Life’s a Campus

This is further to the Z Man’s excellent post on Their Summer of Discontent, so be sure to read that first.*

The Progressive Whitopia he describes there — the eschaton they attempted to immanentize in currently-burning places like Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, etc. — can best be described as “college.” His description — “carefully curated hipster areas” — describes the environment of every college campus I’ve been to in the last two decades… and y’all, I’ve been to a lot of college campuses.

Go tool around the local college town for a while if you can. The first thing you’ll notice, especially if you haven’t been there in a while, is how nice everything is. Those t-shirts with the football team logo cost upwards of $30 each. The jeans they’re over cost at least $100, and the shoes below that have to be north of $200. Add a team-logo hat and a purse, and your Basic College Girl is wearing something like half a thousand bucks’ worth of stuff. Add a MacBook and and iPhone with unlimited data and you’re looking at three grand, easy, just on her person. I, the professor, was always the worst-dressed person in my classroom, price tag-wise, just like my car was the cheapest in the campus lot where I parked. Students live niiiiice.

And then there’s the faculty. Being obnoxious Marxists, they’ve mastered the subtle art of inconspicuous consumption. Oh, sure, everything they own costs somewhere between “a lot” and “a fucking shitload,” but they’re not, you know, gauche about it. It’s just that all their stuff was handmade by disabled lesbian pygmies from the Andes, and so that lawn chair that looks like a D-minus from a junior high shop class cost $2500. Because social justice.

But now look at the faces. When I first came to grad school I was deliriously happy. Finally I was doing what I always wanted to do, living the life of the mind… no shit, I was that pretentious, but the point is, if your idea of happiness is “every book in the world and the quiet, crime-free leisure time in which to read them,” then a college town is indeed heaven. But even then something was wrong. It took me a few semesters to figure it out (I’m not the quickest on the uptake), but one day it came to me in a flash:

I’m the only happy guy I know.

I looked around one day, and noticed that all the people who had chosen my same material circumstances — who had indeed, as I had, worked very hard to get there — were miserable. No, worse than that. They weren’t just miserable; they actually thought they were being persecuted. Yes, persecuted, these people who are the 1% by any quality-of-life measure that makes any sense. The sexual deviates, just to take the most extreme example of the disconnect, were absolutely certain The Handmaid’s Tale was about to land on them, despite the fact that the only sexual fetish you’re not allowed to indulge in a college town is “missionary position with your lawfully wedded spouse of the opposite sex.”

Worse, everyone was getting paid to do what they loved. Imagine a gun nut getting paid to spend time at the range, a model railroader getting paid to play with his trains, a football fan getting paid to tinker with his fantasy team. That’s academia. These people ride their hobbyhorses like they’re Bronco fucking Billy, and get comped something like 100 large to do it, plus guaranteed lifetime employment.** Any enthusiast in any other field would kill for that kind of deal… and yet, these people are miserable.

Z Man alludes to the reason for this, and I’ll put it plainly: The crucial characteristic of life in a college town isn’t how nice it is, but how transient it is. Nobody’s from there, and nobody stays there. Everything in the local ecology depends on a kind of social Brownian motion — directionless people moving around randomly for four or five or ten years before drifting off elsewhere. If you don’t have a college town within driving distance, you can see what I mean by going to a beach town, or any of those tourist-trap towns that litter the highways. Their populations swell 2-10x during the summer months… but any given set of that increased population only stays there for a few days, weeks, a few months max. Everything’s geared to the tourists. Note that in a college town, this most certainly applies to the faculty, too: Even those academics with tenure always have a bag packed and a foot out the door, since they’re all certain they deserve to be at Yale and New Haven’s going to be calling any minute now (the ones at Yale, meanwhile, are certain they really belong at Oxford, which is why New Haven is such an irredeemable shithole).

The cult of the atomized individual is the worst thing to happen to the human race in a thousand years. People need a place and a tribe. For proof, look at what the kids do the minute they arrive at college. There’s a reason the bookstore only sells logo apparel now….


*Maybe as recently as two months ago I would’ve left a shorter version of this as a comment on his site. But holy jeebus that comment section. I’m pretty sure the few who remember me think I’m a Fed now, since I wasn’t kicked out of SEAL Team 6 for being too much of a badass, and I don’t put (((lots))) of (((parentheses))) around every other (((word))).

**No joke, I know a persyn in one of the Bullshit Studies departments who got tenure by writing opinion pieces for far-Left rags. Seriously.

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10 thoughts on “Life’s a Campus

  1. Southern Belle

    I find it interesting when looking at various places that while we’re encouraged to be socially diverse, the buildings and homes are homogenized. So no matter where you live, it looks just like the place you left behind except it isn’t. I moved around as my parents wanted to climb the ladder. Socially displaced, I had no tribe. I went to school with half the kids in my state. Many of them never left their towns and I envy them. I made my historic city by the sea “home” and have lived here several times so I have been in a unique position to see the changes that have taken place. It sold its soul to the money gods decades ago. History took a back seat to big box stores (like people come here to shop at Pottery Barn)! There was a time when I could see a book on an historic topic, take it home and if I decided to keep it, pay the shopkeeper later. I could stop and talk to people sitting on their piazzas, chat with friends before a concert or play, or do volunteer work. Not anymore. NY lawyers have bought the homes to rent out and no one sits on the porch. Jeepers! Patty Hearst moved to town last year! At the last concert I saw no one I knew! There is no there there. The question is, how do we get our towns back? Run for City Council I guess.

    1. WOPR

      It’s all globalization and it is depressing. We used to make fun of the French for fighting back against it. Now I can see what they meant. The supposedly cosmopolitan elites jump from what city to the next where everything is morphing into the same dull sameness. I got a chance to go to Germany a few years back for an extended period. Got picked up at a train station and the first thing I heard in the car was a song from the 80’s. Almost everyone under 30 can speak English. I was looking forward to butchering the German language in fun and frustrating ways. Salt that’s lost is savor.

      WRT Z-Man’s comment section, I’ve noticed him getting on some of those guys about how stupid they sound.

    2. Maus

      SB, I think I grok the city to which you refer, a beautiful place replete with history. When I visited it in the early 2000s, it was still a city of charming vitality. But I have to wonder whether today’s tourists aren’t more interested in the ethnic cuisine and microbrews on offer rather than visiting the museum that houses the Hunley submarine or actually going to the Four Corners of the Law and actually appreciating what those four buildings represented as civilizing institutions. Younger people today are utterly void of historical consciousness.
      I also agree with your observation about the “sameness” that has descended on America’s places. I took a two-month cross-country journey in 1996, including a lot of blue highways through small towns. The diversity of regional character was readily apparent. Then, I took a shorter journey in 2019 from the west coast via I-80 to Omaha, then Milwaukee. I returned through South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and eastern Oregon, mostly on blue highways. Every place looks the same. Big box stores and chain restaurants have destroyed the mom and pop ventures; and I saw many shuttered buildings driving through the main street of most small towns. Globohomo has homogenized and pasturized the variety right out of every place. Someone left with no ties of kith or kin could be forgiven for asking “Why should I prefer your place to any other?” Sadly, for many the answer comes down to economics: jobs, taxes, cost-of-living, median home price etc. And some are forced by circumstances to live among people they loathe simply to afford another week, month or year of existence.

      1. Southern Belle

        Thank you for kind thoughts about it! The town has changed considerably since you were here. Our leaders favor tourists (mostly Asians and some Blacks) over residents now. Hotels are springing up all over and we put ethnic cuisine on the back burner. African cuisine is featured with Southern flair or Lowcountry as a back-up. There is the new African-American museum though I can’t imagine what’s in it other than a few sweetgrass baskets. Boeing just gave a million to it yesterday so I assume they have something in mind other than the leaders’ pockets. It’s following the same pattern as every other tourist place. It’s a facade like a movie set. No matter how much we complain, we are ignored.

  2. Ripple

    Actually, San Francisco has not been burning. Other than some statues in Golden Gate Park being pulled down shortly after the martyrdom of St. George of Fentanyl, it’s been quiet. Bay Area radicalism is centered in Oakland across the bay. Downtown got trashed last week as it does every few years.

  3. Maus

    Sev, I appreciate the perspective your lived eperience brings to the deteriorization of our shared Western civilization; but I hesitate to push your “life is a campus” allegory too far. It’s not the PLACES marked by loose ties of association that are the cause of the problem; it’s the PEOPLE they attract. The mid-to-late 19th century American experience was marked by legions of loners, drifters, sod busters and miners flooding the frontier to seek their fortunes. They were rugged individualists who overcame incredible hardships and deprivations. As often as not, they traded their loose associations and transient ways for settled community when their first plans (a rich claim with easy pickens) went bust and they had to turn to farming or merchandizing to make a living. Commerce and trade requires law-abiding men mutually submitting to the rule of law to prosper. Why is it that the rough men of the 1880s were able to subordinate their individualism and come together while the soft, comfortable men of the mid-20th century and later seem cabable of unity only by surrendering reason and becoming hive-minded bugmen?
    I guess I see it as a chicken or egg problem. Do the institutons like the media and universities make their consumers soft and buglike; or do the soft bugmen make the institutions conform to their expectations? We are at the onset of an experiment that will once again test the hypothesis that hard times make good men. I am satisfied that the preceeding hypotheses, that good times make weak men (Boomer/X/Millenial) and that weak men make hard times ( current shitshow), have been adequately demonstrated.

    1. Codex

      We know the mechanism: weak men make loose women.

      If hard times can get the ladies to woman up and fly right, while excusing weak men from the breeding selection pool, then, yes, those hard times should yield strong men.

  4. BadThinker

    I always liked your comments on Z’s blog. I don’t think it’s as terrible as all that, but it’s turning into the AoS comments – mostly inane natterings with a few nuggets of gold.

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