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"Ignorance and Elitism"

[Note: I am by no means striving for accuracy of description here, and any slights I may make are regarded as insignificant to the relevance of the piece as a whole, and are intended as salt on an already open wound. Thank you.]

Since it's the last week of classes right now, I've been extraordinarily busy, juggling a few web design projects while studying for class, all while spending time with my Anna. Frankly, I'm tired of classes and I'm ready for them to be over. Been at this for a year now and I'm looking forward to that long three month vacation.

But Jesus, having taken a fair share of Latin courses this far through my college career, I never thought I'd experience the amount of snobbery that I did in today's class.

Not like it's any surprise that the classics department is full of snotty kids with no connection to the real world and who live in the past to make up for their inadequacies in the current. Okay, okay, that's not fair. But it's not actually that far from the truth, based on what I've observed.

Okay, so most classics professors are wealthy people with wealthy parents, and since they're so interested in classics, it's no surprise that they consider most other walks of life meaningless and devoid. Maybe that's not entirely true, but those who don't learn anything about classics, or who aren't exceedingly good at it are looked down upon. It's this sort of attitude which really gets to me. I really don't see the point in teaching if you're not going to try to assist students of all skill levels. Not everyone will be as interested or as informed as the others, so they need extra help, not scorn.

But anyway, that's a side issue, and most all my professors are overly helpful and amazingly charismatic. I don't regret having them.

So I was sitting in our classroom before class started, and the previous class was still finishing up some work. That class had something to do with the business field and most of the kids were obviously those sorts of sharp-dressed, naive sorority and fraternity types. My classmates said it, not me. Now, keep in mind that this class was for reading Juvenal, one of Rome's greatest satirists and, in my opinion, one of the better writers in that time period. Highly underrated. It's a higher-level class, so older students are in it and they're all very proficient in Latin and Greek, determined to follow a path in life relating to classics in some way.

If you've ever seen a room full of staunch classics people and business people, you haven't lived. I assure you.

The business people were conferring with each other on what needed to be turned in and what still needed to be decided before the left class. My unfortunately fellow classmates looked upon these kids, who looked fine to me, with derision, condescension, and elitism. They were just waiting for these people to leave so they could gab amongst themselves about how silly the frat and sorority people are.

People from two to twenty years older than me, finding these young business students a severe threat to their superiority! I swear you haven't felt more amused, yet more ashamed at the same time as I did right then and there.

So then the business people left and the talking began. "I wish I was so oblivious to the world. I wish I didn't have to worry about grades. I wish I didn't have any cares in the world." "God, was that WHOLE class full of frat and sorority people?" "You know, they refer to themselves as GREEKS." "She didn't even know what language the name of her sorority was in." "I bet if I had to go to Hell, I'd be forced to take THAT class."


I admit, I'm not going to sit here and claim to be the defender of the "Greek" fraternity/sorority systems, nor am I going to claim that I like the people who are members of them. I think a good portion of people in those organizations drink, do drugs, and don't study, but there's a good portion of people who don't, too. So why don't I like them? Because they're people. I hate people. Save for the few people I choose to hang around with (and who, strangely, choose to hang around me), I really don't want to know people. There are few greater liabilities than having useless friends. Am I singling out the Greek members? Hell no. I hate people from all organizations. All majors. All professions. I don't like people straight off, which isn't to say I can't get along with people -- I can do that if I have to. But the people I like to hang around with, or watch, or whatever, are the people I respect, the people I...well, I'll get back to this.

It seemed to me like the primary beef that these classics students had against the frat kids was that they were ignorant of classics and liberal arts. I sensed some sort of hate, perhaps even envy towards the business kids. UT has a great business school and if you make it through, you're probably going to have a comfortable job no matter how useless you are. I'm sure these classics students know that. What they're doing is not going to lead to a high-profile, high-class life, and I'm sure they're questioned even more about choosing classics as their major than I am. I'm sure this bothers them to no end. It gets to me, sometimes, but luckily, not all my eggs are in one basket.

You know what I think it boils down to the most? Jealousy. These frat types are the people who were popular in school, the people you knew the names of. You know what I'm talking about. There are people that are well-known in their own little groups, but the popular kids were known to everyone, whether you were part of the smart kids, the dumb kids, the athletes, the debate team, etc. The quarterbacks, the cheerleaders. The people who partied every weekend, and fucked their brains out with the most gorgeous people of the opposite sex. The people who got pretty good grades for being completely oblivious (and I don't use that word randomly) to their studies. Is it a far cry to say that these classics students were for a long time the runts of the litter and finally found a place they fit in in the classics department? No, this is certainly not true for everyone, but after witnessing such raw vehemence, I have to believe it's partially true. I know I envied the popular kids, but I got as much as I wanted to out of high school. But as it stands, I think I have a much better chance to be successful than any of the most successful students in my high school. Maybe there'll be a few bright stars from my class, but I don't know -- they seemed pretty ordinary. Let's hope they prove me wrong, eh? Especially now that Plano, where I was schooled, has turned into a heroin-addicted suburb full of snotty rich kids.

I just have to wonder if some people couldn't let go of their built-up emotions. The classics students I saw talking trash don't seem likely to become the CEOs of major companies, earning six-digit salaries and living it up. This would bother me if I didn't have any technical skills, too.

So there is a distinction to be made between what I dislike about frat people and what the classics people dislike about them. What I dislike about frat people is that they're just like how the classics people act. "Classics? What kind of bullshit major is that?" "Business? How unenlightened can you get?" Everyone divides up into little groups at universities and they all consider other majors to be inferior and even useless. But it's worse for classics types -- they're used to being the creme de la creme. They're used to being better than the other students, more knowledgeable in the subtle allegories of Juvenal and in the triumphant verses of Homer. They can translate Plato from the original language! So of course they're superior.

These classics students consider themselves above everyone else. Other people not informed in the classics aren't even worth talking to. Why lower themselves to the stupid, ignorant students?

I'll tell you why. So they can see with their own eyes just how ignorant they are being, themselves. I've learned this from spending most of my time alone -- you miss out on basic things that you should know, as do you miss out on other peoples' perspectives. Now, I'm majoring in Latin, but I'm getting a minor in business and I'm taking classes in just about every field, from linguistics to computer science to perhaps art and design. At least I'm seeing how different types of people work. At least I'm able to relate to many different majors. At least...well, at least I'm going to end up being quite well-rounded. I've never wanted to be an expert in just one thing -- Jack-of-All-Trades is what turns me on.

Where I differ from these said classics students is how I feel about frat types. No, I don't think many of them appreciate the liberal arts and the importance of learning the ancient languages, even if they're dead and are no longer used. There's so much that comes along with learning something like Latin, including culture, politics, law, and basically everything we humans deal with every day, 2000 years later. There are so many lessons to be learned from the past (Santayana is evocative here) which aid living in today's day and age. To shun history is just plain ignorant, and leaves you at a severe disadvantage to those who have seen how other civilizations have dealt with various things. I don't have respect for people who don't consider learning new things, regardless of what area that learning is in, as being important. Learning is crucial. Even about things one may first off consider useless, like Roman culture. And I suppose that frat people who goof off and get sub 2.0 GPAs and drink until their systems can't take it anymore are just young -- a good deal of them will grow up to be responsible, productive human beings, and that's cool. I just don't think realizing how important education is should be something that comes along at the same time you hit your mid-life crisis.

That said...fuck you guys. Fuck you. Look, people, everyone has their own plot of land to till in this life and not everyone is destined towards the same goal. There's a lot of elitism from people who consider med school, business school, and law school as the only credible choices for education, and that's bullshit too. Law's hardly respectable anymore, beyond the money. Any two-bit street punk can become a lawyer these days. Doctors are being pummelled for malpractice suits constantly. Business school? Isn't that what FRAT people take?

Get with it. Everyone I talk to preaches about how unprejudiced he is regarding race, religion, interest, whatever, but it's just not true. We're supposed to be living in a world where everyone accepts everyone until individuals show themselves to be sleazeballs, but it surely doesn't work that way. People have their own hates, their own uninformed judgments, and so on.

And you may feel safe in your little niche, whether it's deciding how to translate "ut", or which actions to take in a hostile takeover, or whatever, but how will you feel if you were placed in front of a computer, or placed in someone else's niche? They'd think of you as stupid, unskilled, and unfit to work with them. I have to laugh when someone who shot me a snide look when translating, was later fumbling around trying to figure out how to attach a file to an e-mail. And how to act at a basketball game? Talk about socially inept. No longer could you be so proud, eh? It isn't so fun when you're out of your element, is it?

For me, respect comes through always being in one's element. Always being on top of the situation. Always knowing what's going on, because you've had experience and training in it, to prepare you. It also comes through playing to peoples' strengths and learning from others' strengths to improve upon your weaknesses. Everyone has something you can learn from them.

Well-roundedness? Making any sort of attempt to get along with the other humans stuck on this earth? That's something to respect. Not flash-in-the-pan, narrow-minded elitism.

I lost a lot of respect for the people in my class today. If I'm guilty of doing similar things as they did in the past, then I hate myself for it. Thankfully, classes end this week and I won't have to see that sort of filth again for awhile.

A henry-ish fuck you to those in my class who haven't yet realized just how much they're like the people they attack. From me, your pal, Ben.

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