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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Johnson: ‘Welcome to the fall term of our discontent’

<ome to Carleton. Unless you are a sociopath, you’re probably a little anxious.”
-Hannah Watson

In my opinion, a little good, honest hatred is an indispensable element in any stable emotional relationship. Or, at least, unconditional love is a positive sign of sickness and abuse.

To illustrate this point, let’s look at the Tea Party: from a very squishy, ideological, humanities-oriented perspective, their basic outlook is that this country is a complete mess. They see a massive government, out-of-control federal spending, and an increasingly promiscuous and immoral population. People are getting abortions! People are getting gay married! The country, their own part of it aside, is rapidly becoming a morally degenerate totalitarian welfare state. There’s an endless list of things wrong with it. And yet they would rather die than admit that the country itself is flawed. They unconditionally love the country itself – it’s just the people running it, and most of the people living in it, who get in the way.

They’re a little bit like horses who like their blinders so much that they’ll bite you if you try to take them off. That, in my opinion, is what unconditional love does – it turns you into an utterly irrational animal, more invested in its own emotional comfort than in any real understanding of its situation. It allows you to be an idiot with authority borrowed from our culture’s most sacred emotion.

Obviously, hatred alone is even worse. But in moderation, it’s very healthy. A little hatred humanizes us, and it humanizes the things that we hate. Unconditional love flattens its objects. When you first fall in love with somebody, for example, you project onto them all sorts of your ideas of what a good person is. She definitely doesn’t have a tattoo. She definitely doesn’t do PCP. She definitely doesn’t listen to Hanson. It’s very comforting – but it’s a form of dehumanization, of transforming a person into a set of abstract values. And when she brings home tickets to The Vampire Lestat: The Musical, you might hate her a little, for just a moment, but at least you understand something about her.

I believe that understanding is more important than comfort, and I believe that hatred leads to understanding. It disturbs me, then that more people at Carleton don’t hate Carleton. There are so many things to hate.

We avoid meeting the eyes of people we had sex with last night. We’re endlessly nervous about our job prospects once we’re in the real world, but our school’s entrenched adherence to the liberal arts model makes it impossible to really dissent. We drink on Wednesday night and get up early the next morning to write papers through pounding hangovers. And through all of this we grin like jack-o-lanterns, because we love Carleton, and little things like that are just part of the experience, right?

None of these things make Carleton bad. Heaven forbid! But I do think it’s tempting to go into denial about the things that are wrong with this college, to hide behind Schiller and the Malt-o-Meal smell the way the Tea Party hides behind tricorn hats. To survive here I think it’s very important that we react organically to what’s wrong with our school, even if we don’t have any solutions.

So welcome to the Fall Term of our discontent. The purpose of this column is to critique the way we exist on this campus, in the hope that it will humanize the college for us, or humanize us for the college. We need to better understand ourselves, and nothing creates understanding like a little hatred.

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