Catch up with your brain

By Matt Won

Full disclosure: I’m a feminist who hates women and a political science major who hates politics (and political science theory). I’m highly interested in race and America, but I love rap and hate white people.

I was all those formers and none of those latters before coming to Macalester (except maybe the hating women and white people thing). The problem here is that at Macalester our brains are way ahead of our personal conduct.

What do we really want out of Macalester? Maybe all those first years just came here to be at America’s hottest liberal arts college, hoping to slack off the rest of their lives and get by off the Macalester name at hotshot law firms and big multinational corporations.

But I’m pretty sure that heart of what Macalester students want is finding some way to live a just and righteous, and therefore worthwhile life.
But we’re in the Academy, which means that we’re trying to shape and sharpen our minds, to the highest degree possible. Our stratospheric grasp of theory sets a tall order for our personal conduct—in short, an impossible task.
For example, I have huge problems with the sexism of the Vagina Monologues, and the way it’s been socialized; I also think that the Joy Luck Club is one of the most racist movies ever.

Maybe I’m totally wrong on both counts (actually, no, trust me, the Joy Luck Club sucks), but either way I’m applying a lot of theory. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m certainly trying. Really hard.
However, this doesn’t mean I’m going to stop using racial humor, or hereby cease pontificating on the beauty of females familiar and unfamiliar for the benefit of The Boys.
Is this right? Not all the time, but not none of the time either.

A few weeks ago I wrote an editorial on race. Certain people thought I was the biggest asshole ever (all deference to Briana Banks aside) for writing this article calling everyone out while completely leaving off any self-criticism. I am, but that article was not meant to be the ultimate proof of that fact.

Also, I may have screwed myself slightly when I basically invalidated all irony in that article. Irony is bad—it’s way worse than we like to admit. But like it or not, it’s an integral element of speech and conversation, and were we completely without it we would lose so much of our legitimate, completely non-malevolent humor.

But back to the question of whether the humor we use is right or wrong. Humor is just part of a bigger question. Are the things we do right or wrong? Do we know better?
We know a lot of theory, and we know a lot about how the world might be a better place. But it’s extremely difficult to evaluate one’s own personal conduct using those tools and that knowledge. Simply put, we’re a little too close to the subject for objectivity.
My point is that there is a large, and largely unexamined gap between our theoretical understanding of how the world should work, and our actual conduct in the world.

The project, then, is to identify that gap, acknowledge it, and then work to close it, whatever your shortcomings are.
Maybe you’re a liberal anti-racist who, for whatever reason, thinks that the racial makeup of certain institutions of higher learning is overwhelmingly Jewish, or that too many dreidel-spinners are in positions of corporate and political power. You should be able to evaluate these personal beliefs, figure out that they’re wrong, and work to correct them.

It’s also good to listen to what your friends think about your behavior. They’re probably better judges of what offends them than you are.
So listen when one of your Indian friends tells you that she’s not really comfortable with you saying “Oh, you’re such a big brownie, I just want to take a big bite out of you!”

That’s all I’m saying, people.