The Perpetual Lives of College Freshman

Mark O'Brien
Jul 23 · 5 min read

Along with the pressure to be innovative and disruptive, we seem to be under increasing pressure to be authentic. As with innovation (by which we mean change) and disruption (by which we mean change), authenticity has superseded integrity to signal virtue, to claim some parcel of moral or intellectual high ground, or to signal we’ve forgotten the word, integrity. In a recent guest post, I wrote: “Authenticity is the appearance of integrity; that is, the manipulation of codes of sincerity that makes it appear one is thinking, speaking, writing, and acting with integrity. It’s a combination of crossing your fingers behind your back and a Get Out of Jail Free card.”

I test here the lines between integrity and authenticity, between honestly and ideology, between intelligence and common sense.

The 75th commemoration of D-Day this year had me thinking about where we are, what we’ve lost (actually, what we’ve surrendered or abdicated), and the fact that amnesia, gullibility, willful ignorance, and abject stupidity are a particularly pernicious combination.

On the home front, we have delusional children like Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez throwing out babies with bathwater, cutting off noses to spite faces, promising free tuition and the elimination of student debt, imagining that taxing an already over-taxed citizenry into penury is a good idea — to say nothing about what the self-defeating, power-mongering Green New Deal for which she’s chief huckster would do for the climate of a planet that’s been evolving for a while now. (Hint: Nothing.)

Quoth she:

I think we really need to get to $10 trillion to have a shot. I know it’s a ton. I don’t think anyone wants to spend that amount of money, it’s not a fun number to say, I’m not excited to say we need to spend $10 trillion on climate, but … it’s just the fact of the scenario.

We, of course, have nothing more worry about than a planetary climate over which we presume control. Our cities are in great shape. Our roads and bridges are in great shape. Our economy is in great shape. And our resources are plentiful, in large part because our immigration policy is in great shape.

Oh, by the way, for those of you who haven’t yet earned your CPA designations, ton is an accounting term. It connotes liabilities — financial and cognitive — that far outweigh any correlative assets.

We’re Not Alone

Such insanity is not restricted to these here United States, of course. There’s a UK-based group that calls itself, cheerily and with apparent seriousness, Extinction Rebellion. From what I can glean from its website, the group conducts periodic get-togethers to resist, to protest, to agitate for world peace, to take action, to challenge and break down hierarchies of power, and to achieve other such highly specific and clearly defined objectives.

It seems they also have seasonal uprisings to which all are cordially invited, provided, of course, you buy tickets in advance. This seems to imply the uprisings will be contained somehow, the better to prevent non-ticket-holding party-crashers from wreaking all manner of anarchic havoc on what are intended to be, evidently, fairly passive, benign, and well-controlled events. The selling of tickets also seems to suggest some parts of capitalism aren’t really all THAT bad, after all, depending on who’s going to use the money and for what. Perhaps the proceeds go into some sort of General Uprising Fund.

You should resist the temptation to assume from the Extinction Rebels’ indoctrination … uh … introduction video that the group comprises a gaggle of aging hippies who haven’t quite managed to get over themselves, to move beyond protracted stages of adolescence, or to stop whining about things that aren’t going the way they imagine they should be going.

Au contraire. These folks are determined to take action, you may recall. And as any Utopian will tell you: If you don’t have dreams, all you have is nightmares.

You’re Traveling Through Time and Space …

There’s a fine line, of course, between dreams and delusions. But Socialist Utopians, Central Planners, Extinction Rebels, college freshman, and others of their star-gazing, rainbow-chasing ilk have precious little use for inconsequential nuisances like common sense, empiricism, history, and reality. So, the fact that things like public policy and social order exist because things aren’t perfect, resources aren’t finite, and some people aren’t quite as nice as others may tend to be lost on them.

This is what reality would have looked like if reality actually looked like this.

Case in point: The map to the left was created by Sir Ebenezer Howard, an incorrigible Utopian and the father of the garden-city movement. It appeared in Howard’s 1898 book, Tomorrow: a Peaceful Path to Real Reform, which was republished four years later as Garden Cities of To-morrow. The facts that equality isn’t real or achievable; some people are inclined to accomplish more than others; other people lie, cheat, steal, and kill; and still others prefer anarchy and chaos to order and planning dimmed the stars in Uncle Ebenezer’s eyes not at all.

Live and Don’t Learn

Wake-up call: Communisim, socialism, collectivism, central planning, and every other form of totalitarianism have been murderous disasters on unimaginable scales. That statement doesn’t have to be defended. It’s historical fact. All we have to do is bother to learn and remember. If you’re not convinced, here’s a little light reading:

Every generation, of course, is entitled to make its own mistakes — to ignore history, to pretend equality and perfection can be legislated into reality (they can’t), to let those who promise equality and perfection take power, to be willfully ignorant of the fact that power can only be seized and retained by force, and to line up like lambs to the political slaughter.

There is no difference between communism and socialism, except in the means of achieving the same ultimate end: communism proposes to enslave men by force, socialism — by vote. It is merely the difference between murder and suicide.
(Ayn Rand, Los Angeles Times, Sept. 9. 1962)

But as long as we remain college freshman, we’ll be okay. And if we can’t find any safe spaces in which to hide from reality, microagressions, and macroaggressions inflicted on us by people like Ayn Rand, maybe we should all read more Robert Frost. At least his delivery of the same truth rhymes.

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Mark O'Brien

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Trust yourself. Question everything. Settle for nothing. Conform to as little as possible. Write relentlessly. And never quit.

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