BY ALEX MICH, Guest Columnist
When will you all wake up? Do you really enjoy your slumber? If by some miracle you read this section while sipping your coffee, clearly you must be anticipating another “meaningless” article that is often saved for an entertainment section in smaller newspapers.
You may be right. In fact, I can almost guarantee that such a conjecture is quite accurate. Yet, I ask again, when will you wake up? Or rather, are you awake but oblivious to the life around you? Despite warnings from France long ago, we are slowly fulfilling the dire predictions of men like de Tocqueville and Rousseau.
Sadly, we are embracing our lives as “happy slaves.” We embrace our day to day lives with the cold truth that we must do so to survive. A classical debate, one which a certain professor from New Jersey would love to moderate, brews as Locke’s simplistic society of natural rights and limiting government conflicts with Rousseau’s challenges about Hobbes’ emotionless dialogue (and consequently, that of Locke’s Treatises too).
As such, we become miserable, wretched beings. It is very easy to examine this in the larger society to which we belong. However, I wish to examine this on a smaller scale. This article ought to reflect the thoughts of our little society – we should look at our campus for these faults. Furthermore, one can look upon such campus life and see in some ways its reflective nature of the society upon which we will meld and shape. Therefore, let us look upon our little campus and see the issues that plague it and our society.
Why all the talk concerning this topic? Many well-seasoned students can point towards several deficiencies that plague our campus. Despite growing numbers of students and student organisations, a common complaint has always been the lack of student life on this campus.
Perhaps this is best illustrated by our lack of knowledge of the school’s nickname, or the existence of our distinct athletic programs. Even further, common problems such as parking never seem to escape our collective voices. Overall, the list may continue but I am not interested in these tiny problems. Rather, I want to address the potential underlying theme that seems prevalent across this campus. In doing so, there will be plenty of simplifications and perhaps many errors in assessing it.
It starts simply in the classroom, the only real rationale for spending five thousand dollars to sit on the property of Henry Ford, where people expect to show up, do work, and receive a degree. Yet, the problem is right in front of us. Do you see it? No? I am not surprised. Let me explain, please. In one of my classes designed to train a future generation to inspire a future generation, I asked in my presentation, what motivates you to attend this class? No kidding, I just simply asked why they were sitting there rather than watching the Lions game on Monday night. Everyone agreed that it was for the magical degree that would allow them to get a job in the short-term future. Sadly, when asked if they sought to learn for the sake of learning, I received only one vote in favour of such motive. Out of a class of thirty highly motivated college students, only one wants to live up to the ideal put forward by Socrates’ glorious examined life. In essence, we have become nothing more than a college of sophists. I often wondered afterwards whether anyone will see the irony of these future educators telling their students that learning is suppose to be fun.
In that very moment, a re-enactment of Socrates’ death can be witnessed. How is it that a place styled as a university (let alone an imitation of the University of Michigan) have such apathy? Rather, have we so championed the goals of the pursuit of happiness (i.e. property, capitalism) in American society that it has now come to corrupt these institutions designed to escape such “realities” and provide hope for the creation of an educated leadership to better this society? Yes, it has and one can see it throughout the campus. Alongside the ignorance of our sports teams comes the ignorance of our own history. Namely, the few names that have managed to carve a dent into this place are quickly forgotten within a generation of students. Despite the growing participation, the majority of the campus is content with leaving “work” for the day and going home. As a result, we are left with a minority of students still on the campus.
One group of apathetic students hides in the maze that is the CASL building shielded with their assignments and coffee-house style intellectual discussions. Backed further with their coffee and set of computers, this group has the potential to export more students to strive to make a difference in our community. Regrettably, many tend to hide in their office and develop a rather pessimistic view of the college they attend. Aside from the annual top ten list of the ineffectiveness of our student government, an email that depicts the arrogance of our pre-disposed intellectual gifts that allow for such special privileges over the masses speaks loudly to the lack of communal respect and love for the same students struggling with essays and tuition payments as they do. Why? Simply, intellect is the key to rising on our new social ladder (ironically leading to the same ancient, cherished prize – money) and is the only reason for the provocation of this social inequality. One may conclude that by distancing from such riff-raff, that such students will have a better collegiate experience.
This leaves the rest of us, trying to make some sort of vegetation grow in this barren wasteland. It is disappointing that those who wish to make this campus better by adding their own niche into this place have often been met with many struggles and few successes. Even such successes are often met either with criticisms from others claiming they had luck, or met with some “last laugh” as was the case for many university sponsored organisations last year. Even attempts to remedy such matters are met with nothing but frustration. The so called committees that consist of students and faculty are often nothing more than advisory groups to recommend changes that often fall on deaf ears. Yet, the most despicable thing to have happen is the lack of community to support the concerns or threats to the advancement of the student life. Just as it is in a country that promotes free speech, the often incorrect, violent fringes of the political opinion are allowed a chance to vent in our society. Similarly, such speech can be often mistaken as the general voice of the population rather than the loud talking of a small minority. Fearfully, I worry over the grave concerns of a very vigilant individual who seeks to re-establish his “right” to deliver the final death blow to our self-dignity by now fumigating our workplace with that vile poisonous cloud of tar. I must applaud for the courage in his ability to stand up for his opinion, but I cannot understand how such others are willing to let this stand by without at least attempting to argue the other point. Clearly, someone on this campus must like this policy or else there is no point in its existence. So, where are those willing to defend it? Perhaps they feel so secure in their majority that they feel a sense of surety that it will not be overturned. However, when left unchecked, such dangerous elements take advantage of an unmotivated majority and these once small ideas slowly become misinterpreted to represent the larger majority. All of this is simply because many feel no need that it impacts their lives as they go from class to class as if they were working in a long shift.
So what is there to do about this? This lack of apathy towards the betterment of each individual is rather disturbing. Furthermore, it reflects a wider apathy in the general society. As there are many movements that seek to rectify the world’s issues, many of us are unaware of the problems that exist in our land let alone around the world. Surely, such poor training of our so-called educated masses comes from the flaws put forward by the barrage of standardized tests and vocational training mentality. So again, what is needed to be done about this? I could echo the Vice Chancellor’s previous call for respect, but I wonder if that is even enough. Rather, I would like to remind everyone to at least appreciate that you do have one life to work with. Please take the pride in what you participate in and appreciate the vast learning that many people have died to make work. Perhaps, this increase in pride here will lead to a deeper appreciation for the other aspects of this learned community rather than in a vocational institution.