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Listen, we’ve all been there. You’re at a party off-campus, or a bar in the city, or back wherever you call home. You’re probably trawling for your next midnight conquest, so you are striking up conversations with attractive strangers. Maybe you’re interesting, you can hold a conversation, or your go-to method is just to ask more questions than a section kid — whatever the case may be, the words are flowing and you think they might be interested in going home with you tonight.
Then they look at you and say, “So, where do you go to college?”
Damn! You didn’t think it would come to this, but here we are again — decision time. It’s just you, the nuclear football, and this poor unwilling victim who has placed themselves squarely in your reticule. So, do you blow this fool to kingdom come, or do you try to snake your way around the topic? Yes, this is the classic Harvard dilemma that dogs all ivy-crested Crimson scholars the moment they venture beyond the Harvard bubble — under what circumstances might one ethically drop the H-bomb?
OK, first off, calm down. You’re half as important as you think you are and twice as obnoxious. And you know what, we get it, some people are really impressed by the Harvard brand, and when they learn what your alma mater is, they can make things a bit cringy. But we all need to stop pretending like we’re dropping some kind of “bomb” on these bombshells at the bar. You are not some B-list celebrity just because you went to Harvard — at best, you’re just a clout-chaser who came here for the name. Sure, you might be “wicked smaht,” but that does not make you more important than your handsome average Joe.
Why should you be insecure about going to Harvard? Much ink has already been spilled over the H-bomb. Perhaps most obliviously, Deena Shakir ’08 said in her Class Day oration, “Just imagine the global fallout of the H-bomb of 2008,” among a series of other strained nuclear metaphors. To be clear, Shakir was trying to compare the reach of thermonuclear warheads with the power of education. Bombs seem to me a more apt metaphor for the kind of naked power which Harvard Class Day speakers often foresee Harvard graduates wielding, as not just “our future” (in that tired graduation day cliche), but as “our future leaders.” Shakir is now a partner at a multi-billion dollar venture capital firm (alums, this is the voice of history speaking — if you H-bombed your way into wealth and power, you better be using the resources at your disposal to better ends than just yourself and your children, else I’ll speak of you harshly, if I speak of you at all).
Let’s look at this “bomb” thing again. Harvard is the international center of elite privilege, it is the gateway for all “lower” classes to enter the meritocratic elite, and it has more money than 109 countries. Anyone who thinks they “deserve” to go here is an asshole, because nobody deserves to go here — the ideal of the “perfect student,” which Harvard’s brand is built around, is unsustainable and unrealistic, and the idea that the 95.5 percent of applicants who were rejected last year all deserved to be cut is a farce. The real “bomb” is not the H-bomb. It is the bomb that wiped out all the other applicants and left standing only us — we, the freaks, the mutants, the traumatized cockroaches who, spared from the horrors of “obscurity,” are left to gaze upon the ruins of our dreams.
Now, dear reader, I’m going to lay it on you heavy here, but only because I know you can handle it. When you enrolled in Harvard College, you sold out. There is no way to ethically drop the H-bomb, because there is no ethical reason to have an H-bomb.
But if the Manhattan Project that is your life has already built the bomb, you might as well embrace it. What are you going to do, drop out? Tear up your degree? No, you are already become Death, the destroyer of worlds. If you don’t want to feel so insecure and guilty about your education, then you should be open about the privileges you enjoy and work to deconstruct the Harvard brand. And tell the beautiful stranger that you went to Harvard, for God’s sake. It’s not just “a small liberal arts college outside of Boston.” It’s a part of you now, and it’s time to own up to that fact. Who knows, maybe being honest will actually help your pompous ass get laid.
Ben A. Roy ’20 is a Classics concentrator in Kirkland House. His column appears on alternate Wednesdays.
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