Sex. Just kidding, keep reading. We think ourselves to be sharp, critical thinkers. However, because of Yale’s institutionally induced “anything goes” culture, we become dangerously unaccustomed to original thought. Instead, we stick with the bandwagon. I had this realization while grabbing lunch with a Conservative Party member.
I was looking into the party, so he asked why I was conservative. I racked my brain trying to come up with some philosophically esoteric response. Then, after failing to think of anything impressive, I decided to go with the honest answer: I was raised by religious parents that escaped communist Romania and distrusted big government. In other words, I was an environmental byproduct.
This, of course, was a bad answer. I knew that I held certain beliefs, but I couldn’t pinpoint why. All that I had done was explain a cause-and-effect relationship. My family, friends and religion leaned one way and I leaned the same way. I adopted my culture’s conservative opinions without formulating my own.
Oftentimes, Yalies do the same with liberalism. We become enthralled in Yale’s liberal political and moral culture. We convince ourselves that these opinions are original, but usually they’re just taken off the bandwagon shelf. We form our identities around the larger Yale identity, perhaps to gain that warm, fuzzy feeling of belonging. Because we do this, we tend to stick to majority opinion instead of thinking as individuals.
In the political sphere, we focus on party labels instead of policy issues. To reference the Ward 1 Alder election, the “R” in front of Ugonna Eze’s campaign is seen as his main political problem, not his policy proposals. According to Eze’s website, his policies focus on homelessness, crime, under-performing schools, irresponsible spending and connecting Yale to the community. His campaign team is bipartisan, and yet his label is still the cause for concern. If we are truly progressive, let’s be open to progress wherever it comes from.
A similar pattern governs Yale’s institutional relativism, which has metastasized to nearly all aspects of campus life. Underage drinking is treated as a health issue and nothing more. Sex can be as casual as taking your friend to froyo: as long as they explicitly say that they want the yogurt, you’re in the clear. Religion is just something that we used to do. And screw patriotism anyway! Only warmongering, capitalist pigs say the pledge nowadays. On a good day, we still claim to value tradition: For God, For Country, and For Yale. But this is college — we don’t make value judgments here. Though, if you do, we’ll judge you.
Of course, we intellectuals always have and always will believe in things. The danger comes when these beliefs aren’t rooted in anything but culture, because culture can be wrong. Whether you are conservative, liberal or neither, step outside of your bubble and think about the ideas themselves. Vote by policy, not party lines. Live by your own moral code, not the crowd’s moral code. If your beliefs are your own and they also happen to coincide with Yale’s political and moral culture, then you don’t have a problem. If, on the other hand, you realize that your beliefs are only rooted in Yale’s culture, then walk outside the Popeyes’ boundary and form your own beliefs.
After graduation, we will go on to join the educated aristocracy. We will lead in the world’s most powerful institutions, in fields such as STEM, education, business, law and the media. In essence, we will be directing our nation’s culture. Will this new direction be rooted in the pursuit of truth, or in the pursuit of popularity? These two ideals need not be mutually exclusive. Yet, if they become so, it is our duty to side with truth.
Kevin Olteanu is a freshman in Ezra Stiles College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .