Poppycock, Hate and the Sorrows of a Careless Young Man

It is said that English burglars once took the precaution of checking each other for weapons before they set out on a heist.  English courts looked with especial disfavor on armed robbers, and the whole gang might be hanged if one of them panicked and committed a hasty homicide.  Young men nowadays would do well to follow this example and check each other for cell phones when they plan to imbibe and act like idiots.

This is shown by a scandal that has this university reeling, and that will almost certainly bring no end of grief to the careless young man at its center.  Just last week a 37 second video was uploaded to a Snapchat account, and in this video, local news tells us, “several variations of the n-word are scribbled on blackboards as a white student holding an empty beer bottle uses offensive language to describe children of mixed races.”

I have not seen the video, and so cannot vouch for the variations or describe the offensive language, but our university president apparently did see the video and has pronounced it “abhorrent and against the core values that we share.” In his letter to the university, he specifies that it violates our core values of “respect, excellence and integrity.”

This is pure corporate poppycock. The young man in the video was vulgar, rude and offensive, but the president’s letter is pompous, blustering and daft.  When a young man empties a few bottles of beer and tries to entertain his friends, he does not, as a rule, do this by reciting the opening lines of the Declaration of Independence. As a rule, he is vulgar, rude and crudely disrespectful towards the pieties of his elders.  This is why college boys have always been vulgar lampoonists—and it does not require a Ph.D. in psychology to understand why they have most often lampooned the pieties that university presidents nowadays call “core values.”

Speaking of those core values, I do not see how one can value both excellence and universal respect, or how rude and offensive vulgarity violates the value of excellence.  It is, of course, possible to value excellence and yet remain polite to rejects, failures and wannabes; but I do not see that politeness to rejects, failures and wannabes is entailed in the value of excellence.  Rude perfectionist is not an oxymoron.  Indeed, long reading of critics has left me with the distinct impression that love of excellence is most often found in close proximity to acid scorn for failure.

Integrity is just a word that comes into the head of moral mediocrities when they wish to say something fine.  Consider that this young man would be a model of integrity if only he always acted as he acted in the video.  A thoroughgoing scoundrel does not lack integrity!

We have this word poppycock from the Dutch pappekak, which literally means soft dung.  The image this conjures is vulgar, and possibly offensive, but it is also highly expressive.  If you have spent any time around the stern of a cow, you will have seen the ease with which that animal relieves itself.  For thousands of years, constipated men have likewise seen this natural wonder and wept with envy over those effortless bowel movements.  The spectacle eventually suggested a metaphor for the smooth movement of empty words that pass, just as effortlessly, from the opposite end of the alimentary tracts of men.  Poppycock!  (Albeit most often specified as the prodigious poppycock of a bull.)

Returning to the corporate poppycock at hand, our president tells us that “the importance of inclusion and diversity at Texas A&M can’t be overstated.”  Well, I will take that “can’t be” as a challenge.  How about this?  “Thermonuclear war would be a small price to pay for the preservation of inclusion and diversity among a few charred survivors at Texas A&M University.”  Or how about this?  “Diversity and inclusion is much more important that teaching, research and running water at Texas A&M University.”

You see the problem with poppycock.  One can produce an endless quantity without straining to think what one is saying or has said.

This letter tells us, to give yet another instance, that incidents like this one must be reported at a website called “Stop Hate,” but then, only a few lines later, that “those who champion those [sic] beliefs represented in this video are not welcome at Texas A&M University.”  We can only suppose they are not welcome because the university hates them.

Unfortunately for an imprudent young men like this one, there is no hotline he can call to stop that hate.

4 thoughts on “Poppycock, Hate and the Sorrows of a Careless Young Man

  1. Pingback: Poppycock, Hate and the Sorrows of a Careless Young Man | Reaction Times

  2. One of the ultra-conformist, ultra-puritanical gestures imitated universally and automatically by my departmental colleagues and faculty members in other departments is to affix to their office-doors a treacly-sentimental list of groups that are “welcome in my classroom” — i.e., are subject to the piety of “inclusion.” A list, however, does not function on the principle of inclusion (unless it lists everything and everyone in the universe); lists function, invariably, on the principle of exclusion. That is why the bouncer at the entrance to the hip nightclub has a list. If the aspirant-to-coolness’s name ain’t on the list, the bouncer refuses entry to the aspirant. It is easy to guess the names of those groups that are not included in the identical pious lists affixing those smarmily identical office-doors. “Mussulmans” (for some reason using the Spanish variant of the term) are “welcome,” but not Christians; “trans people” (in the bizarre phrase) are “welcome,” but not Trump-supporters; and “refugees” are “welcome,” but not citizens. The mindless mimesis of it, the concomitant non-diversity, the obliviousness to the exclusionary character of lists, and the fuming hatred-inspired motivation of it all are, in a way, amusing. But whether this observation is relevant to Poppycock Studies, I remain unsure.

    • I’ve seen similar signs on the doors of faculty offices. They of course imply that the welcomed students are not welcome, perhaps not even safe, in offices that do not bear the sign. Which is of course an insult to the rest of us. I recently saw a course syllabus that extended a special welcome to transgendered students, indicating that in this course they would be spared the mockery and abuse they suffer elsewhere.

      • Oh — I forgot Latinx (with an X). Latinx are welcome, but not, apparently, Laxdalers or Dacians. (Laxdalers also boasts an X.) And what about Sasquatch???

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