An Education in the Humanities in the 21st Century: Proper Suffering 101

"Adderall is a vitamin."

“Adderall is a vitamin.”

I’m going to get a lot of hate for this. No death threats, because that’s just not how liberal[ arts major]s are.
See how I pigeon-holed you there? I know you’re a liberal. I know that, and you don’t like that.
“No, baby. I’m an anarchist.”
You voted for Obama and own a MacBook. Choke on freegan kale.
I know you.

Please, just listen. I know why you’re here, Neo. I know

what you’ve been doing. I know why you hardly sleep, and why

night after night you sit at your computer. 

A wise [wo]man[?] once said, “If you’re reading it, it’s for you.”
I work in marketing, and those words are truer now, in the 21st century, the age of limitless customizable individuality and expression (aka, social network-based personal branding), the age of the infinite subculture, the age of you, you, you (trans: me, me, me) more than ever.

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TIME magazine understands Lacan’s Mirror Stage

Today, in America, you can literally pretty much do whatever you want to do, as a young person.

I can hear you boiling with rage. “That’s white privilege speaking. What about poor black and undocumented Mexican kids? What about–” Slow down, compadre. Read that again. It says “you.” Are you poor and black? Are you sweating bullets anxiously fearing the day la migra sends your mother back to Chihuahua, Chihuahua because some scumbag politician needs to convince his red state constituents he’s identified and is addressing “the true source” of their economic woes? The word is italicized for good measure in an attempt to stave off your rage. It’s cheap. It’s an attempt I knew would fail, but it had to fail to prove a point:

You have been programmed to respond to things in specific ways as part of a personal branding campaign you were tricked into initiating between the ages of 11 and 25, depending on how long it took for you to hit puberty. If you grew up in Canada, Germany, Austria, the UK, Japan, Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Luxembourg, Belgium, Netherlands, or Australia, then you grew up in the same country I did–America.

In America, we push branding and public image over everything. The Christians like to think this is a Christian nation or, at the very least, a country founded on monotheistic religious tradition. It was really founded on the relative value of imported slave meat vs. domestic, but that’s another conversation. The unofficial American state religion more closely resembles a kind of Greek mythological tradition than it does anything any Catholic pretends to believe–we subscribe to PC (Apollo) or Mac (Dionysus); Adidas (Aries) or Nike (Nike).

1683438-slide-s-12-unbranding-project

“For Jobbs so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in It shall still eventually perish, but have eternal apps.”

If you’re following along, you felt the rage of the gods channel its way into your heart when you read “in America, you can do whatever you want,” because it’s part of your personal brand to resist anything vaguely patriotic. It’s only coincidental that the statement is untrue to some extent. That’s a secondary issue.

“Who are you to tell me what I’m thinking?”

Obama is the same as Bush, except for the whole gay marriage thing. You critique Obama only once per week, whereas you woke up every morning hating Bush before 2008. Bush was a prick, but it’s coincidental that he was actually kind of a bad guy–the enjoyment comes from being the kind of person who hates Bush. Sit down. Breathe. Chill. I know you. Have some tea.

You’re predictable, and it’s not your fault.

You were taught to be this way by a system that’s way bigger and way smarter than any one person could possibly be. The system taught you how to think. The system even gave you cataloged binders of strawmen at which you could direct hate so you wouldn’t have to do the work of traversing the fantasy– so, the system meets you halfway:

You get to think your life has meaning within the system. You get to think there are actual ideological wars happening, and the world is just waiting for you jump in the fight as part of the dialectic of history. You get to think your vote counts. You get to buy Tom’s shoes. You get to choke on Kale. You get to major in Women’s Studies; you get to play deconstructionist and bitch about the name, and bitch about my saying “bitch.” And it feels great. Absolutely invigorating. Because you get an opportunity to suffer and fight back against [insert anything], while believing you’re beating the system.

In an absurd world, you need to pick a backdrop against which to write and perform the script of your existence. What Camus didn’t see coming was the branding and commodification of the spirit and frame of rebellion itself.

“You’re getting a little abstract, now.” Let’s bring it back to earth.

The main thesis here is consumer capitalism has you by whatever set of genitalia you identify with, ESPECIALLY if you’re paying for a college degree geared toward educating you in ways to transcend or undermine it. Either way they’re getting your money, your dad’s money, or government money that could’ve been spent on poor black kids, or bombs to keep gasoline at a price affordable to the parents of poor black kids.

The liberal arts major is intended to help you stave off depression while plugging your body into the consumer matrix, or doing whatever you end up doing instead of inciting revolutions and defeating the bourgeoisie. Readers like concrete examples, and I like you, so here we go:

Sociology — While you’re working as a guidance counselor at a public middle school in Marshalltown, IA, you’ll find pleasure in knowing that Starbucks’s Cinnamon Dolce Latte is available even in places where stunna-shades are still “what the cool kids wear.” You’ll be able to use your understanding of the migratory patterns cultural values contemplate that as you slowly settle down with the idea of yourself settling down in a place like Marshalltown, IA.

Psychology — You’ll know what that feeling you’re going to have when you tell your kid to follow her dreams in a depressed economy is called. C) Cognitive Dissonance.

Philosophy — (I apply for a job) ⊃ (I will be rejected in favor of a bright-eyed business major who thinks Wittgenstein makes bagels). The only serious philosophical question is suicide.

Film Studies — “So, Mr. Interviewer, as you can see, I’m good at watching movies and pontification–I’m sorry, why are you handing me a mop?”

English — “I work for the university as a researcher on the modal discourse of the Frankfurt School as interpreted through a New Historicist Lens, and I have come to the conclusion that, from a Foucauldian perspective (and, hell, even from a traditional Marxist point-of-view), I’m engaging in a kind of indentured servitude. In short: I was duped into slavery. In Hegel’s Master-Slave dialectic, is there any mention of Top Ramen? What about in the original German?”

Women’s Studies —
Lord, bless your soul.

Poli. Sci — “At least the scumbag I’m slaving for promises universal medical care.”


The system educated you because it couldn’t figure out a better way to exploit you.

The Kung Fu master doesn’t teach you the secret technique that could defeat him until he’s on his deathbed. I just saw the MTV awards. The Master is alive and well, my friend.

Pai_Mei_Sword

“The Sword of Critical Theory is no match for the Sacred Commodity Fetishism technique, grasshopper!”

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13 comments

  1. Thank you so much for educating my clueless, white, sheltered mind! I think my iPad has a crack in it, after my shock-loosened digits could no longer hold on. You just GET me.

    What a pile of pretentious garbage.

    I especially enjoyed your third-grade understanding of Greek mythology and your assumption that you understand life in 15+ countries after your upbringing in one.

  2. This is the most pessimistic and pretentious article ever written. I hope this is an attempt at a joke. If not, your discourse and attitude towards learning and the world serve as excellent examples for your argument of receiving a poor education

    1. The education isn’t the point. The cost is the kicker.
      By all means some people should pursue educations in the humanities, but does it make sense to (be) charge(d) 30K/year for an education that doesn’t cost nearly that much to produce?
      The issue is exploitation, and the education is just one manifestation of an exploitative system that utilizes self-deception as its agent.

      1. You do realize that some people aren’t in college for liberal arts majors, right?

  3. I feel like I was just subjected to 3 pages of the friend who calls you late at night, crying into the receiver and projecting their insecurities onto you and the people around them.

  4. Every comment here against this article is total bull shit. Sure, you may have been offended by the article; however, there has been no valuable retort whatsoever. Basically, all I am seeing is a bunch of “oh this is pretentious, this is garbage, whatever.” Do you have any sense of equating your argument towards this that is useful at all?! So far, you’re just complaining on the internet. Bring something valuable to the table. Quit being dicks.

    1. In fact, I’ll give you my own opinion; It’ll save you some time. The author argued that no matter what educational field you choose to identify with, the system itself remains a bourgeoisie enterprise. Where I disagree: This article is extremely pessimistic, and chose not to offer substantial opinions on changing the system in which the author disagreed upon. Consumerist culture, capitalism, and so on, allow you to feel like your education has some sort of value. I ask, what good is that valuable education unless you choose to use it in order to free yourself from the system, and break all bridges behind you? If you are educated, act against the system. The capitalists already own your bachelors degree.

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