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It’s All Your Fault

Perspectives for these topsy-turvy times

Joel M. Rosenberg

You’re sitting in your room in Belgrade. The electricity is cut off, which also means the electrically pumped water won’t flow. It’s night, and you hear what sounds like a fire engine that never gets louder or quieter. Occasionally there is a loud crack, sometimes louder, sometimes quieter, and each one represents another bomb that luckily hasn’t hit you. Weeks of this have led you to try desensitizing yourself to the fear, but you’re not strong enough to fool yourself that severely. You are powerless to improve your situation, and out of pure frustration curse Clinton, a man you believe has tried to get many women to be impressed with his penis size, and is now working on the rest of the world. You wonder why half the globe is treating your life as a video game.

Cut to an American high school. You’re sitting in the principal’s office in your black shirt and black pants, with your parents flanking your sides. The principal is informing you that you must either undergo counseling or be expelled from school after telling your history class that, while you disagree with their actions, you can understand the motivations of the Littleton shooters, yourself being a bright, misunderstood, underground-leaning kid. You thought you were helping the class conversation by sharing your feelings, something you don’t often do. Now, with the principal obviously not your “pal,” unable to talk to your parents (who are urging you to take the counseling), and fearful that soon you’ll have nowhere to turn when your parents take away your computer (“For your own safety”), you curse yourself for ever opening up in the first place.

Zoom out from a tight shot of your face to reveal yourself sitting in the tiny witness chair of a huge, imposing U.S. Senate chamber. Ads for the most violent video games set the stage for a screening of some of the most extremely violent clips from relatively non-violent movies, all out of context. The Senators watch in mock horror, failing to suspend the disbelief that forms the very basis of this entertainment. They are looking for confirmation of their hunch that it is this trash that is causing kids to go out and kill their classmates, but you speak against such generalized correlations and instead speak in favor of trying to understand kids today in terms of the vast amount of technology they have grown up with, technology adults just can’t comprehend. You leave frustrated that the press wasn’t particularly interested in your take on things but are hopeful that someone was listening.

Jump to your dorm room at MIT. You’ve just taken The Tech out of your book bag, and the lead story informs you that a new proposal recommends you and all of your friends be removed from your dorm. Reading further, you realize that not only is your dorm as you know it being destroyed, but several other dorms are as well, in what seems like a game of Risk being played by MIT administrators using a map of campus for the board. You think back to high school biology, and remember that displacing populations from their ecosystems and introducing them into non-indigenous regions often leads to catastrophic results. You hope you won’t have too much work next week so you can go to one of the redesign meetings, which you haven’t been able to get to yet, and express your outrage at the proposal.

Flash to right now. You’re reading the opinion page of The Tech, noticing all of the crazy things going on at the local, national, and international levels, and wonder at what point the world went completely insane. You wonder why Senators are wasting their time with the Anarchist’s Cookbook, stuff you’ve known about for years, while NATO is literally playing with fire in their “deep regret” for the “accidental” bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Yugoslavia. You wonder why kids who like Dungeons & Dragons are now being kicked out of school for liking Dungeons & Dragons. You wonder why MIT is no better than the Senators who don’t really seem to want to solve any problems but only want to appear to be solving problems. You wonder where the rationality has gone. Frustrated, you turn to the comics page and laugh at Dilbert’s silly boss.