Romanticizing College

The late, great David Stove once said,

There are scarcely any human beings who do not have some lunatic beliefs or other to which they attach great importance. People are mostly sane enough, of course, in the affairs of common life: the getting of food, shelter, and so on. But the moment they attempt any depth or generality of thought, they go mad almost infallibly. The vast majority, of course, adopt the local religious madness, as naturally as they adopt the local dress. But the more powerful minds will, equally infallibly, fall into the worship of some intelligent and dangerous lunatic, such as Plato, or Augustine, or Comte, or Hegel, or Marx.

By “scarcely any” he of course meant “none.”1  People get all hot and bothered about the word “transcendental,” I suspect, because lots of us think other people use it as secret code for J-E-S-U-S.2  But it isn’t.  The transcendental is just a “lunatic belief…to which [we] attach great importance.”  If you’re not sure what yours is, fill in the blank:

It’s just a _____.

Everyone has something to put in the blank such that, if someone said it to you, you’d sock them on the jaw.  Atheists are the most fun meta-example.  Tell an atheist that hey, it’s great that you’ve got 1001 irrefutable proofs that there’s no Invisible Sky Fairy, but in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t matter a bit — if all we are is dust in the wind, dude, then our illusions are actually more valuable, because otherwise Camus is right and philosophy’s only real problem is suicide.  You first, Cheeto-breath.  Atheism is just another teenage fad.  You’ll grow out of it, just like you grew out of being a goth and a metalhead and a skater and the seventeen other things you were sophomore year.

And so on.  Your teenage Libertarian — otherwise so calm and reasonable — will break down crying if you tell him that The Smiths are “just a band.”  Tell a Packers fan that football is “just a game” and watch what happens.  Tell the guy who’s doing twenty-to-life that those Air Jordans were “just sneakers.”  See what I mean?  We don’t want to believe that people can find transcendental meaning in a pair of sneakers, but 1200 homicides a year say otherwise.

The fastest route to transcendence, though — and by far the most consequential — is through politics.  A successful revolutionary movement is just a cult writ large, and revolutionaries damn well know it.  Why do you think Lenin created a cabinet-level Ministry of Education — complete with Enlightenment Commissar! — to proclaim that The Workers are the source of all that is good and vital in the world?  And he wasn’t a patch on Heinrich Himmler, whose neo-pagan fantasias would be awesomely kitsch if they weren’t so terrifying.  We can infer a general rule here:

A successful revolutionary movement must offer

  1. A transcendent goal, and
  2. Transcendent experience.

The first without the second is your basic New Year’s Resolution — you think about how great life would be if you were to drop 20 pounds, but since the future benefit is only a fantasy and hauling your sweaty, hungry ass up the stairmaster is reality, most New Year’s Resolutions don’t make it past January 4.  The second without the first is your basic rock concert — it’s fun to get drunk and high and half-naked with 20,000 of your new best friends, but it’s back to the office on Monday.

It doesn’t have to be explicit, and it sure as hell doesn’t need to make sense.  The clowns who shoot each other over sneakers almost certainly can’t articulate why that makes sense to them, any more than Packers fans can explain why they stand shirtless in subzero weather for three hours.  Indeed, the Left got where it is, I argue, simply by romanticizing college.

Betcha didn’t see that coming!

College sells itself as both 1 and 2.  The transcendent goal is, of course, “a good job,” which if you remember your own adolescence is entirely hypothetical at that point.  But it’s also the whole “going off to college” thing — going to school, getting the gear, giving your parents the “College Mom” bumper sticker at Christmas.  Why do you think NCAA football still exists?  As eggheads outside the ivory tower always point out, only a handful of programs make money.  Not to mention all that toxic masculinity!!!  Football is marketing — that’s it.  My old employer, Flyover State, made it the cornerstone of the campus experience, even though the team last won a bowl game in Nineteen Seventy Never.  A whole bunch of kids around there took it for granted that they’d go on to be Flyover State Fightin’ Deplorables when they graduated high school, just like Mom and Dad (and these days, often Grandma and Grandpa too).

Which is also the “transcendent experience” part.  I don’t know about you, but I started missing college by about the fourth time my alarm rang at zero-dark-thirty and I had to haul my suited, necktied ass down to the cubicle for another eight hours of the rat race.  By the end of my first month in The Real World, I’d forgotten all the shitty parts of college and could only recall the good times.  By the end of the second month, The Good Times had acquired their own capital letters.  Remember how great it was to be able to roll out of bed at 2:30 in the afternoon?  The endless nights of cheap beer and easy girls?  All the afternoons lazing around the frat house with Chugs and Dudester and Munchie, solving all the world’s problems over some cool tunes and righteous bud?  Me neither, but by the time I had to file my first income tax returns I could swear all of that stuff happened, like, all the time.

That’s how they get you.  Because, of course, the radical Leftist politics were always there, steady white noise, like your Mom’s heartbeat in the womb.  You may not remember anything specific — in fact, they’re counting on it — but you remember the gist of it.  Quick: What did you learn in English Lit 101, all those years ago?  “Uhhhh…. something something Shakespeare oppresses women.”  How about HIST 201, Colonial America?  “Errr….. Harriet Tubman?  No, wait, Crispus Attucks!  Also something something genocide of the noble Native Americans.  And slavery.”  How about MATH 101?  “Something something algebra is racist.  Also sexist.”

Any successful revolutionary movement must focus on the revolutionary experience.  Fights over whether we should all wear white Patriots hats  — or should we wear hats at all, or do they have to be Patriots hats, and does white make my butt look big? — are all fine and good, but without the experience, it’s just fashionista crap.

The point is meeting people — “male bonding,” if you must.  We can all prance around dressed like Tinkerbell, Queen of the Fairies, for all I care.  You build a movement by giving people an experience.  It doesn’t have to be the whole Leopard Lodge, Grand Poobah deal — shouldn’t be, for obvious OpSec reasons — but it has to be something more than just grousing on the Internet.  Wearing a hat — or a fez, or a Tinkerbell costume — is only a conversation starter, a wink and a nod, a way to let other people know you’re in the know.  It’s the same as wearing college logo gear to the grocery store.  “Oh, you’re a Fightin’ Deplorable, too?”

Being in #TheRealResistance is, by definition, a bonding experience.  The trick is to plausibly deniably let everyone know you’re in it.  It’s no Big Rivalry Game, but it’ll do.

1. though I suspect Stove, who was not without intellectual vanity, gave himself a pass.

2. Stove was one of them.

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15 thoughts on “Romanticizing College

  1. Martinian

    How about the OK symbol? It’s axtislly normal and innocuous, so the Left looks crazy buying into the 4chan troll that it means “White Power”. And it already seems to have been used to drive them nuts cf. Zina Bash

  2. Pickle Rick

    Sometimes, though, people just want to break shit. You can dress it up with “transcendental experiences” all you want, but to guys like the Austrian lance corporal and Koba in 1918, their movements were expressions of their desire to see the world burn.

    I did college first, then four for the Corps, and I barely remember the college years, because when I went off to the wars, it seemed so unimportant and superficial, but the bonds I forged in uniform are so much stronger, because of the blood and pain to make them.

    1. Severian Post author

      There’s certainly also that… but it needs to be channeled. Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Himmler … geniuses at revolution. The SA vs the SS, or the Bolsheviks vs the People’s Will. If I were a man of action, and not just a hypothetical theorist (NSA, please take note, I speak only hypothetically), I’d imagine this kind of thing would start with alienated veterans doing college on the GI Bill (universities across the West — not just in Germany — were full of “older” students in 1920. They flocked to radical causes. They were all-talk Socialists mostly in Allied countries, and we know how they turned out in Germany). Frankly I’m kinda surprised it hasn’t happened already. If the various veterans’ motorcycle clubs around nowadays ever decide to get political, watch out.

      1. Pickle Rick

        In Wiemar Germany, Frontgeheimeschaft was real. I’m not sure that the “diversity is our strength” multicultural version we have today can replicate that. I haven’t got anything in common with the pozzed modern military, having been the very last of an all male combat arms Marine Corps. I’ve got more in common with WWII Marines than with this thing wearing my uniform today.

        And yeah, that’s why I ride Harleys. Sometimes with guys in the MC world.

        1. Severian Post author

          I half-suspect TPTB know that all too well. The Army could triple its manpower overnight by lowering standards. And there’s no reason not to — stick with me here — because we’re already pretending that a 5’2″, 95 lb soldierette is just as good as a strapping young man. As in, you’ll get kicked out of the service for denying it. I’m about 12 parsecs away from physically fit — you know, since I’m on the Internet — and way too old, but I’m pretty sure I could still pass the Army’s female fitness test. So why not fill all those supposedly missing ranks with guys like me?

          Simple: Not only would the “soldierettes are just as good as men” lie be exposed for all to see , but you’d simply have too many people in uniform. Who’d then go overseas, and see things firsthand, and start to develop a bond with others in uniform. If you’re TPTB, the last thing you want is “class consciousness” among veterans.

  3. rich whiteman

    Only times I went to “college” was to visit my older sister and bang the girls the other guys complained they couldn’t get close to.* I knew I wasn’t school material; so I never sweated that part. I spent my off-time in library reading everything I could get my hands on. I wanted to KNOW STUFF, and thank God the internet hadn’t been invented yet, because I retained some of it.

    I also “knew” I was SO smart and worldly that by 18 I was married to my first wife. So, I was dumb.

    Now I’m on # 3 and making 6 figs and I have zero regrets about having dirty fingernails, advancing up the ladder, birthing so many babies I can’t name my grand-kiddies; being poor, having no toys, etc.

    I love, love, love your ideas (except the Patriots hat. I don’t watch the sportsball anymore, but the animosity runs deep in the Great Northeast) and I wanna sign up as soon as the right nucleus forms around the seed and forms the pearl. I lead my crew at my job, but I’m not the joining type that will lead a battalion.

    I’m patiently waiting. I’ll keep coming back, cause I’m looking for The Sign. Like so many others.

    Silent Anger.

  4. Severian Post author

    @ RWW: Thanks….? I appreciate the compliment (if that’s what it is, considering where things seem to be heading (NOT that I advocate anything; I don’t)). But that’s part of the problem, too — I’m just a guy who reads History. All this stuff is right there. Lenin didn’t write a book called “How I Did It” (though he did write What is to be Done?), but it’s not hard to see just what and how he did. Ditto Hitler, Himmler, Stalin, Mao, Che, and all the rest.

    In other words, the stuff I put out there (ONLY as hypotheticals!!) seems really, really, really…. obvious. And if it’s obvious to me, an amateur who doesn’t know his left flank from his right, I’m sure it’s obvious to professionals whose job it is to think about this stuff. Which either means the hammer is ready to drop, and whatever scattershot “resistance” Our Thing is putting up is beneath the notice of the Powers That Be….

    …. or, even scarier, they’ve completely ignored it in their hubris, and are dumber than a sack of rocks to boot. Either way it won’t end well.

    1. WOPR

      I vote hubris. If they thought it was beneath them, they wouldn’t be reacting the way they are. The problem with their dumbing down education is that their recruits and leadership gets dumber as well.

    2. RRW

      It was indeed a hat tip; I think your aktion ideas are not quite as obvious as you believe them to be. How many savvy commenters on website-nostra keep asking “yes, that’s a good critique of the situation, but what can we do??”.

      These are things that can be done which are not in the storm-the-Bastille realm – that time has not yet arrived. These hypothetical provocations are well within the realm of the doable. But they are not obvious, hence are valuable.

      However, you may be right about the pro spooks out there in the fever swamps; it’s possible that the hammers are already poised. What was the quote by the minister in Blazing Saddles? “Or perhaps we’re just jerking off.” Hope not.

      1. Severian

        Me too. That’s the thing. Even if I were advocating a particular action — and I am NOT — all of it is completely legal. I keep coming back to Matt Forney driving internet feminists to screaming meltdowns just by retweeting their own abuse of him. They’d call him some vile name, and all he’d do is hit “retweet” — that act alone got them hysterical.

        Leftists are exquisite creatures. They’re beyond fragile. A few **completely legal** nudges, and one of two things will happen: They’ll retreat, screaming, to the hills; or the fever swamp gators will drop the hammer (how’s that for a mixed metaphor?). Either way, we’ll know.

  5. Rod1963

    Part hubris and part incompetence. I look at the elites response to Trump. They have totally freaked out across the political spectrum. They just cannot believe the little people voted for a person that *they* wanted, instead of a bumbling inbred moron like Jeb or the sickly fat woman in the muumuu.

    You don’t get this response in normal, mature adults. You get that in cults and people who never experienced a setback in their lives. They just meltdown.

    And no most of them are not smart. Look at every FBI director from Freeh onward. They were all bunglers that damaged the agency in some manner. Or the current group of elite FBI agents caught trying to topple a sitting president. All ham fisted thugs you’d expect in a B grade conspiracy movie. Yet they are A team of the TPTB. All impeccably groomed, manicured and educated at the finest universities yet they act like nerdy high school students.

    The same applies to the tech billionaires on the Google video. They don’t live in our world yet they think they are qualified to tell us what to think and do.

    What it means for us isn’t good. These people will push too far and too hard because they are incapable of reason and listening. What the exact trip wire will be is anyone’s guess. But it’s getting closer given how the TPTB are ramping up the shitshow.

    1. Severian

      That’s one of my biggest fears. If you must be oppressed, you really, really, really want to be oppressed by professionals. I keep coming back to the image of the 5’2″, 200lb lesbian Millennial cosplaying as a panzer commanderette. She’d go the full Amritsar if someone for got to double-foam her venti soy pumpkin spice latte.

      Professionals make mistakes too, of course, but they don’t go nuclear at the first sign of trouble, since they’ve seen what “trouble” really is. For the current crop of TPTB, chipping their manicure may as well be the apocalypse. It won’t end well.

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