Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sometimes I think I live in a different world...

This is a paraphrase of a conversation at a meeting.

Background: Wheaton has arranged for a sophomore January experience. Sophomores come two days early and do some stuff. This happens to be on the day of the inauguration, so the planners decided that all the sophomores could be brought to the field house where they would watch the ceremony on a giant screen.

Drout: (as tactful and politically savvy as I always am): I'm just glad I never had to participate in such a creepy experience when I was in college.

X: (confused): Why would you call it creepy?

Drout: You are rounding up a large group of people and forcing them to watch political theater. On a giant screen. In a gymnasium.

[Long pause while people look uncomfortable.]

Drout: It never occurred to any of you who planned this that it was the slightest bit creepy, did it?

X: The way you describe it makes it sound creepy. It is a major event that most people will want to watch.

Drout: Couldn't they watch it without being herded together into a gymnasium? Maybe hang out with their friends, watch it on the various lounge TVs? Make comments?

X: But then there wouldn't be the bonding experience.

Drout: Bonding over a political spectacle is, in your view, a good thing?

[another uncomfortable pause]

X: Maybe you should be one of the faculty members afterwards who can give talks to contextualize the event. You could analyze the rhetoric.

Drout: I'm pretty sure I don't want the students to see me as part of the creepy event.

X: But you'd have a chance to express your point of view.

Drout: But you've got my entire point of view. I think it's creepy.

X: (Gives up in exasperation).

[Clarification: I am not suggesting that watching the inauguration is creepy. It's a major national event and it makes sense for people to watch it (although I was too busy working, I may watch the speech on YouTube later). I am creeped out by the leadership of the college putting together a program where students are pressured to go to watch a piece of political theater on a giant telescreen in a gymnasium. And I thought it amusing that a group of Ph.D.s didn't immediately spot the Orwellian imagery.

My only political comment, since I didn't vote for President Obama or his opponent or his predecessor, or his predecessor's predecessor, or his predecessor (this wasn't just a joke) is that it is more important to be skeptical, cynical and on your guard when your guy wins the election than when the other guy does (Likewise, you should read Dune Messiah and not just stop with Dune). My colleagues were very effective at being critical of the rhetoric, etc., of the previous administration. They should keep up the good work.

Everyone needs to practice good memetic hygiene! Keep your mind your own.]


Michelle said...

Please, please tell me that those other faculty were NOT from the English department?

But sheesh. I read 1984 in, well, 1984, actually. And I agree. It sounds creepy to me, too.

Caroline said...


I was amused by a recent email I received where a friend commented that there was no class on Inaugeration Day, like other religious holidays.

Michael5000 said...

Sounds more considerate than creepy, unless there's some sort of penalty for ducking out.

otherthanthis1 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
otherthanthis1 said...

All the world's a jumbo tron and the men and women, merely statistical flow.
Can a man be a symbol when his words are merely heard?
If accomplishments and mistakes can only be realized in the judgment of history we must make it instantaneous, "contextualize."

Extollager said...

Thank you, Dr. Drout, for commenting publicly on this Orwellian incident.

Profs at my alma mater (Southern Oregon University) were "encouraged" to cancel classes in order that students could gather at big-screen venues. Surely it would have been more appropriate for university administrators and the like to leave the matter up to the individual professors.