Does it seem like everything goes from zero to sixty faster than a Ferrari these days? That’s because everything does. Welcome to the world of tipping points.
On planet Tipping Point, nothing can be assessed with any sense of calm. You’re on this side or you’re on that side, and if there’s more people on this side, buckle up, because the whole thing will instantly tip.
In our most recent examples of planet Tipping Point spinning off its axis, the students of several universities across the country have taken a recent trend — regarding “safe spaces,” triggers and micro-aggressions — to an extreme, launching a variety of protests, demands and grievances over a series of “incidents” of varying levels of seriousness.
I won’t waste my limited word count here summarizing the events of the last month at University of Missouri, Yale, Brown, Amherst and several other colleges across the country. If you have no clue what’s afoot, you have a lot of reading to do. If you have heard about the rampant discontent of America’s university students, then let’s not even waste time debating the causes. By which I mean to say, let’s just agree to agree as a civilized society that racism is bad, and events that cause pain and fear to students, such as a swastika drawn in fecal matter (as was the case at Mizzou) or racial epithets being hurled by other students (which undoubtedly happens all over the place), are bad and we should strive as a community to eradicate them, as best we can within our means as a free society.
Micro-aggressions are not the same as macro-aggressions. And perception is not the same as reality. Perceiving an offense does not automatically make one exist, and the students of four-year non-commuter schools like Yale and Amherst are most certainly not facing the type of racism that their counterparts of the same age face living in the real world, by which I mean, not tucked away on a tony Ivy League campus.
At OSU, a large gathering was held where students could give voice to their grievances. Some sounded much more substantial than others, but they were all being given a voice in a calm respectful atmosphere. Shouting down administrators and menacing media representatives is not only the exact opposite of that, but it’s the opposite of what a university is supposed to represent, a place where free expression of thought is unhindered.
At the end of the day, what we’re seeing on these campuses is simply the desire to be a part of a movement. One they see as transformational and historically important, which indeed the #blacklivesmatter movement may well be. But simply a case of wanting to belong nonetheless. But the students crusading for vague institutional change at their universities, places their parents have paid an arm and a leg to have them babysat, are not exactly on the front lines of the struggle.
We should stop pretending that they are, because on planet Tipping Point, perception becomes reality a lot faster than it used to.