Admittedly, I am jaded. Sarcasm has taken precedent over authenticity in my life. The massive and lurching System — the lethargic modes of oppression, the structures of authority — has worn me out. At some point, being genuine in the face of a blind and cold bureaucracy was not worth it. Engaging in good faith is exhausting, especially when the other side is not. All of this is to say: I have little-to-no confidence in institutions.
So, when I got an email from the (notoriously risk-averse) Office of Communications regarding the sixth circle blogpost, I cannot say I expected to see anything shocking. Therefore, when I read the diatribe, I was surprised to find some kind of manifesto. The edgy font, the allusion to Dante, the patronizing rhetorical questions, the subtitle “Welcome to Hell, Heretics,” someone going by the name “Lucifer.” It is easy to simply not engage, to disregard the writers as fringe, to laugh off the aesthetic the way we satirize Tumblr blogs titled “~~Welcome To My Twisted Mind~~.” But, I think, much of the blog is worth engaging in because there is a sentiment of dissatisfaction here that is reflected more broadly in the student body (even if particulars are not).
The problem with dissatisfaction, however, is that there is rarely an easy fix (or any fix at all). The first couple of lines lay out the thesis of the blog post: “We cannot scream about injustice … the grindstone of our academic work … [or the] depressive cycles of our social lives.” Academic work is mentally and emotionally exhausting. Being a social creature can also be fatiguing. Injustice is maddening. So: what to do about all of it?
If I had the answers, I would probably not be an undergrad. But, with this in mind, let’s engage with some specifics brought up. The rolling of the quad, decried as “wasteful,” is exactly how the bloggers describe it. To anyone thinking critically about the matter, throwing toilet paper on trees is obviously wasteful, even more so than simply throwing it in the garbage, because we need to pay people to get ladders and clean the mess up. The reason it endures is also obvious to anyone thinking critically about the matter: Wake Forest is run primarily off of private donations, nostalgia is a powerful fuel for those private donations, and the rolling of the quad is a tradition that reminds donors that the Wake Forest they are supporting is the same Wake Forest that they went to. In the same vein, I suspect (but have no way of confirming) that Wake Forest has a strong financial incentive to sustain Aramark’s “monopoly over our dining and catering options” that the bloggers disparage.
This is to say that institutions hate change and that moving them requires so much. I would not be surprised to learn that Aramark and Wake Forest exploit their workers in ways alleged in this blog post. I would not be surprised to learn of systemic sexual harassment in fraternity lounges. Similarly, I don’t doubt that groups like THRIVE are too weak to deal with sexual assault; but here, I arrive at a stop, a place I must part with the bloggers. More people are acting in good faith than they allege. People that work at Wake Forest legitimately want to stop sexual harassment. The “figureheads” in charge of various political groups on campus genuinely believe they are doing good. The “diversity and inclusion” circles, despite their failings, were created because Wake Forest needed diversity and inclusion circles.
The bloggers are dissatisfied, even furious; they want to “break free” of the myriad bureaucratic institutions at Wake Forest. They criticize the “boring mediocrity” of the OGB, the “holier-than-thou farce” of the democratic socialists, and the “paralyzed” college political parties. The problem, however, is that by criticizing but not engaging with organizations on campus (and their criticisms are not without ground), they open themselves up to similar criticism. By enumerating the reasons that everything else is not good, they establish themselves as a structure (something like “The Anarchy Bloggers”) that they claim is good. I do not want to say that these bloggers do not make good points, because they do, and many changes can and should be pursued. In a sense, however, they have become the thing they hate: an organization that refuses to listen to the outside. In another sense still, by writing a post and establishing a “they,” they fail themselves: they build a structure for something structureless, an organization for an emotion that cannot be organized.
Some final, scattered, thoughts (because it is taxing and worrisome to engage with a post titled “You Are Not Safe Here”): we have not “lost the ability to care for each other.” This represents a romanticized view of history (not too long ago, this country was in a civil war); instead, we are angry as we have always been (sympathy is an ideal to continually strive toward). I am an advocate for real, genuine conversation, but discourse cannot save humanity. The OGB is, in fact, boring at times; that boringness is intrinsic and valuable in a campus newspaper. I went to a well-attended talk a couple of weeks ago about a feminist view of women’s participation in the labor market in the Global South. And, finally, be cautious of including rhetorical questions in your blogposts — you may be assuming too much about your reader.