Language was developed in order to allow humans to communicate different concepts and express what they mean to others. Several tools such as categories have also been introduced to more effectively achieve this purpose. While these mechanisms were created to accomplish admirable goals, their use in the current day, especially on the modern university campus, has been antithetical to those goals. Language is now purposefully used to obscure and obfuscate one’s intentions. This phenomenon is most observable in more controversial subjects such as politics.
This is an especially pivotal time for this column to be returning — graduation looms on the horizon and I’m faced with the same conundrum that graduating seniors have faced for centuries: How do I cope with leaving? I’m asked the very sweet yet wholly unoriginal question of how I feel about graduating on what seems like a daily basis, so I figured I’d compile my thoughts here for easy access. For some, the idea of coping with graduating may not even be a thought. If your vision of Cornell is an incubator for pre-professional juggernauts with more LinkedIn experiences than fulfilling hobbies, then graduation probably feels like it couldn’t come sooner. If you’re like me, though, LinkedIn gives you indigestion and graduation means leaving behind four precious years of your life.
Perhaps I should say two precious years — my freshman and sophomore years were valuable in their own ways, but I can’t promise I’ll be looking back on pandemic-era dorm life on a construction site all that fondly.
Imagine a group of people accused of racism demanding the University adopt a definition of racism that would exempt them. This, in essence, is what the Cornell Coalition for Mutual Liberation did on Dec. 1 when they demanded Cornell define anti-Zionism as an “ideology” and not antisemitism. It seems Jews are the only minority denied the right to define aggressions against them as bigotry. Defining Zionism is simple: It is the desire by an indigenous people, the Jews, to return to their ancestral homeland and for those who never left to regain/retain sovereignty.
“The surest way to work up a crusade in favor of some good cause is to promise people they will have a chance of maltreating someone. To be able to destroy with good conscience, to be able to behave badly and call your bad behavior ‘righteous indignation’ — this is the height of psychological luxury, the most delicious of moral treats.”
― Aldous Huxley, Crome Yellow
The height of humility is admitting that you, the reader, might be the very subject of these words. Despite how morally righteous your philosophy, ideology, or movement may be, it’s ultimately subject to the corruptive nature of human beings in our desire for righteous indignation. It is understandable that we all want to be good people, or at least strive to do good. But this impulse inevitably leads us to consider ourselves either better than those who embody such ‘evil,’ or do not strive for the same good that we do.