In my first two years at Yale, I really thought that I was a champion of social activism. I mean, I didn’t have a specific cause per se, but that’s only because I didn’t like to be chained down to just one issue. Instead, I thought broadly in terms of my social responsibility; for example, I frequently thought about volunteering my time to something that involved children, I only littered if the garbage weighed less than 10 lbs., and I once went to a great party that supported Sudanese divestment from China, or something. I don’t remember the specifics of the affair, but the punch was really good, and for a few brief hours that I don’t really remember, I’m pretty sure I was one with the Chinese people, or whoever.
But as it turns out, I’m not very socially responsible, at least not by Yale standards. This realization has come as a great shock to me since I came back to Yale in January, but it has gradually transformed itself into a nagging, guilt-ridden burden. When I was abroad in Brazil last semester, I can say with certainty that I was amazingly socially responsible. I championed change, started movements and condescended to Brazilians who weren’t voting for Barack Obama.
Not only were pressing social issues on my mind at all times, but I had rich debates with my friends. For example, I distinctly recall a particularly heated exchange last September with a Brazilian friend in which I put my heart and opinions on the line for the betterment of society and, admittedly, may have let my emotions get the best of me. I remember initiating the discourse in boldly saying to my friend, “Let’s go to Copacabana beach.”
My friend halted mid-exfoliation. My comment had sparked his passion, and we clearly had a difference of opinions. He looked at me squarely, and his rebuttal was passionate: “No, the beer is expensive there. Let’s go to Ipanema.”
I was taken aback by the firmness of his argument and the cool, level-headed nature with which he delivered it. Like me, he had sound logic and, sensing the possibility of the sort of drawn-out stalemate not seen since World War I, I made my final point.
“I don’t really care,” I said. “So long as I get to wear a Speedo, I’m fine with whatever.”
Debates like this take place every day in Brazil and, despite my being a foreigner, I was not exempt from their social implications. I was proactive in my stances and embodied the driven, responsible citizen for which Brazil is so widely known.
But Yale is not Brazil, despite their similar gross domestic products. I showed up, fresh off my Brazilian-style social activism, expecting Yale to be the same. But I had been away from New Haven for too long, and I was quickly called out by my peers on my ignorance towards social justice.
You see, I had forgotten that, as Yale students, we are inherently smarter and better equipped to identify and solve the world’s problems than anybody else, in spite of not having any real world experience. We may lack common sense and grounded judgment, but it doesn’t matter, because we volunteered in India for a summer and we’re really good at talking about it.
The problem was that I didn’t want to take up any cause. For example, it clearly would have been easy for me to start vigorously supporting Barack Obama. Like me, he lacks real world experience and, what’s more, I’m really good at being smarmy and patronizing towards people who don’t vote for him because they say he’s too “young.” That’s so ridiculous. I’m young, and I’m the smartest person alive. Also, I know just enough about John F. Kennedy to think it’s a flattering comparison, but not enough to realize it’s not. I would be so good at supporting Obama.
But everybody at Yale supports Obama because he’ll bring development and streams full of chocolate to that village in India where we all spent the days volunteering and the nights getting drunk on cheap Indian alcohol. It’s just not a very original cause. I needed something that was mine; something that would scream, “Hey, rest of the world, this kid knows what’s going on!” or “Hey, rest of the world, this kid has a hell of a resume!” And then it hit me: what I needed were chickens.
Did you know that at large farms in Texas, farmers breed chickens? For sale? To humans?? To eat??? That’s so cruel, and so delicious. And so cruel. I, for one, am outraged, and I have made it my personal mission to liberate each one of those poor, imprisoned creatures from the looming prospect of brutal and delicious death. It’s just not right, and I will personally put an end to it by the time I graduate Yale and take up substantive, paid employment.
So what did I do? I ordered 14 live baby chickens — the first batch of Texas chickens to be saved by me, the Avian Messiah — and had them shipped to my sister, who lives in Washington D.C. and who recently had a birthday. The plan was perfect: I would save fourteen helpless chickens from the deathly-tight grip of deliciousness and get my sister a wonderful birthday present. It was like killing two birds with one stone.
Unfortunately, not everybody cares about changing the world as much as I do — namely, my sister. Upon receiving the generous and just present she gave me a call, refusing to say hello and instead saying, “Did you just buy me fourteen chickens? I live in the middle of a city; what the hell am I supposed to do with these? My roommates are so angry with you right now.”
“Did Mom and Dad ever tell you you’re adopted?” I responded. “Because you are.” And with that, I hung up. She clearly did not understand the difference between right and wrong in this world, which is something that we Yalies must cope with. There will be people like my sister who just don’t believe in anything, who are pessimistic, who think chickens are best suited for, as she put it, “not my apartment in the middle of Washington, D.C., you dumbass.”
But neither my sister nor anyone who doesn’t have an Ivy League degree — and not a Cornell degree, a real Ivy League degree — will ever be able to hold me down from saving Texas’ chickens, one shipment to my sister at a time. I know what’s right for the world, and so do the rest of you. Trust your elitist and often irrational instincts, because they’re right. And whatever you do, don’t vote Republican — even though most of you will end up running as one.
Daniel Zier remains the only straight male scene columnist at the Yale Daily News.