinity for Donald Trump. I have mixed feelings about the Donald on my most charitable days, but the snobby, condescending, menacing attitude from Clinton partisans in particular makes me wish sometimes that I’d gone full MAGA and voted for the vulgar bastard. The way the upper middle class talks about him, I have to assume that they viscerally think they have something to lose at his hands, and I can’t help but suspect that it’s something that damn well ought to have been taken from them years ago and given to someone more deserving and thankful. I’m not saying that he’ll necessarily follow through on such a redistribution, but hardly anyone else in US politics today even speaks in such terms. Bernie, as I keep saying, got ratfucked for making similar noises. Glutting on Oreos with Stephen Colbert is Resistance praxis now. #TheMoreYouKnow
Grievances about the superiority complex of the upper middle class sometimes bleed into a hostile anti-intellectualism, as Michael O. Church laments here. Incidentally, Church is one of the few Hillary supporters I’ve encountered who seems to support her from a position of good faith and intelligent thinking. Much of #WithHer, especially the noisier elements, conflated Hillary’s diligent jumping through educational and professional hoops with her fitness for leadership in exactly the way that the ostentatiously college-educated conflate their own dutiful completion of their studies with their own intellectual superiority and fitness to rule the world and hoard its wealth. This same constituency totally flipped its shit at Donald Trump for having the sheer gall to run for the presidency (and win it!) when they hadn’t given him their permission to go into high politics.
It’s prudent for poorer voters to wonder what, exactly, the educated bourgeoisie is trying to protect from Trump, and whether this privilege comes at their socioeconomic expense. The idea that affluent voters are exclusively defending their values without regard to their material interests is laughable. The public snark about the welfare of US factory workers on the part of politically correct entertainers including Colbert is damning of the BoBos: regardless of whether Trump actually comes through for put-upon factory workers, regardless of how vague or muddled his thinking on industrial policy is and how distractable he is on following through, he is absolutely correct that Nabisco management did wrong by its line workers in Chicago and that they should not be repaid for their competence and loyalty by being put out on the street like so many bags of trash.
Frankly, Trump has underplayed his hand on factory closures. He’s all over the place, so I’m not surprised. Even so, he’s more coherent about the need for an industrial policy that takes the interests of vulnerable US workers into account than any other president since probably Nixon, if not earlier, and ADHD scattershot comments from a silver spoon blowhard are a huge improvement (yuge!) over the smooth but mealymouthed bullshit that other recent presidents have offered. They’re hard to assess, but they’re worth something. At the very least, Trump is moving the Overton Window left on labor policy when he stands up for the interests of idled industrial workers.
There’s nothing intellectual about the hardcore vitriol against Trump. It’s the reptilian rage of cornered animals. Many intelligent, thoughtful, well-read elements on the left have nuanced things to say about Trump’s presidency and his coalition, not just that he’s a vulgar usurping bastard piece of shit. In this context, the assumption that the educated had a duty to vote against Trump, i.e., for Clinton, is severely damaging both to the Democratic Party and to higher education as a cultural and civic institution. Poorer, less educated, more vulnerable voters can see through the bullshit. They can tell that they’re being besieged by corrupt, even terminally corrupt, institutions. They’re reasonable to suspect that they’re onto something good with Trump precisely because he provokes such animalistic rage among affluent liberals.
People who value learning would act nothing like this. What the nominally educated class arrayed so viciously against the billionaire and his white trash actually value is their own superiority and the wealth and security that comes from not having their status challenged. I’m not all that homeless (God knows there’s worse, often without cars), but I’m too damn homeless not to agree that they’re a bunch of self-dealing phonies who defame college as an institution and learning as a value by their sworn affiliations with both.
Or, as Adlai Stevenson would put it, to think that you all thought ME the snotty egghead!