The intent was never to persuade. That goal, for a college writer with no previous experience in writing, would have been impossible in 800 words or less written every 14 days, especially on a college campus where every student thinks — nay, knows with absolute certainty — that he is right and everyone else is wrong.
And so The Daily Sun op-ed columnist has come to be one of the most hated positions on this campus, in which a thick skin would sometimes prove more useful than eloquent prose. Why anyone would want this job was beyond me.
The unwillingness to consider the other side’s argument is only heightened when you’re writing to an Ivy League audience, whose members possess degrees that also come along with a sense of intellectual validation.
Consequently, opinions don’t change so easily these days. You can’t bend attitudes even a slight bit and if you try, you usually face a quick dismissal. One particular reader put it memorably with his succinct but bruising words: “Steven, you disappoint me.”
We live in a stubborn generation and we’re on track to be the most stubborn one in history.
And it shows on this campus as the frequency of stand-offs between interest groups is as high as ever.
The gaps between the campus, the administration and the Greek system have grown only wider, especially after the New York Times published a harrowing profile on the death of George Desdunes ’13 and a Rolling Stone account of hazing at Dartmouth.
Minority groups on campus have become as fractionated as ever, their relations exacerbated by the Student Assembly Finance Commission’s inability to provide funding for minority groups in their effort to avoid the racial taboos.
And, perhaps in the most egregious example of willful ignorance, the Calendar Committee is trudging forward with a shoddy piece of legislation that has met nearly unanimous opposition from the Student Assembly and student body.
And so, here we find ourselves on a campus where Greeks party amongst Greeks, engineers hang out with engineers and the hipsters stay hip among the hipsters.
But how did we end up in a place with no cross dialogue even though we have all the tools for it? Despite email, text messaging, Twitter, G-chat and Facebook, the stream of conversation has run dry between not just opposing, but simply different, parties.
Now, we like to blanket ourselves with people and conversations that make us feel safe and warm and good about ourselves through a pursuit of self-validation that has become as effortless as ever. After all, you can block, unfollow or defriend with the swift click of the mouse, forever erasing someone from your online — and thus your social — life.
Social media, the same tools that played pivotal roles in the Arab Spring and the KONY2012 campaign, and was supposed to democratize the planet, has dangerously cloistered our generation into our comfort zones.
It was only three decades ago when CNN, MSNBC or Fox didn’t rule our television screens and only one decade ago Twitter and Facebook or the Huffington Post and the Drudge Report didn’t dominate our computer monitors. Back then, whether they liked it or not, the hippies and the corporate executives; the atheists and the evangelicals; and the blue collar and the white collar workers, were forced to sit down together in front of the television to watch the same channels or read the same websites. They couldn’t choose their social circles from a grocery aisle like we do now.
The Bigger Picture was an effort to return to those times. I didn’t write to convince or to proselytize or to convert. I wrote only to remind readers that there are those who hold different opinions worthwhile of consideration and they hold onto those opinions with just as much fervor and conviction as you and I do. And after graduation, I will continue to write with this goal in mind.
I want thank the Cornell Sun and its editorial boards from the past four years, whose brilliant team of reporters and managers have miraculously kept this complex machine running.
To my associate editors, Sammy, Tony, Dani and Ruby, who have plowed with me through dozens of columns and were courageous enough — and certainly crazy enough — to give me a pedestal and megaphone to shout my opinion every two weeks.
To Mervin and Sidney, for their ideas and early morning discussions, without whom I would have never been able to imbue a bit of nuance into my writing.
To my professors and mentors, whose classes planted the seeds for my ideas and without whom I would have never had enough substance to fill these pages.
And lastly, to my readers, whose feedback and criticism were just as much a learning experience as it was a humbling experience.
Thank you all and farewell, for now.
Steven Zhang is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He may be reached at email@example.com. The Bigger Picture appears alternate Tuesdays this semester.