If you are a solipsist and do not believe that there is a collective experience here at Wesleyan, you should take a close look at Andy Samberg and the Lonely Island’s “Space Olympics.” If you instead believe that there is a critical relationship between the individual and the state, I suggest that you assume that President Michael Roth is not a bad guy and has good intentions for this school. Need blindness in admissions is central to the meritocracy we all want to strive for. However, like in the “Space Olympics,” there are several barriers obscuring the good life.
College, at least in contemporary America, is a business. European countries have gone radical in viewing education as a human right and not an arena in which supply meets demand. Although Roth may want to make this place a utopia, someone with an MBA is still coming into his office each week to remind him of the bottom line. Wesleyan at least meets the full need of students who cannot afford the sixty-thousand dollar barrel full of money it takes to simply exist here every year, but we can only financially handle a certain amount of need.
This is where Plato comes in, and Andy Samberg exits stage left. In “The Republic,” Plato creates a matrix where the good life for someone’s soul is also along the same lines as the good life for everyone else’s in the ideal city. There is a lot of banter between Socrates and a bunch of other dudes who say some alarmingly sexist and chauvinistic things at times, which we can wait to discuss on Foss in the spring, but for now we’re going to focus on the concept of the tripartite soul.
In “The Republic,” the soul has three competing entities that need to be in harmony for a good life to be lived. There is, of course, the most admirable and miraculous piece of human nature: logic. Separate from the stimulation we receive physically, logic takes place in the elusive space of consciousness behind all of our weird eyebrows and foreheads. The second competing faction is honor, but let’s be a little more Wesleyan and just call this one emotion. Finally, there are those good old bodily instincts: am I thirsty, horny, do I have to pee?
For someone to live a good life, these three players need to share the ball; they don’t necessarily need to share equally, but what is certain is that if one of them carries the ball for too long, the others will either try to take it from him or give up entirely.
Roth presumably has his bodily instincts on lock down. He’s read Nietzsche on his beanbag chair since way back in sixth grade. He puts in work on the elliptical in Freeman. Maybe he even eats healthy things sometimes when he’s not chilling on Foss doing the Michael Roth.
Without a doubt our president has a logical side to him that doesn’t even need to be Michael Roth. Logic doesn’t need gender, or really even a body at all (thanks for reading my stuff, Watson). What he and Andy Samberg understand is that even though there are so many super, awesome things you can do to help people with money, there is a finite amount of resources in our economy.
I certainly couldn’t calculate our human capital here. Maybe that’s what they do in the Career Center; I don’t know. But what can be deduced is that this school relies far too much on tuition and is severely behind the Ephs and Lords Jeff when it comes to endowment coins. And that doesn’t mean this school isn’t prestigious or inspiring. It simply means that we lack the numbers that our competitors do, and don’t think that we don’t have any; did your ED1 school start with a B and end in -rown? President Roth’s YouTube video on financial aid featured his logical soul carrying the majority of the hand-offs.
The most elusive of these three entities would be emotion. Existence, what does it matter? The present is all we ever feel, and one day we’ll be dead. But we still feel these things, and sometimes those feelings come from the past and have nothing to do with what is going on in the present.
This is where we should all chill on Foss, read some Nietzsche, and do the Michael Roth. The rhetoric against Roth here has been very strong since I arrived here for orientation. I haven’t heard it all, but sometimes my classmates sound like Sean Hannity on Fox News, using various logical techniques—such as anarchist manifestos—to berate our president as an aristocratic elitist who wants a wealthier donor base, who wants customers rather than students or even human beings.
I’ve been inspired by a lot here so far. The “Banality of Evil” thesis by Hannah Arendt is radical. Wesleyan conversations are amazing. Fraternities here aren’t like the ones my friends at other schools are pledging. Art history is a cool, actually very hard but rewarding subject. Maybe Zonker Harris Day is a thing. But when we separate, compartmentalize, or in any way detach human dignity from our logic and simply use our beliefs as tool or even weapon, we detract from the intellectual environment here.
Protest forever, and do it passionately. But don’t ignore the very logic that you are using to combat an opponent in argument when you say that Roth has no empathy for the students here. He does. However, the man has responsibilities for all of us, and he even has self-interests that he must restrain given his power. Why? Not because we’re all dogmatic tri-souls as some Greek statue said, but because empathy has never been good enough. This is why, but that’s not all.
We want to not only be successful and change the world, but also to be happy, and, sometimes, there is a bit of a budget snafu, and food funding is insufficient. Welcome to the Space Olympics, where there is no light or sound. Just one of the many problems with being a post-prefrosh.
Lahut is a member of the class of 2017.