I have many opinions, some of them radical, and yet I rarely find myself at odds with people who have even diametrically opposing views. I love conflict because I love passion and, when I see fire behind another’s eyes, it turns me on. But there is one kind of person who frustrates me to the point of intolerance: the fearful, conflict-averse guardians of the status quo. People with no convictions and only the sad excuse that they have too much to lose to act.
In other words, the dreary-eyed, pacified pre-med students who fill the dormitories with myopic focus and lackluster dreams of making a difference later, rather than now. They may look active, but I assure you, in each case, it is only to pad a résumé. For them, the light at the end of the tunnel is sufficient cause to snuff out the flame within right here and now. Even if that light is actually just a reading lamp.
And worse, there are people who have absorbed these values without even a dream. I have found myself confronted with people who have no clue what they want to do, but who are thoroughly convinced that any sort of risk must be bad.
As the old saying goes, “The greatest risk of all is not to take one.” That was once true, but now, the risk-averse are rewarded for their sheepish obedience and amazing tolerance for whatever shit their superiors serve them for breakfast, 9 a.m. classes, lunch, 12 p.m. lecture, dinner and 6 p.m. lab. They are safe as good citizens. But they are in danger once more.
Because if nothing is done soon, I will strangle them all myself.
Somebody has to do it to save us from the tick-tock, clockwork-making, thought- replacing culture that has infected the academe. But even that would not address the problem.
Those who try to quantify qualities of human thought have created a monstrous numbers game that rewards standardized test scores and high GPAs so much more than creativity that focus and passivity has become the fastest way to ascendancy.
It is not as if the only kinds of people who ever wanted to become doctors were the fearful, numb-minded students who bury themselves in notes and textbooks like frightened ostriches. They are simply the only ones who make it all the way to medical school.
Medical schools around the world think that they are ensuring quality through selectivity, while in reality they are ensuring only that their population will be ubiquitously full with conservative personalities who will never give up their reputation or their status for a cause or passionate belief.
They have sterilized their schools as thoroughly as their surgery rooms and laboratories. And the same can be said for many graduate schools.
A friend once told me that he wanted to start a political organization on campus to oppose the party system we have in place right now. I told him that I would write him a group constitution if he would commit. He said he had to study for chemistry. That was that.
It seems to me that the new morality by which we abide is on a scale from F to 4.0, and that our old values of clear thought, motivation and action have been abandoned. But I have hope. All moralities fade in the end because they are as transient as the context in which they infect our minds. The teachers of this school are no different from the preachers of centuries previous or the classical philosophers before them.
To quote Friedrich Nietzsche, “There is no denying that, in the long run, every one of these great teachers of a purpose was vanquished by laughter, reason and nature: the short tragedy always gave way again and returned into the eternal comedy of existence. The ‘waves of uncountable laughter’ — to cite Aeschylus — must in the end overwhelm even the greatest of these tragedians.”
So I laugh while I watch the educated and the elite castrate themselves, because I know they will regret it later.