It turns out that when you insist it’s just a blob of tissue, people do view it without respect. Students in the video here are playing a game in which young males put balloons under their shirts and try to pop each others’ balloons – with onlookers shouting, “Kill that baby! Kill it!”
That’s bad enough, of course. I’m struck by something else as well: the astounding immaturity of the people involved. This isn’t what undergrads looked or acted like when I was in college. We were mostly bleary-eyed from working, studying, and keeping up with activities. We were, naturally, callow, self-important, and over-earnest. But at the same age as the kids in the video, we would have been taken for adults, rather than for eight-year-olds. The students in this video literally run around giggling like children in elementary school.
The males’ activity is, moreover, ordered for them by a female, like a playground game refereed by the teacher. If they’re in college, these guys are somewhere between 18 and 22 – old enough to be drafted, to vote, in many places to buy liquor and firearms – and they’re behaving as if they were in second grade.
This scene in a college cafeteria would have been impossible 30 years ago. There’s no way to excuse this outcome of modern schools and modern entertainment. What we see in the video isn’t just high spirits or “kids being kids”; it’s utter amorality and indiscipline.
The banality of the setting may lull viewers into a feeling of complacency about it. But it’s not OK; it’s not ordinary, unimportant, or to be expected. These young humans with the bodies of adults are more vulnerable than animals, which at least harbor strong and constraining instincts for self-preservation. The students in the video have no moral or intellectual defenses – against whatever passions demagogues want to arouse in them, or, indeed, against much of anything else.
Eighteen, nineteen, or twenty is not too young for men and women to make honorable and considered adult choices, and to exercise a salutary, restraining leadership when barbarity is erupting among their fellows. Young people in the military do it all the time.
Indeed, self-discipline, the happy motivation of positive goals, and a proper sense of shame should all combine to prevent college-age students from ever doing this at all. Getting plastered on Saturday night at the Greek house is one thing: universally understood to be stupid, regrettable, and extracurricular. Behaving like a hyena on crack in the cafeteria, while perfectly sober – and being egged on by the onlookers – is something else.
The education system which produced and suffers the latter should have no respectable standing with the public. It needs to be taken back from those who have been running it, and radically reformed.