Pellowski: Nobody Rages, Ever

by Aaron Pellowski | 4/23/15 7:30pm

In her April 22 opinion column, “Difficult To Recognize,” Michelle Gil ’16 laments the dismal state into which the College has slowly sunken in the past three years -— since the halcyon era of her senior-year college applications, the Dartmouth Outing Club’s First-Year Trips and orientation. A school that enchanted incoming members of the classes of 2015 and 2016 seems to have grown odious and gangrene as of late, as the talons of administrators lock in tighter on the throat of the Greek system, Dartmouth Dining Services oppresses students with pharaonic cruelty through five-dollar Odwallas and three-dollar cookies and Alpha Delta, the greatest fraternity in the history of the college — perhaps even the universe — falls like the last stronghold of the Roman Empire to the foreign powers of mainstream media and public image. Like the proverbial frogs who died in water brought slowly to a boil, we hesitated to speak up for ourselves with each passing term, watching things get worse and worse from behind the rim of a Keystone can.

It is hard not feel a little cheated by the whole affair, and I have no simple remedy to offer — except that we might consider how our nostalgia is symptomatic of a larger feature of the College’s history, namely that everything is constantly in flux. The phrase “nobody rages anymore” is a popular saying, one I’ve heard periodically since my first year, always with a note of semi-ironical despair. There is a sense that, in some bygone age, Dartmouth was a paradise of full-hearted partying and camaraderie, and this spirit has since been crushed and supplanted by timidity and NARPitude. Someone is responsible, but it’s hard to say just who. Pointing fingers doesn’t help soothe the longing for Atlantis to return from below the seas of time and reassert itself in place of this sham of a “party school” we thought we chose to attend.

Interestingly, however, “nobody rages anymore” is no new meme. It’s been posted on Bored At Baker — the infamous, anonymous online forum — 236 times since I’ve last checked. The site is only nine years old, and the earliest iteration of this meme is from eight years ago. In 2002, Liam Kuhn ’02 published an column in The Dartmouth titled “Nobody Rages Anymore” in which he bemoans the Student Life Initiative — last decade’s version of “Moving Dartmouth Forward” — the threats to the Greek system, the debunking of the “fabled Dartmouth experience,” the drop in quality of frat parties and the general post-apocalyptic state of the campus. The rest of the column is a mostly modest reflection on the arbitrary nature of one’s college career — that, ultimately, it is what one makes of it.

I don’t think it is entirely right to capitulate and throw one’s belly up to the jaws of fortune, since I taste a lot of good salt in Gil’s complaint. Much has been taken from us with little of our consent, making Yik Yak’s dystopian allusions not as playful as they seem. We’ve lost kegs, keg-jumping, Tubestock, first-year beanies, smoking cigars in class and almost all of the initiation traditions developed independently and cherished by student organizations. This has been going on not just for our generation, but the whole of Dartmouth’s history.

Heraclitus, an ancient Greek philosopher, wrote that you can never step in the same river twice. No one ever returns to the same college after a break, either. Wouldn’t it be bizarre if everything stayed precisely the same from day one until graduation? As some things get steadily worse, other things get steadily better. This matrix of change is what gives texture to life — it’s what makes holding on from day to day worth it. Gil’s column is so perfectly on-point that it misses the bigger picture. As students have discovered over and over again through the years, there is no stable “Dartmouth experience” to be had. No one rages anymore because no one ever really raged in the first place. We are bound to be the architects of our own experience, despite the vicissitudes of a world in flux. In closing, I’d like to quote the immortal, concluding valediction with which Liam Kuhn ended his own article — “Have a great weekend.”