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ISSUE 117 VOL 13 PUBLISHED 3/12/2004

Campus debate close-minded, silly

By Jonathan Graef
Contributing Writer


Friday, March 12, 2004

There is a spectre haunting the political discourse at St. Olaf as of late&the spectre of self-righteousness. Over the past semester, it seems that every time there is a political issue for discussion on campus, the political groups on the hill come out of the woodwork. Whether the issue is animal rights, or the topic that is being beaten to death and set on fire right now, intellectual diversity, these groups essenetially engage in a debate that goes like this: Group A is being oppressed! Help them (us)! , Youre oppressed?, Yes, we are, you twit! Actually, no youre not. And so on. Meanwhile the more complex questions and issues that could be debated are usually not. That would require actual thought and reflection. Who needs that intellectual kind of stuff, or Questions that may lead me to change or strengthen my beliefs, or simply put,thinking? All we have to do is listen and follow  easy for all.

For examples regarding campus discourse, we turn to an event that took place earlier in the semester, one regarding the topic of animal rights. I did not go to the speaker, who I believe was a local representative of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), but I did see signs regarding animal rights around campus. One that particularly stood out for me was one that coined the term speciesism. If I remember correctly, the definition of speciesism was discrimination against members of other species. I think that a compelling argument can be made for vegetarianism and animal rights, but this was ridiculous. If I make a statement like, Asian-American koala bears are generally thought to be better at math than Caucasian koala bears, would I be a speciest? What if I say you know what they say about African-American chickens, they have bigger beaks that the other chickens? Would that be a rampant display of speciesism? What happens when one squirrel says to another, Its all the Jewish squirrels fault that were running so low on nuts.

While the growing problem of anti-Semitism in the squirrel community does need to be addressed, now is neither the time nor the place. My overall complaint is that speciesism is a meaningless term. Human beings are a species as well. Humans can be cruel to animals, obviously, but what happens when animals prey on humans? Lets say, through whatever circumstance, I end up naked, covered in some appetizing smell, and am surrounded by cougars. Are the cougars going to let me pass quietly? No, they are going to say, Id like the number two, with a side order of Graef. That being said, the counter-argument, is even more headache -inducing. Whenever my vegetarian and meat-eating friends start arguing, the ones who eat meat more often than not state but were meant to eat meat. As if it would be a grand tragedy worthy of Shakespeare if I had pasta instead of the chicken sandwich. Perhaps we could make in into a Shakespearan tragedy. That piece of chicken, rather than being a source of food, is unbeknownst to me, my star-crossed lover. What a horrible, horrible thing it would be if I didnt eat the chicken! Why God, why did I choose to eat falafel? The moral consequences are too outrageous to endure! Goodbye, cruel world! Interestingly enough, the day of the PETA talk, signs for a different PETA (People Eating Tasty Animals) emerged. How clever. Lets see if these people can form an acronym with the following letters: P, I, S, S, O, F, and finally, F. Instead of actually trying to engage in a debate, its as if these people (who, now this is just an guess, I have no proof, may have been encouraged by a group whose name rhymes with Mallege Refublicans) just said, huh-huh, lets get all those animal rights people mad by messing with the name of their organization, huh-huh. Oh, boy, you got them alright. Got them really bad. My point is that you are rarely going to get a complete picture of an issue, whether it is animal rights, or in recent times, intellectual diversity (read: Hey, wait a minute, this propaganda is different from the propaganda I usually get. Counterpoint!) In order to get a real idea of an issue, youre just going to have to do the grunt work yourself and read scholarly texts regarding the issue. But it will be worth it. Would you rather have to work hard at comprehending an issue, or endure bad puns and meaningless terms? Thats what I thought.


Opinions Editor Jonathan Graef is a junior from Glenview, Ill. He majors in English and political science.


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