Orientation was almost over. All of the student leaders were
called to a community-building workshop in a crowded and frigid Edmunds
The crowd passed around the microphone from one
eager speaker to the next. Every word that was spoken was eloquent, well-phrased and pertinent to the social issues on campus. It was like a rock show
of social consciousness. Honestly, I looked on to my peers with a keen mixture
of respect and jealousy. Why couldn’t I
speak the way they did in public?
Thirty minutes into that odd performance—around
the time when each successive statement was more or less repetitious—I saw what I
was really taking part in: Communal masturbation. Self-stimulation of a rhetorical
nature. Verbose stroking in front of a captive audience.
I couldn’t get the image out of my dull head. Every speech
seemed less insightful and more the product of one person taking a chance to
show themself how intelligent they had become. “Don’t I sound college
educated yet also unique?”
If the hippocampus had a clitoris, this was surely the method
of reaching it.
But don’t get me wrong—I have nothing against auto-erotica.
In fact, masturbation is one of those oddly universal yet ill-mentioned human
things. Either you’ve done it or you’ve given it some honest consideration. It
is the dimly lit corner of Humanist philosophy.
When it is right in your face, however, it is harder to
think so positively about it. Someone with a microphone, in a crowded room, just,
you know, confidently masturbating. You can’t even leave the room. All you can
do is get ‘turned on’ a bit, attracted to the words, style and figure of the person
in front of you.
It is all pretty erotic—this whole business of public
rhetoric. There is drama, pathos, intrigue, intellect and an object of desire.
A good speech can sincerely make you attracted to the speaker. And if said
speaker has a smooth voice, all hope of remaining objective falls to
the wayside. As the prominent political philosopher Aaron Dontez Yates once
said, “On stage he [/she/zee] captivates, all the hate deactivates, for
laughter’s sake he has to make ya batch collapse
and masturbate…” [Emphasis added.]
It is the goal of the speaker to wash up the listeners in a
haze of mixed desires. As listeners, we all are pretty okay with this arrangement—if
the speaker is practiced, that is. In the case that the microphone finds its
way to a particularly self-indulgent type and the masturbatory act becomes too
salient, then the next few minutes become a sort of dark comedy, as if you
followed a wrong link to the rarely seen depths of a PornHub.com subcategory.
In fact, most of us simply ask for the microphone so we can
be our own little allegorical ‘Pied Pipers,’ playing a song so delightful and
sweet that our peers can’t help but follow us wherever we are headed. We stand,
recite and play the ‘flesh-flute’ until we are satisfied.
All jokes aside, this whole ordeal is of particular gravity
for us college folk. All of us want to be heard, but we don’t quite understand
why. Our vocabularies have all skyrocketed to a pretentious plateau of
It seems most every issue on these campuses is steeped in these
self-indulgent modes of speaking to one another—particularly so with the
topics that fade out of real context and into abstraction or theory. We talk
and talk for hours without saying a word.
And the real, deep-down and tragic part is that we have a
limited time here. Four years easily melt to two, then to one. And all of this
opportunity we had been given, to be downright real, with everything from chemistry to social justice to culture to ethics, disappears while some of us just stand around, knowingly rubbing our ‘intellects.’
If only we could speak less, maybe with simpler words,
perhaps like poetry, then we could get our point across more genuinely. We
could seek connection rather than self-inflation.
That would be a pretty utopian world, wouldn’t it? One where
we all talked a bit more thoughtfully, with a bit less public self-indulgence.
One where a column like this wouldn’t have to balance satire and honesty so strangely.