Our Dysfunctional Haverworld
As we seniors graduate and head out into the world, one of the things I bet most of us will seek is community. This seems to be one of the requirements for a sustainable society: one that is adaptive according to small, diverse regions, so that local conditions are met with appropriate technologies, and one that functions with a strong ethic based on social ties. In my future I want to feel I am included in and contributing to a supportive, caring and ethical community, whose values of sustainability determine our relationship to nature. I have not found this at Haverford College, as a collective society and an institution. (I hope you all can relate to this from Swarthmore as well. I doubt the two are really very different.) In fact, Haverford has helped me define what I do not want to be a part of--a large corporation that deals in the currency of its own prestige as well as its funding, concentrated only on maximizing the profits of this kind, rather than valuing the equity and justice that we have agreed should overrule economic decisions. Al Gore's comparison of US society to a dysfunctional family translates perfectly to the society at Haverford. This helps to explain the lack of ethics concerning justice and sustainability, and suggests that there is hope to resolve these problems.
At Haverford and Swarthmore we embody the Cartesian model developed in the scientific revolution that focuses on the separation between humans and nature, mind and body. Our colleges contain an extreme version of what Gore calls "the disembodied intellect"(524) in which we value our abstract academic thoughts above all else, as we "encourage the fullest expression of thought while simultaneously stifling the expression of feelings and emotions"(524). This degrades the quality of our college community in two ways: it represses our ability to relate to each other in intimate, personal ways and to talk about our true, deep identities, and this erases our differences and our means to create action, diminishing our initiatives to take power and make change on our campuses.
A perfect example of this phenomenon is last week's class. As classes go, our seminar gets into unusually personal material, and brings out unusually personal responses. Being a small class we know each other fairly well and are comfortable speaking our true minds. However, our voices almost always remain in the realm of the intellectual, giving our discussions a certain degree of safety and removal from our true feelings. Last week, only when we felt we had brought that intellectual discussion to a close, did we feel it was appropriate to talk about ourselves. And remember how the whole tone of the dialogue changed, even though we were talking about essentially the same things? Suddenly we were talking about ethics and sustainability, but we were speaking from the heart and relating to each other through our own stories. I do not believe we excluded the...