Sunday, May 15, 2011

Your Enemy's Enemy is Your Friend: Your Hero's Sycophant is Not

Sometimes my father comes to me when he is confused. Actually, as a rule, my father's way of dealing with confusion is by consulting someone about it, preferrably someone who he deems as this particular problem being their "area". He will consult my brother for the operation of any device invented after 1970, he will consult my sister on banking and fiscal matters. He will consult my mother on virtually everything else, and he will consult me on things he deems "misc".

Today's misc topic: tattoos.

His story goes like this:

He: "I was in Waterstones today."
Me: "Mmhmm"
He: "And I saw a man with a tattoo on the back of his neck. The tattoo said "X, V, III".
Me: "So, eighteen, presumably?
He: "Yes."

The story hits a wall. There is another puzzled pause as my dad reviews the incident in his head again.

He: "He was buying books. Stacks of them."

This is the part where I generally have to gently remind my dad that people who have tattoos (and piercings, facial hair and hemp clothing, for that matter) are not social misfits who grew up without literacy on people farms in obscure Scandinavian locations. He nods. Everytime I tell him this he tries to get to grips with it, he really does, but he has a simple mind and first became a parent in the Reagen era, so it's not his fault.

Despite this attempt at enlightenment, he is still distressed by his Waterstones outing. He finally breaks.

"But he was in the biography section."

Aha. Now we get to the core of the issue. It wasn't just that Tattoo Guy was buying books, he was buying my Dad's books. As far as my Dad is concerned, the biography section belongs to him. The thought of buying the same Custer biography as this numerically illustrated hippie is unthinkable. The biography section is to Tattoo Guy what the Montgomery bus seating was to Rosa Parks, in that he is welcome to be there until such time as a middle class white dude decides otherwise.

In a way, I can kind of see where my dad is coming from. Sometimes it's very easy to forget that while you're particular set of interests make you the darling egotistical snowflake that all your friends have come to know and begrudgingly accept, other people can have the exact same set of interests and be total assholes.

For me, this has been the hardest thing to accept about University life. College is always advocating itself on its ability to unite people of similar interests, and they do this by forming societies. "Joining a society is the easiest and best way to make friends", the University pamphlet will read. What you don't notice is the fine print, which is "Joining a society is the easiest and best way to make friends with assholes."

I have a few theories on why the vast majority of people involved in a college society is an asshole. Because I am a student, here they are, in bullet point form.

  • Societies get funding from the University, and money for nothing makes people selfish, arrogant and entitled.
  • Societies have elections for positions and jobs that are, let's face it, not real. Events Officer? Yeah, I send group texts to my friends too. Imaginary hierarchy makes people selfish, arrogant and entitled.
  • I don't know if you're aware of this, but sometimes societies use their funding to print their society slogan on hoodies. Hoodies that people then wear. I don't know if there are words to get across the categorical lameness of this.
Ok, I think it's time for me to stop. I can feel myself alienating my tiny readership and its possible societal inclinations. I don't really hate societies, or the people in them, and this is obviously based on independent, unrelated experiences, with independent, unrelatable assholes. But my real point, which I have seriously derailed, is this: I do not think that you can get people together, based on a mutual interest, and expect them to actually like eachother. It's just not how the world works. Once you get past that initial "Wow, you like reading obscure asian pottery? So do I!" part, you're conversational well has completely dried up. This person could like the right things for the wrong reasons, which is worse then liking the wrong things for the right reasons. Or they could just be a terrible human being.

As my father learned with his fellow historical biography lover and as I learned in three years of University, sometimes people are just shit, and there's not enough culture in the Western world to cover that up.

1 comment:

  1. I have the strongest urge to introduce your dad to my friend Alison. She's a history student, well read, articulate, and dresses like one of Johnny Rotten's bastard children. Her Nu Rocks would smash the shell of his constructed reality, I fear.
    Oh, and you hit the nail on the head with the societies. I left the one I stayed with for too long because of the gross incompetence, petty politicking and general crapness committee decision-making engenders.
    That said, Warps is actually alarmingly full of nice, relaxed genuine people that can actually do their job.
    Exception that proves the rule, I fear.