As students – and parents – obsess about their college lists each summer, it’s extremely important to put things in proper perspective.
In his 1938 Defense of Freedom and Peace speech, Winston Churchill stated, “I avail myself with relief of the opportunity of speaking to the people of the United States. I do not know how long such liberties will be allowed. The stations of uncensored expression are closing down; the lights are going out; but there is still time for those to whom freedom and parliamentary government mean something, to consult together. Let me, then, speak in truth and earnestness while time remains.”
Today, on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook – the modern “stations” of speech – the most vulgar displays of perversity and obscenity aimed at spreading depravity around the whole of Earth are foisted upon site visitors; yet, to find valuable truth on such platforms takes focus and some basic research skills. Thus, it’s noteworthy when one finds both smut and truth in the same place, no matter how disturbing it is to view. Come along with me as we face it together.
Recently, I found myself on Youtube after an exhaustive Internet search for information about the obsession with status fed to the masses through both well-meaning purveyors and nefarious actors alike who collaborate to publish and prop up the ubiquitous explanatory genre of written and oral communication. This explanatory genre to which I refer includes everything from the US News‘ “Top Colleges” rankings to your local news site’s articles “explaining” what “we” learned from the latest loss by the hometown football team to national news programs that tell you the big take-aways (i.e. what they think you should think) after the latest presidential debate. In all cases, some sage – probably far dimmer than you – purveyor of the explanatory genre is paid to explain to you the way the world is…or the way the world is to those whose opinions matter the most…or propaganda plain and simple.
After ingesting such information 24/7/365, even the smartest and savviest among us are likely to put down our defenses and start believing some, if not all, of what we are being fed by the powers that be in the ‘information’ business who now default to this most dangerous explanatory genre of written and oral communication.
Yet, if you take a step back from the latest college rankings issue, the latest article about the “4 Things we Learned from the Latest Ravens Loss,” or the latest episode of the evening news, you may begin to realize that something is very wrong with so many of the explanations out there. So much of the information out there exists to communicate STATUS. Either the status of X versus Y or your status versus others’ status. Implicit in the modern explanatory genre of written and oral communication is the undergirding theme that if you don’t think like the purveyors and publishers of the explanatory genre, you better get in line if you want to attain appropriate status.
In fact, beyond the hard illegal and legal drugs consumed by so many purveyors and publishers of the explanatory genre, there are few things as addictive as the quest for status. Thus, humans’ inability to turn away from content that purports to communicate information on how to attain more or greater status. Many mammals that roam the Earth are status seekers. A relative few of the human species abstain from seeking status. Such individuals are truly free.
The rest of us, however, are the protagonist, Fredo Bang, in the video below, (remember that my research mentioned above somehow eventually ended with me visiting YouTube, a double-edged sword if ever there was one in the quest for knowledge). Watch – as painful as it may be – the full video below before reading on.
Warning: the below video is likely to be highly offensive to some viewers. I do not endorse or condone anything stated or portrayed in the video below. If you have a problem with it, contact YouTube, which seems in recent months to be in the business of taking down from its platform videos its employees do not like.
After watching the above video, I have to ask: are you appalled by what you have become? Good. You may be curable. I am a big believer in shock therapy. Are you in denial about what you have become? If so, you probably still care about which colleges rank highest on the latest college rankings lists. You may also like to post photos of yourself on Facebook or Instagram – but only when you look your best. You carefully curate selfies of yourself frequently. And you are as ferally status seeking as Fredo Bang.
The funny thing about status, of course, is that as more people obtain something that is considered status-producing – something usually associated with “the elite” – that something brings less status than before because anything that can be had by so many can’t be so elite after all. Rational learned people realize that most humans roaming the Earth today are far from elite as measured by intellect, morality, stylish excellence, what have you.
Colleges in the United States can charge students of over $70,000/year only because enough people alive today associate status with degrees from such colleges (and the existence of federal subsidies inflating the market). But, have you recently checked how many supposedly elite colleges no longer require SAT or ACT test scores as part of the undergraduate admissions process? Did you know that some colleges are doing away with a written application essay that reveals a student’s ability to think and write as many adults once could in favor of a short video produced by an applicant on his or her cell phone? It’s no secret that Harvard systemically rejects Asian applicants in favor of non-Asian applicants who have lower grades, lack of high school course rigor, lower test scores, and fewer extracurricular achievements despite colleges sending out admissions officers to tell status-seeking students and parents around the globe that all of the characteristics embodied by the rejected Asian applicants are exactly what these colleges are looking for in future students. Yes, Cornell, Dartmouth, et al. would be far more likely to accept a full-pay single passport Argentinian student with moderately impressive test scores (or better yet during the 2020-2021 admissions cycle, none at all) and workman-like grades than an exceptional Asian American student with the best grades, scores, and leadership potential in his or her state.
There was a time when graduating from a “top ranked” college was thought by many to demonstrate to the world that the graduate had a certain degree of undiluted knowledge, a public sense of decorum, a common understanding of and faith in Western Civilization, leadership potential, writing skills, potential grit, and determination. Did these institutions ever reward solely merit based on academic-heft, intellect, or character? No, but that was the myth. Today it’s a complete lie. Today’s Ivy League colleges are chock-full of followers who inadvertently happened to or purposefully plotted to check all the “right” boxes as deemed by the those running these supposedly elite eight institutions.
Yet, knowing all of the above, you have to ask yourself, why is high status or any status at all associated with such tertiary education institutions, which prioritize the color of one’s skin or the background of one’s family over so many factors that demonstrate the true academic aptitude and impressive character/talents of applicants? Maybe because the merchants of status – those who dominate today’s explanatory genre of written and oral communications – tell you that such institutions bring status to individuals who attend, teach at, or conduct research for such institutions. Do you believe them? If you do, should you?
But, as mentioned earlier, remember that the merchants of such information are probably far dimmer than you despite all of their published explanations. You just have to unplug from the information machine that drives you in your quest for increasingly meaningless status. Hardly an easy task. But one that is well worth the effort. After all, nothing of any real and lasting value is easy to attain – even if you get into the Ivy League.