The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Campus Activism

I graduated from college at the height of the Vietnam war. College campuses were rife with protest, some violent. That era was the modern birthplace of campus activism. Much of the activism in the late 1960s was justified as anti-war and some (I emphasize: some) of it was arguably justified. But the activism of the 60s quickly morphed into an incubator for leftist students who celebrated everything from the murderous Che Guevara to a broad-based anti-capitalist agenda. Not much has changed.

Today, campus activists have adopted a leftist narrative that is rabidly anti-Israel. There is no logic and absolutely no justification for this position, but no matter—activists don't apply logic and their only justification is moral preening.

Peter Wood describes the current status of campus activism when he writes:
Campus activism is, by and large, the world of make-believe. Whenever students occupy a president’s office, Tinkerbell is not far away. Whenever faculty demand a boycott, Professor Dumbledore winks at Professor Snape.

The premise behind campus activism is always the same. The college campus is a microcosm of the larger world. What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, but what happens at Oberlin or Sweet Briar is imagined to rock the foundations of the old order. Patriarchy trembles. The Zionist Entity is called to account. The coal-breathing capitalist Earth warmers feel the chill of a generation walking on their graves.

That premise, of course, is always mistaken. It matters not a whit to the energy producers that Pitzer College chose to divest from fossil fuel companies, or even that Stanford, with its much larger endowment, decided to pull out of coal company investments. Israel will do what it needs to do to defend itself against its enemies, regardless of what resolutions the American Studies Association passes. “Patriarchy” stalks the American college campus the way the plesiosaur stalks Loch Ness: oft reported, never actually seen.
As someone who has spent many years on a college campus as a student, a graduate assistant, and a professor, I generally excuse the naivete of college students who perceive themselves as activists. There's something refreshing about a young person's desire to change the world, fight for 'social justice' and speak truth to power. It's ironic, however, that they do this from the safe cocoon of a college campus where demonizing, say, Israel, and showing solidarity with, say, Hamas, doesn't require them to live under the brutal, misogynistic, homophobic, corrupt Hamas regime. Oh well.