To the reader who stumbled upon this article on Facebook: Did you just mark yourself interested in (or maybe even going to) a protest or a speaker event featuring an activist that you will never actually attend? It’s OK if you did — well, not really. But everybody does it, including the hypocritical, imperfect author of this piece.
Why did you mark yourself interested if you’re not going to go, though? Maybe your friend is involved, and you feel obligated to show your support. Or perhaps you want to save the event so you can decide later if you want to show up — but you won’t, will you? Oh, I know. You want to be a good person, and good people listen to impassioned speakers, attend phone banks every week and lose their voice screaming at protests. But, then again, you have a problem set due tomorrow, and God if it wasn’t for that, you would have definitely been there this time — there’s always next week. There will be more events.
Here’s the thing, dear reader: The person on the other side of that simple “interested in event” click is an organizer who believes their work is critical to protecting rights or increasing standards of living or ensuring equal dignity for equal people. They hustle for each dollar of fundraising, deal with unresponsive and uncooperative speakers and volunteers and ignore their assignments to devote their time and energy to their events. And what keeps them going is the faith that a sizable portion of the 271 people who marked “interested” and most of the 54 people who indicated they were “going” will show up like they said they would.
But those 325 people are like you, reader, so how many do you think you are going to actually attend? Fewer than 20?
Yalies are fake. They don’t care. They’re all talk, but at the end of the day, the privileged and protected community this institution fosters doesn’t care when elitist concerns are not at stake. These are the conclusions that the organizer of the event will come to.
Could you blame them for developing an underlying cynicism about Yale students and their Canada Goose jackets? Columnists in the News have already displayed concern for the fakeness of Yale liberals. It can be soul-crushing when the adversity you face is apathy.
Reader, you have friends and relatives who see what you do on Facebook too, right? They might even be “Republicans.” And my guess is they might have even sarcastically referred to you as something along the lines of a “social justice warrior” or a “hammer looking for a nail” more than once. Every time you mark yourself attending a phone bank you don’t show up for, every time you post a photo with friends from March for our Lives for the attention afforded a “good person” and every time you tell yourself or others you are going into finance just until you have the money to “make the world a better place,” you make it just a little bit harder for those who are really on the front lines of the important fights to convince your friends that activists are not just “virtue signaling.”
To be fair, reader, I’ve been a bit harsh on you. Because more likely than not, you probably really ARE busy — too busy to attend many events. Most people don’t have the time, resources and aspirations to be a full-time activist, and most people don’t have to be. You might be working to send money home. You might feel the pressure to earn a high wage to pay off existing debts or future ones. You might have apolitical dreams and aspirations. Or you might even just be a snake who LOVES the money that comes with finance.
But even the right kind of snake can be good for your garden. They can prey on rats or more poisonous snakes so your crops aren’t corrupted. So if you’re going to be a snake –– and if post-graduation employment statistics are accurate, almost all of us will be at some point — be a good snake. Find the causes you believe in and evaluate your own privilege in the world and the ways in which you might be inadvertently harming it. Have short but pointed conversations throughout your life to persuade friends and relatives to support solutions. Make the occasional call to your representatives, and show up at a few protests. But the most important thing about a good snake is it doesn’t lie about what will happen when you eat the forbidden fruit. And in the same vein, a good snake admits the bounds of its motivation and ability to pursue political work.
To quote my kindergarten teacher: Honesty is the best policy. So maybe undo your interested mark on that event you’re never going to attend.
Jacob Hutt is a sophomore in Silliman College. His column runs on alternate Tuesdays. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .