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Oh, Henry! Notes from a Very Conservative Guinea Pig’s Life (No. 3)

By
October 1, 2008

Dear Diary,

I’ve been thinking about intelligence and values. Every culture has its own value system. A professor told me that the ancient Greeks valued bravery and glory in battle, while the ancient Chinese valued scholarly achievement and proper conduct. And sociologists say things about paradigms of dominance and things like that which basically seem to be about the same thing: certain values that a culture has, which maybe some people don’t have.

Yesterday I was talking with two upperclassmen, Alaric, an Education major and Juliana, a Psychology major, and somehow we got talking about intelligence. Juliana said, “Intelligence isn’t something you can change. You’re just born with it or without it. Studies show that it’s fifty percent inherited, even!”

Alaric retorted, “Even if it is fifty percent genetic, doesn’t that mean the rest can be learned? And with more effective teaching, people can increase their intelligence.”

At this point I interrupted, troubled by a different thought: “Why do we always talk about intelligence here?”

Alaric and Julia looked at me, bemused, “What are you talking about?”

“I mean how you are arguing about intelligence and how whenever we have a discussion at some point people mention how ‘Swarthmore students are all very intelligent, so…’ such and such. Why do we pay so much attention to intelligence?”

“It’s not that important,” Juliana explained, “but it matters because so many people don’t think through what they say.”

“—and they can’t think about complicated matters clearly,” Alaric added.

“But just being intelligent doesn’t mean anything,” I protested. “You could know everything and be the most intelligent person in the world and still be a horrible person. There are things more important than intelligence, like wisdom or charity.”

To be completely honest, part of my complaints about intelligence is that I myself am not known as the most intelligent creature on this earth. It is telling that the term “to be a guinea pig” is synonymous with having people test all sorts of things on you to see how you react – and they are usually not testing your intelligence! Still, my own pride aside, I have been surprised at how much intelligence is valued here.

Guinea pigs are herd animals; we value things like group loyalty. To be dedicated to your family and friends, to be willing to make sacrifices for them, there are more admirable than mere intelligence. After all, at least according to Juliana, intelligence is just “being able to process and adapt quickly to a novel situation.” Why does quick adaptation mean you will do the right thing?

A long time ago I somehow found some of Adolf Hitler’s paintings, which seemed quite pretty to me, and the work of someone who had some talent. Conquering nearly all of continental Europe later was not the work of a dunce. But no one will say that Hitler used his intelligence well; and so I think that my friends at Swarthmore praise a little too highly our own intelligence; on the one hand, we are none of us geniuses, and on the other hand, even geniuses can be evil.

Even if Alaric is right, and you can teach intelligence (I think he is probably right, at least a little), to hear people talk, we already have a superabundance of intelligence; we don’t need more. What we perhaps need instead is critical thinking. For instance, many times I walk into Sharples or through Parrish and there are students taking time from their busy lives to petition for something: in support of this or in opposition to that. They do not ask for or present a critical assessment of the issues, but rather a signature for a cause, which it is assumed everyone agrees with.

For example, someone told me many years ago that there was a petition to give a living wage to Sharples employees. This way they could afford to support themselves on their job. It was received with student support and now all Swarthmore students seem to happily stand by our support for a progressive policy. But when I talked with some of the employees, it turns out they are students at other universities! Their wage is twice what Swarthmore students are paid. It may be that I’m not intelligent enough, but it seems silly to pay other college students twice as much as our own students. It doesn’t seem to have been something we critically thought through.

Actually, there are lots of things more important than intelligence, many of which people who would never be admitted to Swarthmore have in greater share than I do. And some of the most intelligent people that I have met here seem also the least considerate of others. At least for me, intelligence isn’t enough. It is a false security. It’s like that one verse, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” I’d rather be known for any of those nine attributes than for intelligence. I don’t have them in any greater measure, but valuing something is the first step to attaining it.

Good night,

O. Henry

43 Responses to Oh, Henry! Notes from a Very Conservative Guinea Pig’s Life (No. 3)

  1. Martha

    October 1, 2008 at 10:04 am

    I understand that you are writing from the point of view of a Guinea Pig, but I think the following sentence is totally inappropriate:

    “Guinea pig culture is very traditional; they frown on cross-racial relationships and cannot believe that a female guinea pig would do such a thing.”

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  2. Miles Skorpen

    October 1, 2008 at 10:08 am

    The original version of this piece included a section of brainstorming for a future column, including the sentence Martha objects to. At the request of Chris, I removed that section of the article, since it was not intended to be published in this column (or necessarily included in any column).

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  3. Krystyn McIlraith

    October 1, 2008 at 10:24 am

    “For instance, many times I walk into Sharples or through Parrish and there are students taking time from their busy lives to petition for something: in support of this or in opposition to that. They do not ask for or present a critical assessment of the issues, but rather a signature for a cause, which it is assumed everyone agrees with.”

    Swatties assume that other members of the campus community have taken time out of their oh-so-busy schedules to educate themselves on important issues and decide for themselves what they think. The expectation that those petitioning students should explain in great detail all the nuances of their position is absuard. How many times, for example, does STAND have to spend its time educating students about the genocide, which, as members of the little community I like to call the world, we should all know about? How many times does Earthlust have to tell us what wind power is? If student groups spent all their time raising awareness, the next step of their missions – action – would never happen.

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  4. JFK '10

    October 1, 2008 at 11:37 am

    To be honest, this entire column reminds me of [url=http://www.somethingawful.com/d/news/bargain-book-bin-3.php]From the Desk of Brian Jacques[/url], though it’s hard to put my finger on just why.

    And I, for one, will eagerly await Henry’s scintillating commentary on cross-racial relationships, not to mention the apparent insertion of another guinea pig into his furry-Swarthmore metaverse. Will there be pseudo-anthropomorphic guinea pig love? Will Henry get to take more fun rides to class on cute co-eds? Will he get to keep meeting psychology students who evidently have not taken Debbie Kemler-Nelson’s course “Human Intelligence”? Will Henry keep invoking the argumentative fallacy of Reductio ad Hitlerum? I can hardly wait!?!

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  5. JRK '10

    October 1, 2008 at 11:38 am

    To be honest, this entire column reminds me of “From the Desk of Brian Jacques,” (http://www.somethingawful.com/d/news/bargain-book-bin-3.php) though it’s hard to put my finger on just why.

    And I, for one, will eagerly await Henry’s scintillating commentary on cross-racial relationships, not to mention the apparent insertion of another guinea pig into his furry-Swarthmore metaverse. Will there be pseudo-anthropomorphic guinea pig love? Will Henry get to take more fun rides to class on cute co-eds? Will he get to keep meeting psychology students who evidently have not taken Debbie Kemler-Nelson’s course “Human Intelligence”? Will Henry keep invoking the argumentative fallacy of Reductio ad Hitlerum? I can hardly wait!?

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  6. Sofia

    October 1, 2008 at 11:44 am

    Glad that sentence was removed, I found it extremely offensive.

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  7. WTF

    October 1, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    Chris,

    If you write a column about how conservatives are against “cross-racial relationships” I will personally start a petition to stop you from contributing to the Daily Gazette.

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  8. Andrew

    October 1, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    Hey Henry,
    I was pleasantly surprised to find a quote from the Bible in your column. Galatians 5:22-23 is one of my favorite passages. Thanks.

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  9. anon

    October 1, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    I look forward to the opportunity to talking to you and sharing my perspectives on why I disagree with what you said. (And I did see the postscript before it was removed).

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  10. Argos

    October 1, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    I have been trying for the past 5 minutes to think of something to say, but the stupidity of your column transcends even my ability to heckle.

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  11. seth

    October 1, 2008 at 6:14 pm

    I’m afraid I don’t get this column. What are you trying to say? Who are you saying it to? Why are you writing from the perspective of a guinea pig? Is it an inside joke? Is it an outside joke? When you write the bit about interracial relationships, what do you mean? Is it all just ironic? Are you trying to write what Swarthmore would be like to a non-swattie and chose a conservative guinea pig as the very antithesis of our intellectual aesthetic?

    Now that you’ve pissed people off with a line about interracial relationships, maybe this would be a good time to explain the premise of this column. Maybe as a fellow columnist with no premise behind my writing besides “just write something!” I should be wary of pointing the finger, but really, I don’t get it. An explanation of what you’re trying to do would be nice.

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  12. Argos

    October 1, 2008 at 7:53 pm

    Maybe the Gazette envies the Phoenix and wants to be equally pointless.

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  13. Ariel

    October 1, 2008 at 8:46 pm

    Henry (Chris), you keep making the mistake of assuming or insisting that everyone thinks the same way as you. In fact, I’m starting to think that’s the entire premise of your column.

    Also, have you ever tried, I don’t know, *asking* one of the tablers if you have questions about their cause? Maybe? I bet they’d be all too happy to explain.

    As to the point of some of our Sharples workers being students and getting a living wage, I don’t understand what your problem is with this. Living wages are meant to support people living on their own, or as one of the primary wage-earners of their family. Most college students at Swat are not financially independent, and therefore it makes no sense for us to get paid a living wage, since we (normally) don’t need to financially provide for ourselves in every possible way. The Sharples workers, however, are more likely to be supporting themselves with their wages, rather than earning spending money or a financial aid contribution. Your stance on this shows not only an ignorance of the circumstances of others, but also a reluctance to empathize and educate yourself. In this sense, your statement about “some of the most intelligent people are the least considerate” is ironic since you seem to be unwilling to be considerate of others, but expect everyone to be considerate of you.

    Finally, if you’re confused about the offended responses to your cross-racial dating comment, I suggest you look up the history of the word miscegenation.

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  14. Peter '11

    October 1, 2008 at 8:51 pm

    Damn, now I want to know more about this mysterious, now-removed postscript. Hope you write about it in a future column, especially if it will piss people off!

    In any case, I have so far enjoyed this column. The guinea pig jokes are definitely the best part so I would increase those, but I don’t really even think Henry is especially conservative, and he certainly isn’t very stupid.

    Ok, that guinea pig picture is just frickin’ adorable. That’s really all I have to say…

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  15. Peter '11

    October 1, 2008 at 8:59 pm

    As a side note, though, I do agree that most people tabling will explain the issues to you if you ask them. I’ve had people explain something to me for 15 minutes before I’d make a simple phone call or whatnot to whomnow.

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  16. Rachael Mansbach

    October 1, 2008 at 9:38 pm

    I admit that I’m more conservative than most people here, so in some ways I agree with some of the things that Henry says more than a lot of the people here do. And that’s totally cool. There’s a lot of stuff he says that I *don’t* agree with. That being said, I think we should all be polite about what he’s doing–which, by my lights, is just trying to shed light on another viewpoint. With all of us living here together, thinking mostly the same way, it’s difficult to remember that some people just don’t think like that. But I think it’s necessary to be reminded. It’s necessary because for one thing, we will come across people who don’t agree with us in the real world, so we will have to learn to deal with it. It’s also necessary because the voice of the opposite, the voice of that-with-which-we-do-not-agree is absolutely integral to an open-minded society. If we never hear the opposing viewpoint–”wrong” as it may be–we can never consciously choose our own over it. And for giving us that opposing viewpoint, I applaud Henry, as a searcher of truth.

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  17. JRK '10

    October 1, 2008 at 10:18 pm

    (I realize now why I shouldn’t comb and comment on the DG while at work — I went for a Reductio ad Hitlerum instead of Godwin’s Law. Too much Hitler, I guess.)

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  18. Kate

    October 1, 2008 at 10:52 pm

    I don’t think that valuing compassion, creativity, and other attributes over intelligence is a “conservative” viewpoint, nor is valuing intelligence more than other attributes a liberal or non-conservative view. I also don’t think you can say that the reverse is true, but I will point out that it is the politically conservative members of our society who condemn “liberals” for overemphasizing consideration for other peoples, lifestyles and cultures, for valuing the arts (which certainly require another type of skill, not just intelligence), and for expecting students to use their intelligence in socially responsible and compassionate ways, rather than just as a means to “bootstrap” oneself to the top.

    If this column wasn’t advertised as a conservative guinea pig’s view point, maybe I wouldn’t think that you were trying to say that Henry’s views were reflective of conservative ideology, political, social or otherwise. But thus far it seems you are saying that it is conservatives, and not the rest of us here at Swarthmore and in the world, who value traits other than pure intelligence.

    And frankly, it doesn’t seem from your column that you have thought critically about many of these issues. Someone who “thinks critically” about the tabling issues does not jump to the conclusion that the tablers assume everyone agrees with them, or that they have not themselves thought critically about their issue of choice. If you don’t agree with the petition, your response to the petition should obviously be not to sign it, but don’t insult the people who care enough about the issue to take action by assuming they don’t know what they are doing, when you haven’t even taken time to ask.

    I respect what you are trying to do here, Chris. Attempting to give a voice to the conservative few on Swarthmore’s campus is a worthwhile endeavor. But so far your means of doing so have been condescending, silly, and, especially in this installment, self-righteous. And frankly, the guinea pig aspect, while providing a light-hearted frame for the issues, makes it hard to engage with the column. I feel a bit strange directing my comments at -you- because you have said the viewpoints represented aren’t necessarily yours…but how can I direct my comments at an imaginary anthropomorphic guinea pig? If these are your viewpoints, own them. If they aren’t your viewpoints, I wonder what the point of this column is, other than maybe to annoy “liberals.” I don’t know what the conservatives’ reaction to this column is but I would be offended if someone started writing a column about a Very Liberal Mouse or something and started putting condescending, often-offensive, sometimes inaccurate, oversimplifications of issues into my mouth.

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  19. Stephan, 2011

    October 1, 2008 at 11:26 pm

    Peter ’11, what do you mean by “especially if it will piss people off” ?

    A column about how conservatives are uncomfortable with interracial relationships would offend many people, including myself. Unless the writing is very carefully considered, the views expressed would make me feel uneasy and frankly oppressed. Remember, Peter, that a comment such as “[I/Henry/Chris] frown on cross-racial relationships” can destroy someone’s self worth or force them to feel the pain of community’s hatred towards themselves and their family. Before you egg someone on to write offensive, racist messages in our newspaper, consider why you would want them to do so and the consequences of such a column. I can understand wanting to stir things up, but please don’t support ill-thought-out prejudice that comes with its own justification (i.e. the message is from a “very conservative but not very smart guinea pig”).

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  20. Argos

    October 2, 2008 at 2:39 am

    I think we need angry, human conservatives to complain that they feel offended by this moron. Probably my isolation is making me forget that last time I spoke to a conservative, we almost got into a fistfight over East Germany or some crap, but I’m currently feeling offended for the conservatives. They can be intelligent. Heisenberg was smart. His politics were a bit questionable….he wanted to help make a bomb for Hitler. But he was smart…okay at chemistry…not good enough to make a bomb for Hitler…so maybe not really smart. But good job with the Uncertainty Principal, yeah? He just couldn’t make nuclear bombs. But he was right-wing, and he was somewhat smart.
    You know why Heisenberg is awesome? Because he encouraged the mass production of deuterium to make those theoretical bombs, and then the Norwegians had to go on some secret mission to stop the deuterium from being made into bombs and some ship sank somewhere and it was awesome. Or something.
    This is why I shouldn’t try to defend people at 2:30am.
    I have no idea what I just wrote or why.
    Take that, National Guinea Pig Front.

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  21. peeved multiracial student

    October 2, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    What Stephan 2011 said. The original comment was offensive, demeaning, and hurtful, regardless of whether it came from a guinea pig or not.

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  22. seth

    October 2, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    I recently received a very thoughtful email from Chris in which he described the premise of his column and what he is aiming to accomplish. I hope to reply to him soon, but first to say:
    1) Some of these comments are very disrepectful. Not cool!
    2) Chris, I think, wasn’t endorsing opposition to interracial relationships. What I think he was going for, and you could certainly have been clearer about this, is that there might be a conflict between the way parents and students feel about swarthmore culture, or liberalism more generally.

    Have all of you really never experienced this? Not everyone is lucky enough to have the world’s most progressive upbringing. One person I know has said they do not believe in bisexuality. I love this person very much, and I think a lot of your comments are insensitive to the fact that the people we love might have what we view to be backwards and repressive opinions, and that it’s not easy to reject that, coming from the people who have cared for us and showed nothing but love and compassion through our lives.

    There’s a tension in rejecting the worldview of the people you love it’s sad and trying thing. And when everyone around you says that the way your mother/brother/grandmother feels makes them a bigoted asshole, that can be very frustrating and insensitive. Chris is trying to give voice, I think, to the tension between cultures that many of us go through upon arriving at swat. I guess people who view conservatism as evil wouldn’t get that it’s hard to reject the things you were raised to believe, and very sad. but they’re not really liberals anyway; they’re orthodox progressives, unaccepting and overly self-assured. And Argos, what are you talking about? When you get baked why do you choose to write on the gazette message boards? Wouldn’t you prefer some Adult Swim?

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  23. Ariel

    October 2, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    Seth and Rachael, I think part of what you’re responding to is the following: Chris is presenting political views in the form of fictional personal experiences. Personal experiences cannot be debated but political views certainly can. So when I and other commenters are debating Chris’ words, it’s not that we (or at least I) am trying to denigrate Chris’ experience or disrespect his feelings. I’m trying to debate the political stances that he’s espousing. Quite contrary to *stifling* ideological diversity, debate promotes it — by taking the time to examine his arguments, I’m showing that I take them seriously, even though I think they’re wrong.

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  24. Gabriel Riccio

    October 2, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    “Swatties assume that other members of the campus community have taken time out of their oh-so-busy schedules to educate themselves on important issues and decide for themselves what they think. The expectation that those petitioning students should explain in great detail all the nuances of their position is absuard. How many times, for example, does STAND have to spend its time educating students about the genocide, which, as members of the little community I like to call the world, we should all know about? How many times does Earthlust have to tell us what wind power is? If student groups spent all their time raising awareness, the next step of their missions – action – would never happen.”

    I think that this is a really unfair statement. In my experience, most swatties are, in fact, so busy that they don’t I have time to educate themselves about these things. Do you really think that swatties should spend all of their free time researching all of the depressing things that are happening in the world when the rest of the time they’re busy getting stressed over work?
    I also think that education is much more important than ‘action’. In the long term, you’ll get a lot further with a cause by educating people about it. This can cause them to make changes in their own lives, or to avoid making decisions that lead to similar consequences in the future. So, yes, the goal of these groups SHOULD be education. Signing petitions has never accomplished anything in my experience, and I don’t think a group of college students signing petitions about genocide is going to lead to any change whatsoever. The change will come from education. By educating people, you are taking action.

    I get the sense that a lot of you are taking this column too seriously and literally. Chris is just trying to get the community here to think about what we value and acknowledge our own hypocrisy (and yes, we are hypocritical. Everyone is in some way). He has stated multiple times that what he says in this column is not necessarily what he believes. He wants you to think, but all most of you are doing is becoming defensive. Why are you so attached to your value systems that you can’t look outside of them long enough to try to get a somewhat objective view on them?

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  25. Joker

    October 2, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    Why so serious?

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  26. Adam '11

    October 2, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    Alright, as backwards and weasely (or, shall I say, Guinea-piggy) as this column is, I do want to defend Chris on the petition/tabling issue. The fact of the matter is, the majority of students signing these petitions really have no idea what it is they are signing (wind power? Nice, I’ll sign it!) They don’t think critically about the issue, and just go for the knee-jerk liberal response. It’s a form of groupthink, and really goes against the intellectualism that this school is supposed to be about. If you think that that any more than a small minority of students are well informed about any petition-worthy issues, then either you don’t understand how complicated these issues are, or you highly overestimate the Swarthmore student body.

    It doesn’t really matter whose fault it is that many are uninformed about these issues; what matters is that many students are willing to take stands on political issues that they are completely ignorant about.

    Always remember that if someone has a petition, that means there is another side to the story. And if that petition is against the administration, remember that that other side has well meaning, intelligent people who support it, and the issue might not be as simple as students make it out to be.

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  27. Krystyn McIlraith

    October 2, 2008 at 4:34 pm

    Gabriel, as a senior here I’ve benefited from years of being educated on important issues by Swarthmore groups. This doesn’t mean that every time a group tables, they need to be raising awareness primarily. Like someone else said, if you don’t understand the issue that is being petitioned for or whatever else, just ask and someone would probably be happy to educate you. But student groups DO have it in their missions, often, to do things other than educate. It’s easy for us to believe as an institution that education is “much more important” than action, but then who is supposed to be doing all of this acting?

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  28. Gabriel Riccio

    October 2, 2008 at 8:28 pm

    I believe that education is probably the most effective form of action in the long term. Education can definitely amount to propaganda, and I think it’s smart to confirm the information that the groups here provide, but I’ve also never seen petitions make a noticeable change. That’s not saying that they can’t, but it seems lazy to me. If you’re going to do something, get out there and find something to do. Signing a petition takes no time and effort – how much change do you expect to get out of effectively doing nothing? On the other hand, education can cause people to change the way they live their lives. Also, I agree with Adam.

    Like Chris’s column, you should take everything I say with a grain of salt. I think that you should take everything that everybody says with a grain of salt. When people forget to do that, they tend to become divisive. We start to draw lines, spread hate, and start fights over opinions. As has already been brought up in these comments, just because somebody has an opinion you disagree with doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot to love in them. It’s only your own insecurity that tells you that people with different opinions are a threat. That sort of defensiveness seems to run rampant on these boards – often from the very people who claim to be the most tolerant and open minded.

    What label Chris puts on the views expressed in this article is somewhat irrelevant at the end of the day. Just take them for what they are – ignore the labels. Apply that to everything in your life and you’ll find a lot of beauty where you previously missed it.

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  29. Ramya Gopal

    October 2, 2008 at 9:48 pm

    As for the living wage comment, I think Chris has a good point. There are some students at Swat who use campus jobs as work study and depending on their financial situation, may actually rely on the wages they receive from these jobs.

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  30. Rachael Mansbach

    October 2, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    I just wanted to clarify–I was primarily attempting to defend the column from the unthinking put-downs it was getting, not the discussion. I absolutely love it when people post their disagreements in a polite fashion, because I really feel that that’s part of what this column is about–remembering that there is debate on a lot of things that we here at Swat sometimes forget there is debate about.

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  31. Argos

    October 3, 2008 at 1:28 am

    Working at Sharples is equivalent to being punished in the ring of Dante’s Hell in which a gigantic statue of an ass bathes you in excrement whilst you are harassed by demons.
    Therefore, being paid lots of money for dealing with it is OK.
    By the way: most Sharples employees are adults. Not students. It would be a bit messed up if they had a “since you’re still in college, you’re going to do the same work as these guys but earn an insultingly smaller quantity of money” policy.

    Does anyone want to work at Sharples? Cause I think my old job as William Burke’s resurrectionist was less disgusting. And those wages were awesome.

    I will take Chris seriously and present him with feedback that does not appear to have been composed by an inmate of Bedlam when he works out his species identity problems.

    Narrow things down to at least the correct genus, and then I will cease to insult you.

    Possibly.

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  32. seth

    October 3, 2008 at 8:14 am

    Argos, this last comment was a lot more reasonable. Ariel, you may be trying to debate Chris’s (Henry’s? I think the lack of distinction between the two is a big issue here) points, but your first comment was very condescending, especially in your second paragraph, and you called him ignorant and lacking in empathy for his opinion about Sharples wages. I understand why you would feel that way, as I hope you understand that if I were Chris, I wouldn’t want to debate you because your comment is mean.

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  33. Ariel

    October 3, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    Seth – Um, more condescending than trying to moralize by pretending to be a cute, fuzzy animal? We’re not children and we’re not idiots. If one wanted to talk about serious issues like a living wage and safe sex, I’d prefer it wouldn’t be done in a format more appropriate to pre-schoolers.

    The lack of distinction, by the way, is entirely on Chris’ part. Like Kate above, when I read these columns I feel that Chris is trying to avoid having to defend his stances in a public forum by claiming that what he’s writing is not representative of his own opinions. I mean, once he presents them in public, it doesn’t matter if he actually thinks them or not, he still has to defend them or admit that they’re wrong. Or do what he’s doing, which is sending private e-mails as himself so that things that he’s admitted to be his own views can’t be debated in public, unless I feel like posting his entire e-mail and my response to it on this forum.

    Gabriel Ricco – “I think that you should take everything that everybody says with a grain of salt. ” Honestly? You really thing that no statement ever made by any person is entirely trustworthy or should be believed? How do you live your life like that?

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  34. Shaun

    October 3, 2008 at 9:38 pm

    Why does Chris hide behind a rodent? He does so because he must. Forums like these only drive the point home further. I’m sure he probably feels repressed.

    As a moderate who feels like a conservative on this campus, I’ll be happy to shed a tear over the fact that the multi-racial relationship line was uttered by a conservative (whether or not he was a guinea pig). This is a viewpoint that is still prevalent within some groups that adopt the moniker that I attempt to defend, but as a man who has never seriously dated a woman of my own race, I must say that the characterization cannot be held true for the vast majority of thoughtful conservatives.

    I can understand the many frustrations that some of you feel with the column. It seems to some of you childish and to others patronizing that Chris would write from the guise of a rodent. To me, its a little gimmicky, but its better than straight polemical nonsense.

    I agree with those of you that say that Chris is trying to unveil a viewpoint that represents a minority on this campus — a difficult thing to do with the wrath of the majority always a word, phrase, or sentence away. Don’t begrudge him a little rodent named Henry as a shield from criticism. One may not see it as brave to use a rodent, but consider if you could do any better in an environment which can be as hostile as it can be welcoming.

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  35. Vy Vo

    October 4, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    Gabriel Ricco – I agree with you about taking statements with a grain of salt. I adore my friends, but I realize that just like me, they are not always correct. When they ask me to sign a petition for wind power, I ask for their opinion and their reasoning, and then I form my own.

    I think it is of utmost importance that one be able to separate political views and causes from personal qualities. Conservatives and liberals alike can be friendly, caring, polite, sincere, intelligent, and intellectually honest. Is it really so impossible to admit this? Fundamentalist Christians from the religious right are not the only type of conservative that exists. It reminds me of the relentless hatred between theists and non-theists: one must be morally bankrupt, or completely ignorant, or plain evil to believe in what the opposite side believes in.

    One of the reasons I support this column is because it represents a minority viewpoint. At Swarthmore, we’re supposed to be all about minorities. But when it comes to minority political or religious views, we’re ready to attack and to suppress these views because they’re offensive or unpopular. Get real. They’re nowhere near “fighting words” or hate speech–the minorities just want a voice and some understanding. Understand that half of the things the majority says might be offensive to the minorities. Yet they’re not ready to suppress you from expressing it, because it’s what you truly believe.

    Besides, we all become better critical thinkers when we allow the other side to speak. It allows to think of rebuttals, to better examine the nuances of the issues, and to develop an empathy for humans not exactly like us (in terms of gender, race, and socioeconomic status, yes, but also in terms of culture, religion, and political viewpoints).

    Again confirming Godwin’s Law–don’t you want to understand why Hitler hated and killed so many people? Only then could we be best equipped to combat genocide when it again arises in this world. Even if you disagree, quite vehemently, with what the other side believes, allow them to speak. Until they start violating basic human rights (like Hitler) or other basic freedoms, that is.

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  36. Gabriel Riccio

    October 4, 2008 at 7:16 pm

    “Honestly? You really thing that no statement ever made by any person is entirely trustworthy or should be believed? How do you live your life like that?”

    You miss my point. I’m not saying that people aren’t being honest or trustworthy – just that they don’t quite know what they’re trying to express, and therefore attempt to do so by adopting beliefs and convincing themselves that they’re correct. What I’m saying is that you can’t take the things that people say at face value, or you’ll get caught up in labels and arguments. You need to look underneath the surface – try to actually see each person.

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  37. seth

    October 5, 2008 at 11:17 am

    In response to the substance of your column, a) We talk about intelligence so much because of, well, let me just quote http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/2008/05/06/98-the-ivy-league/ at length:

    “Once you have determined that a white person did not attend an Ivy League School, you should try to give them the opportunity to explain why their school was actually a superior educational experience. Some easy ways to do this are to mention grade inflation, professors who value research over teaching, or high tuition costs. Any one of these will set a white person off on a multi-minute rant.

    When they have finally run out of arguments about why they chose the right school, you should say “I knew a whole bunch of people who went to Harvard and none of them work as hard or are as smart as you.” This is a very effective technique for gaining acceptance since white people need constant reassurance that they are smart and that they made the right choice with their life.”

    substitute “white” for “liberal suburban person” and that’s a lot of kids here. Anyway, do you really think no one here values anything besides intelligence? And besides, what is intelligence? Maybe other people define it in a way meant to include a variety of other desirable qualities. You should define your terms before you banter them about. Your ad hoc definition, “thinks things through clearly,” etc. is imprecise and really narrow. Maybe guinea pig’s don’t define their terms, but you should. And Chris, the whole bit about a guinea pig not perceiving itself as being smart, dude, I don’t care. Why are you writing as a guinea pig again?

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  38. Ariel

    October 5, 2008 at 9:08 pm

    Gabriel — Okay, let me paraphrase what it seems like you’re saying: “no one’s capable of saying exactly what they mean, so you should use” – what, intuition? Telepathy? Body language? – “to figure out what they’re trying, but failing, to communicate with their actual words.” Again: honestly?

    Vy Vo — I’m sort of puzzled about your comment. You say that listening to opposing arguments allows us to become critical thinkers and better support our own positions. I agree. Yet, you seem to be implying that everyone who’s debating Chris’ stance here is in fact “attacking” and trying to “suppress” his views. So, are you saying that we should think of rebuttals in our heads and then not say them? I don’t think that anyone debating Chris has said or thinks that he shouldn’t be allowed to post what he’s posting–with the exception of the contextually-challenged cross-racial dating comment thing–we just disagree and are saying so. I support Chris continuing to post very strongly, because, as you say, it allows me to hone my arguments and exposes me to opposing points of view. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to let his statements stand unchallenged.

    I think part of the problem here is what Shaun mentioned: “consider if you could do any better in an environment which can be as hostile as it can be welcoming”. Personally, I would be eager, if not overjoyed, to go to an overtly hostile conservative environment and argue my views, but, obviously, I think confrontation is fun (oh man, just give me half an hour with Sarah Palin). Sure, for a lot of people, confrontation is scary and intimidating, and I respect that. In that case, by all means, avoid confrontation. Chris put *himself* in this position by offering up essays that are essentially political in nature. I would love it if Chris would support his arguments here. He’s not. That’s not my fault, or the fault of any other commenter that disagrees with him. That’s on Chris. I should mention that I’ve known Chris for a while and know for a fact that he’s no shrinking violet when it comes to debates about things he believes in, so why he’s refusing to defend his own views–to contribute to the understanding that others have of his positions by elaborating on them–is a mystery to me.

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  39. Vy Vo

    October 6, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    “I don’t think that anyone debating Chris has said or thinks that he shouldn’t be allowed to post what he’s posting–with the exception of the contextually-challenged cross-racial dating comment thing”

    Why shouldn’t he be allowed to post this? Unless it’s outright hate speech, he has the freedom to express what he thinks. People are offended by many things that are neither hateful nor obscene. Simply because someone takes offense does not mean they have the power to censor a statement. Especially when the statement has not even been fully articulated yet.

    I should have been more specific. I was referring to this ‘cross-racial’ comment, since more than one person expressed disapproval, offense, wished that it was removed, etc.

    It’s fine to challenge this guinea pig’s ideas about Sharples wages and tabling. As you said.

    But personal attacks (i.e., this is a cowardly column, you must be willfully ignorant) on those who espouse contrary views are often a subtle way to force the person into silence. There have been a few in this comments section. If someone complains about feeling oppressed because this guinea pig is being politically incorrect, he has as much a right to feel oppressed because they are complaining. Mind you, I don’t think this is productive.

    Why express personal judgments about someone’s character or personal qualities? It is irrelevant to the argument. Why take offense at comments not even directed at your character or personal qualities? If they offend your moral values, then you may debate that. If you think such comments will lead to social harm, you may bring that up. But making things personal and taking them personally does not make discussion productive.

    This, I guess, bothers me the most. Half the time an argument is spent insulting, the other half actually addressing points made in the article.

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  40. Ariel

    October 6, 2008 at 5:17 pm

    Vy Vo – I don’t think he shouldn’t be allowed to post such things, I just wanted to include that so that I wasn’t lying (i.e. it’s factually untrue that no one’s mentioned revoking his right to post, they have, but only in reference to that particular comment). Chris, or anyone, can post whatever they want on the Internet, that’s part of the nature of the medium. And, to my understanding, his ability to post here is only restricted by the opinion of the Gazette’s editorial board, who seem to be doing an admirable job of being objective.

    I take issue with the statement that calling the column cowardly is a personal attack. Someone’s writing can exhibit cowardice without that person being a coward. Similarly, I can call the column itself cowardly without calling Chris himself a coward.

    Finally, I think that the nature of this column, again, is leading to a lot of problems. Chris is presenting what are, to some, offensive political views (pre-marital sex is immoral! doing drugs means you’re not fit for a position of power!) in the form of *personal experiences*. Well, is it a political column or a personal one? If it’s political, everything can be criticized and debated, including the persona Chris has invented to represent his views, especially since this persona is *fictional* and Chris himself has disavowed its direct connection to his personal views. In that case, what is a personal attack? Obviously not an attack on Chris personally — he has said that there’s nothing, really, of himself here to attack. So it’s an attack on the fictional guinea pig, personally. Which, I agree, doesn’t make much sense, but I think it’s worth keeping in mind, since it would be unreasonable for Chris to feel oppressed by comments directed at, basically, a character he’s created, and the guinea pig can’t feel oppressed since it doesn’t have feelings. In that sense, what may seem like a personal attack is in fact a critique of the tone and voice of the political column — addressing the Chris’ writing style, which in many ways is as communicative as his actual points.

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  41. Gabriel Riccio

    October 7, 2008 at 9:13 am

    Maybe I misunderstood the context, but he seemed to be referring to a human/guinea pig relationship. You all seem to be getting mad because Chris said a guinea pig’s parents don’t condone relationships with humans. It’s not cross-race, it’s cross species. Are you all saying you want to defend the right to have a relationship with a guinea pig?

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  42. Chris Green

    October 7, 2008 at 9:35 am

    Hello everyone,

    I want to thank you all for your comments (and encourage you to continue commenting!). I have appreciated the thoughtful dialogue that you all have produced. In my next column I will address some of the issues that having been causing confusion: the context of the deleted article snippet, the rationale for writing from the perspective of a guinea pig, and perhaps some other aspects as well.

    Yours,
    Chris Green

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  43. Argos

    October 7, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    Wait, maybe he means inter-racial guinea pig relations…or inter-bred.
    Or guinea-pig/cavy relationships. Those are hot hella messes.

    Has anyone here ever eaten a guinea pig? They are apparently delicious.

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