Time flies. It’s a hackneyed expression, but it is driven home again as I stare out at my last few weeks at Wesleyan. It seems like barely an hour ago that I was lugging my belongings up the stairs of Clark Hall into my freshman year double. It is hard to believe how much time has passed, and all of the things that have fit into that time. There is the blur of freshman year: classes, parties, and conversations that continued late into the night until dawn insistently reminded us that life was still happening. There was the intensity of sophomore year, with the challenge of the College of Social Studies and the somewhat hellish gamut that was my end-of-year examinations. Junior year involved a five-month departure from Wesleyan for Israel’s complex and troubling intellectual and political terrain. Senior year has been a combination of the tunnel vision imposed by a thesis and the slowly dawning realization that college has an exit ramp.
I find myself wishing that I’d been wiser with my time but also grateful that I had so much of it to myself. This is what I want to talk about. Now, before you imagine me as one more nostalgic senior wishing he’d crossed a few more items off his bucket list, hear me out. I want to call attention to the fact that being careless with time is a privilege, one that many of us forget we have. Wasting time is a luxury. Extra time is the privilege of those who have the power to control how their time is spent. It is something enjoyed by people who don’t need to work campus jobs to supplement their tuition, who don’t have responsibilities other than their academics, and who have support systems back home to help them get through difficult periods. In short, it is the privilege of those whose time hasn’t been claimed by those who require it in exchange for something. A careless use of time is only for those who have no quarrel with it, for whom time is a vehicle that carries them forward rather than a current that drags them under. Procrastination is an extravagance in which only those who are satisfied with the status quo can indulge.
Our campus has considered numerous important issues this past year. We’ve examined divestment from fossil fuels, tuition equity, sexual assault prevention, Greek Life reform, and many others. We have confronted the injustices that pervade our campus and its relations with the wider world, and we have put forward challenging proposals to reorder Wesleyan’s priorities and its institutions to be more consistent with our values. Our calls for reform and action have consistently, sometimes infuriatingly, been met with pleas for patience. We can’t increase the equity of our financial aid policy; we need more time to build our endowment. We shouldn’t force all-male residential Greek life to co-educate, not until we’ve given them a little more time to get their act together and reform themselves. We are asked, repeatedly, to conform to the schedules of the powerful.
There is something manifestly unjust about asking people who have endured injustice to wait while those who have contributed to the sufferers’ pain get their act together. Time is not neutral. It moves faster for some, slower for others. Events happen in time, and asking for more time is to politely request an extension of a status quo that your friends and peers find unbearable. If there is one thing that I wished I’d realized earlier and would urge all of you to consider as you go forward, it is the imperative to treat time like the precious resource it is. When we delay justice we deny it, because it inevitably comes to late for those who had to suffer through an unneeded extension of an oppressive status quo.
The lesson here, I think, is the imperative to act with urgency. Issues of social justice demand our insistent attention now. We need to approach these causes with the same urgency with which second-semester seniors attack their bucket lists. We need to be acutely aware of the rapid passage of time and the ways in which our procrastination subjects our friends and peers to the continuation of an unacceptable status quo.
There is a biblical expression that I like very much: “Justice, Justice shall you pursue.” I think it is notable that we are not asked to “administer” justice or to “seek” it, but rather to actively, energetically pursue it. There is an urgency that implies an intolerance of injustice, and impatience with a world that refuses to comport with what we know to be a just vision for our campus and our society. Time should be something that we consider even when it appears that we have a limitless quantity of it at our disposal. The relevant question for us all to consider, as the semester ends and we all move in our respective directions, is not whether we have time, but whether a delay in the justice that is necessary will condemn our friends and peers to avoidable pain.
Blinderman is a member of the class of 2014.