Sensitivity and Survival

Yesterday around 10.15 in the morning, I entered the classroom where I teach to set up the audio-visual equipment so that I could screen a film for the students in my 10.20 class.  Normally I would have been in the classroom about five minutes earlier, but the previous instructor appeared to be in conference with a student, so I politely delayed my appropriation of the premises.  At 10.15, however, I judged that I ought to assert my presence.  As I walked through the classroom door, I noticed that the other instructor, a young adjunct, was indeed in conversation, as it seemed, with a tall, male, Caucasian person with long dark hair, whose manner struck me as heated and over-animated in a peculiar and immediately disturbing way.  That something odd was going on was instantly confirmed when the person, turning to face me, loudly and truculently demanded to know where I stood on school shootings and gun ownership.  When I made it evident that I had no interest in discussing the issue with him, he demanded that I give him my email address so that he could “send me a message.”

I looked at “Bob,” the young instructor, shrugging my shoulders in a silent appeal whether he could explain who this agitated party might be.  Bob replied in a quiet voice that he had no knowledge of the loudmouth’s identity.  That voluble person was now verbally harassing those of my students who were seating themselves in expectation of the film – insisting loudly and aggressively that they should answer his bizarre and random inquisitions.  Drawing me aside, Bob said to me swiftly and in a manner sotto voce that this person had inserted himself into the classroom uninvited early in the session, asking whether he could participate in a debate that Bob’s students were conducting and that he had overheard from outside.

Acting on my perception that the strange party’s behavior violated both decorum and propriety and migrated well into the wild land of the abnormal, I took myself to the departmental office and asked the administrative assistant to call campus security so as to request officers to come to the scene.  I went back to the classroom to find the miscreant still there, telling students in his loud and bullying voice that they should give him their contact information and other brazen and impolite things.  At this point I experienced fear for the students.  My gut told me, Tom, you are confronting a psychotic.  I addressed the interloper and told him in my best police-officer voice that, not being an enrolled member of my class, he had no business in my classroom and should depart from it on the instant.  He demurred with a nasty look.  I instructed him again, and he asked smugly whether I was going to call campus security.  When I said that I had already called campus security, he made his way out into the corridor in a show of defiant slowness.

In the corridor and its adjacent departmental common spaces, the party continued to harass people.  He singled out a coed from my class, more or less maneuvering her so that she was in a corner and he was blocking her from exiting it.  At that point I intervened, taking the coed by her arm and asking her quietly to take herself off to the asylum of the departmental office.  Where were the police?  There was as yet no evidence of them.  I wanted the harasser out of the departmental space entirely and I managed to cajole him into taking the stairs down to the next level.  I followed at a distance and saw that the security officers had finally arrived and were, at last, confronting the hooligan.  Later in the day, I offered my description of the event to the same officers.  In the course of speaking with them, I said that my gut-feeling about the person was that violence was simmering just below the surface and was about to erupt.  Both officers nodded in agreement.

I come now to the significance of the incident.  The adjunct instructor had permitted a total stranger, who turned out to be a student, but who looked older than an undergraduate, and who was behaving extravagantly, to enter his classroom uninvited.  Why had he done this?  Because he is young, shy, easily intimidated, and because he could not bring himself to say no or even to request that the stranger leave after the alarming behavior commenced, which was pretty much immediately.  And because, on no account, is anyone ever permitted not to be nice to someone else.  Other faculty members, all of them female, noticed that something odd was happening, once the lunatic had emerged from the classroom and was making a scene in the commons, but they preferred to ignore the commotion by retreating to their offices.  No one except the lone adult male, and that would be me, had any sense of a threat, and no one except me made any move to intervene to prevent something bad from happening.  Had the psychotic individual barged into my classroom while I was conducting a class session, I would have first of all have asked the students to leave the room as swiftly as possible, and then I would have done what I did: Call security.  But then I am a sixty-three-year-old man, fortunate enough by age to have escaped inculcation in the cult of jejune niceness.

I remark the extraordinary passivity with which everyone except me responded to what was, objectively, a breach of behavioral norms so alarming that it could, by a reasonable person, only be construed as a potential threat to public safety.  Perhaps it is no coincidence that the departmental walls are festooned with copies of an insipid poster expressing the mantra that our faculty is a “welcoming” one and that everyone is free to use our commons.  The late Lawrence Auster used to borrow from H. G. Wells to describe the current generation of hopelessly naïve young people, including college students, as Eloi.  In The Time Machine the Eloi are a race of effete human beings bred by the troglodytic and cannibalistic Morlocks as cattle, to live for awhile carefree and then be consumed.  It is not just the young, but everyone, as it seems to me, who has submitted to what is called, nowadays, sensitivity.  The term means the opposite of what it says: It really means insensitivity to violations of the norm, because, of course, it is the norm, and not the uncouth behavior, that poses the real threat.

21 thoughts on “Sensitivity and Survival

  1. Pingback: Sensitivity and Survival | @the_arv

  2. You do know that you violated that young man’s civil rights, right? Also, you engaged in what should be determined to be a criminal level of ableism and bigotry with your hateful expectations of violence from a neurological challenged / other-pathwayed individual. And don’t even get me started on your use of gender and race to both incite bigotry and to assumed unwarranted authority over someone else’s gender choices and racial identity.

    Truly, I’m surprised such a hate-filled and atavistic cretin like you is still allowed to poison the safe deduction spaces of a college.

    • The thing is, Jo, that I had no way of discerning which way the obviously sensitive and deeply informed young man (no doubt a veritable John Keats in statu nascendi) might lean concerning the question of school shootings. Was he for them or against them? And I didn’t want to offend him by being contrary. I mean, we’re supposed to be inclusive of all views and all persons, right? And the teacher’s job is no longer to teach; it’s to facilitate, after all. Let’s say merely that I facilitated him out of my classroom and finally out of my department, and that two adult males armed with pistols took charge from there.

      • Sorry. I tried to include %lt;/arcasm%gt; at the end of my comment but forgot to use the hex codes for the brackets, so WordPress treated it as a HTML object.

        I wasn’t lambasting you; I was lambasting the leftwing, snowflake mentality that is either the cause of or a result of the natural entropic process of this “welcoming” and “inclusive” idiocy.

        Not to worry, Jo. I grokked you right away and was merely riffing your satire. Sincerely, Tom.

  3. Stories like this never surprise me anymore. What does surprise me is that this sort of thing is not more commonplace than it actually is. What you see in kids like David Hogg and Cameron Klasky is just a milder form of the same (psychotic) behavior you describe above. But of course the disturbing thing about them is that they have had a man in their lives to jerk a knot in their *ss.

      • In the aftermath of the unnerving incident, a number of mostly female colleagues worried out loud about the well being of the psycho. There is a connection, I believe, between the inability of people in general to be unnerved by savage intrusions on the decorous order of things and the inability, concerning which I have been posting here at The Orthosphere, of so many undergraduates to respond to beauty or profundity.

      • I’m so glad you clarified that, T. Morris.
        Indeed, fatherless sons, and also daughters, typically have a much harder row to hoe when it comes to becoming properly civilized/emotionally stable Westerners.

        BTW: Terrific reporting, Prof. Bertonneau; you do your discipline great credit, being an exemplar of its magnificent potential.

        From another product of the exemplary California school system of the 1960s.

    • @T.Morris: Hogg and Klasky are potential high school shooters. Like Cruz, they are extreme narcissists who experience fanatical hatred against anyone who contradicts them.

      • Klasky is a potential school shooter, yes. Hogg strikes me as more like a 17 year-old version of Chuck Schumer, who prefers to keep his hands clean and do his murders legislatively. It would surprise me if, in ten years or so, Hogg weren’t elected to Congress by the ‘good people’ in the district that produced him.

  4. As a younger man, I am not at all surprised.

    What you did is seen generally by my generation (the millennials) as either an unutterably heroic act or an unutterably barbaric one, depending on the circumstances. Possibly both, as you see from the later sympathy of your female colleagues. That sympathy is not false (though it is not genuine either).

    • I would say that the sympathy for the offender is doctrinaire — it is what one should feel, according to the niceness cult.

      Meanwhile, the president of the institution states in a message that, “The student responsible for the disturbance has been arrested with one count of ‘attempted placing of a false bomb or hazardous substance’ in the first degree, which is a Class E Felony.” The presidential message also claims that no one was ever in danger — which is palpably not so, but is nevertheless consistent with the bland, “nothing to see here” attitude.

      • Based on my own experience of similar-but-not-same situations, I’d also say there are two passive responses, perhaps more.

        The first is the one you pressed most sternly in your post: not even realizing there was the possibility of real danger beyond discomfort.

        The second, which I’ve seen in action and even felt myself to my shame, is being sensitive enough to recognize the possibility of real danger, but being so bound by social taboo that your spirit does not rise to the level of the heroic/barbaric.

        I’m not sure which is sadder.

  5. Pingback: Sensitivity and Survival | Reaction Times

    • Dear Gil — Thank you for taking the time to read my paragraphs. It is heartening to hear from you and I wish you the best. We are in a phase of radical undifferentiation. The result will be, I fear, as unpleasant as it is inevitable.

      • Slouching is the most appropriate participle; partly like a fell beast, and partly like a 30-year-old living in his mother’s basement and failing to get off the couch.

  6. The enduring debate amongst former commentators at VFR hashing out “what is liberalism” could begin anew right here with “Survival and Sensitivity: What is anti-liberalism?”

    Which then takes “us” back to our former conception of “liberalism” as “tolerance and nondiscrimination.” Or, more viscerally, desire for pain and suffering. Self-annihilation. Ergo, the surest path to self-annihilation is “tolerance and nondiscrimination.” Liberalism is self-annihilation, ie., de-sensitized to survival.

  7. I experienced a similar situation such as this one several years ago. Based on my 14 years of employment in the social work field, it was a rule that a worker should err on the side of caution when it came to an individual’s safety regardless of a person’s feelings. I worked with both adults and children. Please take my observations for what they are worth.


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