Whenever I go home, I find myself trapped in the same infuriating conversation.
Lacking any topics we really want to talk about, old friends and distant relations fall into the same rut when we catch up on news. Where do I go to school? Penn. Mindless banter question? Mindless banter answer.
But there's always one question that I dread. "What's your major?"
I know what's about to happen. It happens every time, no matter what the setting or who's asking. I will say, "Philosophy, Politics and Economics, concentrating in Political Science." Without fail, they will then respond with some of the most insanely unintelligent crap ever uttered.
I won't tolerate this banality any longer.
It happens to every Polisci student. You'll be at a family reunion or just talking to your boss when suddenly you are assailed by a torrential downpour of regurgitated campaign propaganda, ignorant assertions and insipid complaints. Without ever cracking open the Federalist Papers or bothering to read the Constitution (often confused with the Declaration of Independence), everyone - from your Aunt Mildred to Beth the office manager - thinks he or she is a political commentator on par with de Tocqueville.
My favorite insight: "America needs a good third party." Normally, I explicate the differences between direct representation and proportional representation, and how we'd need to replace the House of Representatives with a House of Commons and besides, this third party would invariably join into a coalition with the major parties, so nothing would ever really change.
Eyes tend to glaze over as I speak. Once I stop, they blink out of the trance and say, "Yeah man, I think Nader sucks too."
Often, the oral diarrhea begins with: "You know what's really wrong with politics?"
I want to scream, "YOU! You are 'what's wrong' with democracy!" but instead, I smile insincerely and ask, "What's that?" And they say immigrants, corporations, welfare moms, the NRA, the ACLU, young people, old people and, of course, the Jews are all ruining this great country.
Only political scientists get this novice know-it-all reaction. If I tell folks that I major in philosophy, no one ever launches into a hermeneutical deconstruction of Camus. But they do often ask if I know the meaning of life (I do) or what the hell I want to do with a philosophy degree (philosophize). Why are we, as a society, content to repeat the same mantra, dance the same dance, day in and day out? We must break free from these conversational chains!
Polisci and Philosophy majors aren't alone in this trap of banality. Apparently, no one knows the difference between Psychology and Psychiatry. College senior and Psych major Jeremy Mount found a creative way to deal with it: "People ask me if I'm analyzing them when I tell them I'm a Psych major. And I say, 'Yeah, I can tell you're a huge tool.'"
Finance majors are often asked for stock tips, but they don't teach retirement planning in 101. "Want some advice?" said Wharton Junior Vinnie Marron, "Make $10 million first, and then we can talk."
Not everyone has to suffer through this ignominy. I'm jealous of pre-meds and Nursing majors. At worse, they're asked if they think some lump is a cancerous tumor or not (I suggest always saying yes, perhaps gasping in horror as you do). I doubt accounting majors are asked to justify accounts payable like I'm asked to justify the primary election system.
We've all had the same false conversations and heard the same lame jokes. And as much as we hate it, we do it too. We want to make a connection, have something to say, maybe show off knowledge.
No longer. As you return home for winter break and run into distant relatives and acquaintances from high school, don't tolerate this banality. Next time someone offers their "thoughts" on Ron Paul, tear them a new one. The next hackneyed crack at your choice of study should be met with a crack to the jaw.
Jim Saksa is a College senior from Toms River, NJ. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. You, Sir, are an Idiot appears on Tuesdays.Comments powered by Disqus
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