I’m now going to tell you something about myself that you probably didn’t know. I am a “little bitch.”
How do I know this? Because the Absolute Arbiter of Truth (with a capital T), a drunken member of the varsity football team, told me so. A few weeks ago, I was walking from Quincy House with two of my blockmates when I spotted said football player with his girlfriend staggering along Plympton Street. It was still somewhat icy on the ground, and the inebriated lovers slipped, nearly falling.
“Be careful!” I called out, genuinely concerned. But rather than receive some appreciation for compassion, or even a simple acknowledgement of our shared humanity, I instead learned a far more valuable piece of information.
“What was that, you little bitch? Why don’t you come closer and tell me that?”
My roommates and I continued walking, trying to ignore the sophisticated, learned intellectuals, obviously returning from an evening of fruitful academic discourse regarding the relative merits of utilitarian versus Kantian ethics. Still, the scholar-athlete continued shouting: “You little bitch! I’m gonna kick your ass, you little bitch!”
Fine then. So let me bitch. To do so I will use the aforementioned moral framework. In this situation, my friends and I opted for pragmatic utilitarianism, avoiding conflict to maximize safety and minimize pain. But looking back on it, I wish that I could have mustered a little Kant in me and called the man out on his ridiculousness.
Sadly, there is no Bruce Lee in me to muster—I’m a pacifist. The incident reminded me of the Jackie Mason joke about how every Jew almost killed someone: “If he would’ve said one more woid!” Of course in my case, he could’ve recited The Iliad and I’d still likely have fled from a man who runs into people competitively.
They say that “the pen is mightier than the sword” and that “terrorism is the weapon of the weak.” Put ’em together and you discover that the Crimson column is the weapon of the terrorized “little bitch”—and maybe, just maybe, I can get some retributive justice out of this one.
My problem isn’t with this one football player. He’s probably a fine, upstanding young gentleman who will contribute a great deal to this world (he could be President one day!). I could easily label this an isolated, drunken incident and move on. Sadly, these incidents are not isolated and often not even drunken, but part of a pervasive and harmful social structure.
When I came to Harvard, along with many of my fellow awkward, nebbishy companions, it was to escape the world of jocks and cheerleaders, of the divisions of cool and uncool. I went to a Jewish high school in Montreal, so we didn’t have any real jocks (we called them Rabbis in Nikes), and we certainly had no cheerleaders (We’ve got Torah yes we do, we’ve got Torah, how about you!), but we did have in-crowds and losers, and social ostracism could be extremely harsh.
Sadly, many students at Harvard haven’t left high school (perhaps this is not surprising in a country governed by man who sometimes seems like he never left kindergarten). Many varsity athletes, members of male and female final clubs and those who worship these circles—though they would be loathe to admit it—still cling to some childish notion of popularity.
For people like myself who dreamed of Harvard as a place where wit, intellectual curiosity, and open-mindedness would be valued above all else—well, many of us are still regarded as “little bitches,” and all it takes is seven or eight beers for someone to let us know.
My love of Star Trek notwithstanding, I’m not arguing for an radical inversion—that the chess team all of a sudden garner the same support as the football squad—but rather that the whole puerile atmosphere of social elitism be done away with.
Granted, this is not always a big problem. Artsy kids are friends with artsy kids, athletes are friends with athletes, assholes are friends with assholes. But occasionally, a remnant of this juvenile social hierarchy rears its ugly head, attempting to squash those same individuals it put down in high school. Like when a football player calls you a “little bitch” for no good reason.
I probably shouldn’t take this drunken man’s comments so seriously. What does his opinion matter, after all? I can still take pride in my own accomplishments (like my mother does). Bill Gates may have been a “little bitch” once and look at where he is now! Yet these thoughts are unsatisfying. From a utilitarian point of view, Gates made out all right, but from a Kantian perspective, he probably never deserved to be called a “little bitch” in the first place.
To any student who feels that he is superior—that his place at the top of Harvard’s social hierarchy is a god-given right—grow up. Your unfounded elitism is totally immature. I am not a “little bitch.” You are a “little bitch.” So there.
David Weinfeld ’05 is a history concentrator in Quincy House. His column appears on alternate Wednesdays.