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Work Hard, Play Hard

I have to make a confession. This weekend, I went to Mardi GrŠ erŠ I had a "job interview in New Orleans." Yeah, that's it. So it turns out they're having this big five-day party called Mardi Gras. And, since in New Orleans you do as the New Orleanders do, I decided to join in the festivities.

Before leaving I listened to the warnings about how dangerous it would be. Scared out of my pants, I braved the journey anyway. The basic setup is the following: You watch parades during the day and into the evening, and then at night you go out to Bourbon Street. The premise is to have fun; there isn't much in the way of rules other than common courtesy and common sense.

Yes, there is alcohol. In fact, there is a great deal of alcohol. People seem to be sipping something day in and day out. I must have seen tens of thousands of people drinking. Beer, margaritas, hard liquor, daiquirisŠ whatever. Old people were drinking, young people were drinkingŠ I'm sure people much younger than my ripe old age of 22 were drinking. And you know what? No one seemed to mind.

Coming from the "alcophobic" MIT community that I've been in for the past two years, it was certainly a culture shock. Not that I condone such wanton behavior, but it's hard not to. People were having fun. Sure, there was an occasional awkward moment when your beer fell on someone's shoe, and there weren't enough places to go to the bathroom, but it was Fun.

Police were there doing their duty, but they didn't mind posing for the occasional picture and chatting with the passers-by. There wasn't an adversarial mentality anywhere. As an MIT student, I was wondering why the party wasn't being shut down, why people weren't being sent homeŠ after all, it was 2:01am, and then 3:01am, and so on. I mean, people were D-R-I-N-K-I-N-G! The contrast between the carefree atmosphere at Mardi Gras and the current MIT atmosphere suddenly became very sharp. And it wasn't New Orleans that seemed out of hand.

We at MIT are too paranoid. Too afraid of having a good time. Too guilty over the events of past to think about moving on. We are too worried about our image to the point that we hide the MIT "work hard, play hard" attitude, which brought us here in the first place. We try, in batches and spurts, to "redesign" and "reinvent" our social structureŠ yet, all we get are rules and restrictions which put gray patches on the quilt of colors that we're made of. How long will it be before we're left with nothing but a drab gray quilt, free from risk and random experience?

Like Mardi Gras, MIT is supposed to be colorful, vibrantŠ not only in the classroom but also outside of it. Paranoia and guilt should not triumph over common sense. I love this f------ place, but I hate what we're doing to it. It is time for us to move on, to work hard and play just as hard, and to stop being so self-immolating to the point that we lose our identity and destroy who we are.

We need to remember the cheer of youth that brought us here in the first place.

Marco A. Mena '99