A little less talk, a little more action

By Spencer Retelle

I heard these people talking the other day, and I haven’t been able to shake it off (cue Mariah Carey). I was walking to my on-campus job, past these two students having a conversation. Actually, not a conversation. It was one of those two-sided rants about how much each of their lives suck, with no attention paid to what the other is saying. So naturally, I eavesdropped. Between the puffs of their clove cigarettes, the woman complained about how she is “just so sick of all these Macalester students,” because “all they do is theorize.” The man qualified what she said, as he “just felt that all we do at this school is ideologically mutually masturbate.” As I hoofed up the stairs towards the fourth floor of Old Main, I couldn’t help but feel like a defensive mother. “Well if you hate it so much,” I thought to myself, “why don’t you just leave? That way, you wouldn’t have to pay major bank just to loathe yourself more.” My intense emotional anger was Facebook status worthy. The moment I opened my laptop, however, I got distracted (Four words: I can has cheezburger?). Once I took a metaphoric breath from my visceral reaction and a literal breath from the trek up to the WGSS office, I realized that I actually agreed with the cynical sentiments of those random smokers.

While I completely appreciate the opportunity that each and every one of us has been given, this cannot be taken at face value. We have been allowed access into a space that so many people have not, will not, or cannot enter. The sheer ability to engage this knowledge, however, is limited to the intellectual space it reaches. This means conversation beyond the Café Mac lunch table.

Applying to Macalester, I’m certain that we all had our niche that made us so unique, we transcended the bound pages of résumés, transcripts, and personal statements. If we didn’t have it, we had the blind passion to change the world or die trying. But when I look around at the jaded misanthropic stares across the second level of the campus center, I’m forced to ask myself where that fervor went. Obviously, discussing heteronormativity for three hours on Wednesday night or writing a twenty-page essay on the shortcomings of capitalism isn’t necessarily the biggest pick-me-up. (Then again, neither is Blue Ox, but we keep drinking it.)

Since my three years at Macalester, I have been underwhelmed by the amount of action taking place on campus. I came to this school because it was that radical school where all the smelly hippies protested. While that description is two-thirds accurate, as a student body, we collectively are obligated to transform our classroom rhetoric into real-life action.

I know, I can already hear all of the retorts, but all I hear is excuses with simple resolutions. “I don’t have any time.” Reallocating approximately 10 percent of your time from Facebook to inform yourself may result in stumbling upon some time. “Protesting at a small campus doesn’t really do anything”. That makes complete sense, because voicing your opinion as an individual is really just a waste of time in general. So why bother engaging in conversations with a community? “I don’t really care about that”. I believe this sentiment is the main problem facing activism today. Theory is not a one-issue voter; theory is a way of life which informs action, participation, and your perception of the world.

Now, I don’t think that every person should have a one-person picket line. But I do believe that the theory we discuss in the classroom should inform our actions outside of it, and there should be some issues that are non-negotiable. Even if you didn’t start this action your freshman year, even if you may completely disagree with yourself a year from now, you still have an opinion of the world. Don’t cheapen your opinion by limiting it to words. After all, theory and activism (in the words of Mariah Carey) belong together.

Spencer Retelle ’11 writes as a member of MPJC-SDS and can be reached at [email protected]