Monday, October 25, 2004

Fun Morality

"Fun morality, in consequence, replaces “goodness morality,” which stressed interference with impulses. Not having fun is an occaision for self-examination: “What is wrong with me?” As Dr. Wolfenstein observes: “Whereas gratification of forbidden impulses traditionally aroused guilt, failure to have fun now lowers one’s self-esteem.”

Daniel Bell, from The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism

No holiday is driven more by “fun morality” than Halloween. The goblin holiday’s immense increase in popularity over the last thirty years is in step with the rising prominence of fun morality over good morality. Halloween provides an individual one key day each year to enhance his standing among the fun moralists by spending absurd amounts of money and time to deck himself out in a costume that speaks to his dedication to fun. In college, a person who stayed sober on Halloween night (or the nearest weekend night) in favor of ardent study or soulful reflection would be no less shocking to the fun moralist than one who decided to enter the monastery.

College, in turn, is the place where fun morality rules most pervasively. It is only natural that college kids, having escaped the parental gaze for the first time in their lives, will spend the majority of their time jumping on the furniture. And generally they are taught by a liberal arts faculty that spends their intellectual capital metaphorically jumping on the furniture of Western civilization. There is a tacit agreement between the two – “don’t complain about the crap I am teaching you and force me to be accountable to your bourgouise tuition-paying parents, and I’ll let you slide with a B even though the few times you show up to my class you do so with bloodshot eyes.” It is a mutually destructive symbiotic relationship, but it nevertheless forms the foundation of a multi-billion dollar industry.

The dominance of fun morality on college campuses is why I don’t really sweat the silly ideology of the Humanities departments on the college campuses; even if a 19 year old student is inclined to take what they say seriously, they are unable to do so either because they are hung-over in class or they are trying to decide upon a Halloween costume that will separate them from others on the all important fun scale. You can send your kid to the most liberally biased campus in the country, and two years after graduation the most likely thing he will remember is how to mix a Tom Collins.

In the early 1960s, there was book entitled The New American Right, which consisted of a series of essays intended to explain the rise of a new conservatism in the U.S., which they did mostly through condescending essays based on facile pop-psychology. In one such essay, one of the authors penned the following:

“In the past, students who identified themselves as conservatives did not feel threatened in the campus social climate that supported their prankish and ordinarily unreflective activities … fraternities and sororities could protect such students from having to come to terms with the academic culture.”

Some parents may view their son joining a fraternity as an indication that their investment is about to go down hill, but I will view it in the opposite light; better that than to have them come home for Christmas break prattling on about their course on Post-Feminist Queer Deconstruction Theory in the Diary of Ann Frank. Now that would be a problem.

In fairness, the author of the above quote wrote it before the non-fraternity joining co-eds started holding faculty at gun-point and demanding to be taught slogans rather than truths; once these students were successful in crafting the ability to receive a bachelor’s degree for being an unmitigated ass, they figured – why not stick around and get a Ph.D. for the same? Now these same students are the authority on campuses, where freedom of speech only extends so far, and speech codes are enforced to punish any heterodox conservative thought crime that may be whispered between fraternity brothers.

As a parent, I’d prefer my kid to choose a “goodness morality” based on the standard Christian understanding of such (which centers on personal conduct) to the fun morality. But on most college campuses, the only two visible choices are the fun morality and a “goodness morality” of a very different sort – one that focuses upon whether one’s political opinions are deemed sufficiently liberal, and cares nothing otherwise for personal conduct. I’d rather my kid get rip-roaring drunk than subscribe to such prattle. (Some, like Professor Vic, managed to do both).

Halloween at Lehigh was important to the fun moralists, but it clearly ranked a distant second to Lehigh-Lafayette weekend, the most played college football rivalry in the country. Expectations for that weekend were punishingly high – you were fully expected to join the rest of the brothers for sunrise cocktails even if you left the bar in the basement of the fraternity at 4 am unable to distinguish the door to your room from a urinal. Nothing a little hair of the dog that bit you couldn’t cure two hours later. But for those days, who knows, I may have gotten my Ph.D. in some strange humanities discipline, and this would be a far different article. Fun morality didn’t build Western civilization, but it is the last (albeit inadvertent) defense of it on the college campus. (Man, am I a bitter and frustrated academic reject or what?)


Blogger pbryon said...

Just curious...while in college, did you feel you were being fed liberal tripe? We obviously went to college at the same time at different schools, and though I hear all the time about the liberal professors feeding their unsuspecting blank chalkboards messages from the dark side, I didn't really notice it too much.

Of course, my school did go through a silly stage where "women" became "womyn" because they didn't want "men" in their name.

Maybe its also a department thing. I'd think it would be tough to push a blatant liberal agenda on me when I was taking biology and chemistry classes most of the time.

That being said, maybe it worked better than I thought, considering I'm usually lumped in with Professor Vic on Ideas Hatched.

It doesn't seem like there's a happy medium. Most "conservative" schools seem to try to limit that "funness" that Hatcher is referring to. I doubt that the students at Liberty or Mercer or Oral Roberts are getting blotto like the respective students at Lehigh and Lafayette on that football weekend.

6:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know, a school with "oral" in its name sounds fun to me (and Bill Clinton).

2:08 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Sign up for my Notify List and get email when I update!

powered by