Attention Quasi-Marxists: Let's Try Critical Thought for a Change

I was walking to my Tuesday afternoon political science class at Peterson Hall the other day when I saw something truly amusing. As I made my way across the winding cement paths in front of the Sun God, I saw what appeared to be a life-sized paper mache army figure toting a bazooka over its shoulder. It appeared to be taking aim at the Sun God and was sporting a T-shirt with something to the effect of “”UCSD Administration”” painted on the back.

Surrounding the figure was a series of golf tees and holes, essentially trying to convey that student fees are being funneled into the already rich pockets of the regents and administration.

A similar anti-administration protest took place during Admit Day. I was showing my brother around the campus and decided to attend the “”Welcome to UCSD”” lecture offered on the hour. Just before Vice Chancellor Joseph Watson and others were set to begin speaking, the stage was rushed by a protester. Before a crowd of hundreds of potential students and their families, he explained that the administration was a greedy, cold-hearted beast that cared only for its corporate interests and not for students. He also asserted that UCSD was a “”very political campus.”” I had trouble containing my laughter.

This diatribe was followed by a brief chant with fellow protesters scattered throughout the audience. “”UCSD equals corporate greed,”” they half-heartedly repeated, sensing that the crowd of anxious parents was getting agitated by the outburst. They eventually left, allowing the lecture to continue.

So why do I bring these two instances up? Is it because it’s the most political activity UCSD has seen since the 1960s? No. Is it because paper mache army men give you something fun to look at on the walk to Peterson? Not exactly.

More than anything, I’m prompted to write and address the idiocy of these events. Over the past month, there have been protests and articles in this newspaper damning the administration and any form of bureaucracy as the tool of capitalist greed and corporate manipulation. Come on, are we really that foolish?

Let’s take a look at where this all begins — Marxism and the undeniably profound work of “”The Communist Manifesto.”” The 1848 treatise is effectively Marx and Engel’s critique of 19th century European society. The manifesto was written in the midst of the Industrial Revolution, when the interests of the manufacturing elite were continually adverse to those of the workers. It was, as Marx put it “”shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.””

It seems, however, that these modern readers of the manifesto have discounted the context of the work. Taken aback by the passionate prose that invokes a spirit of indignation and self-righteousness, they have effectively attempted to transpose Marx’s world to the one we live in.

This isn’t to say that we should walk through life with the naive belief that corporate interests serve those of the population. A cautious skepticism of all faceless, power-welding entities — whether corporations or government — is a healthy practice in any free-thinking society.

What these protests illustrate is the tendency of anti-corporate leftists to adopt a catch-all ideology, such as class struggle, in place of critical thought. Clearly, it is easier to demonize capitalism than to search for explanations that more effectively address the issue.

Instead of rudely disrupting hundreds of parents and students on Admit Day and discouraging enrollment at UCSD, these protesters could have found a more rational and credible approach. If you want to be mindful of the administration, form a watchdog group of concerned students and monitor the cash flow of the university — UCSD is a public institution and all records have to be disclosed.

If there is something fishy going on, write a letter to the Guardian and create some commotion with your evidence. Sure, it’s not as easy as making paper mache dolls and a nine-hole golf course in front of Muir college, but researching the hard truth shouldn’t be.

I respect Ralph Nader for this very reason. I can’t recall a TV or radio appearance where Nader unleashed a criticism of corporate America using archaic, Marxist maxims. His concerns over the excessive money and corporate interests in our political system have always been based on solid, well-reasoned arguments. Say what you will about his politics, at least his criticisms go deeper than an ingrained hatred of the establishment.

This contrasts what happened during Admit Day. Upon interrupting one of the speakers, a protester was told that he could address the audience at the conclusion of the current speech. Rather than articulate the position of the protest in a credible and diplomatic manner, the protester denied the invitation and shouted anti-administration slurs as he was booed out of the Price Center Ballroom. Not only did the protest fail to garner support, it created a backlash against it and its fundamental ideological base.

Marx’s critique of 19th-century Europe was an innovative and thoughtful examination of a society amid rapid change. The criticisms recently expressed against the administration embody a similar form, but lack the substance and circumstance of their predecessors.

These pseudo-Marxists scream to the heavens against corporate evils, administrative greed and the exploitation of students, but denounce the opportunity to engage in discourse over these concerns. Instead, they formulate arguments composed of lofty rhetoric and simpleton art projects.

Because I am an employee of the Guardian, these people are likely to write off anything I say about their activities. After all, the check I receive for this article will come from the university, the oppressive and malicious entity that has been keeping us all down. I’m just a propagandist of the administration.

Let me offer a more thoughtful explanation. This Editor’s Soapbox is a contribution to the dialogue and free exchange of ideas on this campus, not a four-word protest chant or an oversimplified view of a complex issue. I’m not writing this because I’m a “”wage slave,”” or because I’m being exploited by the university. It’s a matter of expressing ideas in a constructive and thoughtful way.

If you disagree with what I’ve said, write a letter to the editor; don’t just show up at the Guardian office with a paper mache effigy of me with “”dumb”” written on it in crayon. This is a university — we should be able to do better than that.

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