Explaining the Humanities to your Wall Street Uncle

By Joseph Regan | 4/6/16 10:50am

You: “Well, I think I’ll be majoring in philosophy, with a minor in English or history. I’m still not really sure…”

Uncle Wahlst: “What’s the plan for paying the bills?”

And there it begins. The belittling and undercutting of your educational aspirations, by none other than the one uncle in your family who had a “short stint” on Wall Street. With major declaring this week, Dartbeat thought it would be a good idea to help liberal arts students explain to that uncle what the humanities actually are:

Step one: As Douglas Adams so eloquently put it, “Don’t panic.”
Step two: Remind Uncle Wahlst that one of the co-founders of Netflix majored in geology.

Step three: Explain to him that the humanities are kind of like the “Salty Dog Rag.”

I know you're confused, but stay with me here. The “Salty Dog Rag” is mysterious (Hi,’20s!), fun and brings people together in a way baffling to reason. Without the "Salty Dog Rag"—without the humanities—what would we do? Well, we would probably talk more like this guy:

Plus, you need the humanities to write poetry and music. Then you can use said music to become really famous and publically, shamelessly declare yourself the number one rockstar on the planet (oh, and a god). Here’s to you, Kanye.

Really though, the humanities aren’t just about the books and words and writing. No, no, no. Your uncle might think so, but you know better. When Uncle Wahlst begins lecturing you on how your English degree is a “bad investment,” stick up your nose and pull what I call a “Humanities Hail Mary”: throw as many literary allusions into conversation and just hope that something sticks. Name drop more authors than your uncle has offshore accounts. Explain to him the differences between structuralism and post-structuralism and hope that he is so impressed (or bored) by your literary prowess that he will drop the subject altogether.

And if that plan goes to shit (which it probably will), just remember that the best way to convince your Wall Street uncle of the legitimacy of the humanities is to not try at all in the first place. Put those analytical and reasoning skills to work: not attempting to convince him guarantees not failing to convince him. Sure, he’ll still be embarrassed to introduce you to his golf buddies at the country club. But the pain and disappointment you've caused him will make great material for your book someday.

Joseph Regan