Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Carroll's Wall

I've been wondering about why the "hate wall" at Carroll college - castigated by Charlie Sykes and celebrated by Laurel Walker - seems  a little off putting.

Charlie's problem seems to be that the messages on the wall will not be seen by others in the way they are intended to be seen. That may be true, but it's not what bothers me.
I think the problem is that the whole project is just a tad too precious and self indulgent. It is supposed to be a blow against oppression but it's really a rather jejune expression of common and conventional wisdom. It is, more than anything else, boring. It does little more than celebrate the virtue of those participating in it.

It's not that the particular forms of racism or sexism or prejudices that the hate wallers want to condemn don't exist. Few forms of human evil are ever completely eradicated. It's that their condemnation is already one of our strongest social conventions.

There are, I suppose, worse things that you can do to your professional and social standing that utter one of the words on the wall in polite company (say rape or murder) but not many.

If that's so, then having a conversation about them cannot simply amount to rejecting or "tearing down" bad attitudes by condemning them. That message - and its corresponding call - is already ubiquitous. If you are in college and haven't learned that lesson, you probably never will.

This where the Sykes criticism comes in. The wall was initially visible to school children who may nopt yet have learned this lesson and are unlikely to appreciate the message of a wall intended for college students.

Putting that aside (they moved the wall), I'm not saying that it was necessarily a bad thing to do. There is nothing wrong with public affirmations of commonly held attitudes. Demonstrations of patriotism are an example.

But I guess it's the affectation of "speaking truth to power" - conveyed by the image of a wall being smashed - that is a little grating. In fact, these students have decided to go after an evil that it is safe and common to condemn. It may be the idea that, of all the evils facing this generation of college students, this one is among the worst. It once was. It now isn't. Tearing down a Wall of the ways in which our culture undermines personal (as opposed to "social") responsibility may have been a bit more daring.

A related, but different, problem may be that the "Wall" is just another example of the phony call by folks on the left to have an "uncomfortable conversation" on race. An "uncomfortable" conversation is the last thing that they want to have.


Tom said...

I've had a similar reaction. Putting it up by an elementary school was irresponsible and stupid, but I don't have much of a reaction to the substance of what they're doing beyond "meh". It's neither profound nor useful, but neither is it terrible or evidence of something deeply "wrong" with Carroll College or higher education generally.

jimspice said...

On a positive note, the attention the wall drew alerted the media to a food drive that happening on campus and donations were up.

Go Pios! '89

John McAdams said...

Mounting a demonstration condeming abortion would be brave. This exercise merely showed smug self-satisfaction.

Anonymous said...

Yes, how brave to mount a demonstration condemning abortion! I'm sure the McPerfesser would feel a similar surge when it came to REAL LIVE PEOPLE who've been aborted by their governor.

Anonymous said...

When it comes to "smug satisfaction," John McAdams has the market cornered. "Dr." Pot, meet Mr. Kettle!