Kyle Hayden, Guest Columnist

This essay does not “deny that Miami is a party school.” The much discussed “drinking culture” prevalent among “state-schools” is an addiction-based death culture. This is not an opinion. A fact: students — human beings — at our school have recently died directly from consumption of alcohol.

This essay critiques dominant ideas about student drinking and “changing the drinking culture” in Carly Berndt’s recent piece. It includes criticisms of Dean of Students Mike Curme’s interview with The Student and Curme’s opinion piece from the April 4 issue of The Student.

Berndt recalled an anecdote about an “underage boy” arrested for underage drinking on Green Beer Day (“The holiest 24 hours of the academic year”) – and then spotted him again later, drinking yet again. This anecdote is later evoked to support the idea that “…[students are] not going to choose free skate at Goggin over a night Uptown, and it is time the university accepts that.”

Do students simply want to be told what to do? Do they not get enough authority jammed into them during their required courses? Now we need the university to give us something to do?

The perceived need to drink like everyone else belongs to the category of false needs. False needs are desires imposed upon people from corrupting influences (e.g. advertisers).

Advertisers and bar owners don’t care about you. They don’t even care if you die, nor are they (ever) held responsible. “I just sell it,” sounds a lot like “I was just doing my job.” They’ll sell you poison until you are dead. There is no behavior more predatory, and you all just stand there paying for the opportunity. Having your life drained out of you is now fun. There is a lot of talk about freedom and choice. Freedom to do what? Be coerced into self-destruction? Buy things? Drink to death?

Have you ever wondered what your actual needs and desires are? Sit still for a moment, close your eyes and ask internally what your body needs. The answer is probably not “MadTree Red IPA” or Mind Probe. Real needs are simple: clean water, good food, shelter, clothing and people to love and live near (community). Anything beyond that is pointless noise. It is time to recognize our needs have not only been modified but also corrupted in a way that makes someone money; even the police are poised to dig into your wallet.

Berndt wrote, “instead of OPD, The City and the University … working to provide solid, enjoyable alternatives to partying, they simply hand out fines and court dates and turn the other cheek.” A neat linguistic trick here tells us more about Berndt and this culture than about what is actually said. The alternative to drinking is implied to be not drinking. The hidden assumption is that drinking is not only “enjoyable” but also the standard to which anything else is held in “alternative” and therefore somehow less desirable. Who told you it was fun? Surely you came up with that idea all on your own! This is a world in which we can’t enjoy using our imagination, or spend our time creating something of human value.

If you’ve been told what you want your whole life, that you desire to create Natty stories or that you earned it or “why ask why? Try Bud dry,” it might be hard to find purpose outside of being terrorized into being a consumer.  As long as our idea of something to do is tied up in having someone tell us what we want, when we want it (e.g. shopping, drinking, sex, compulsive screen culture) we will always be unhappy.

Students may find that purpose is not something handed to them as Berndt suggests. But that sounds like work! We might have to have a thought. I know it’s hard to have a thought, and apparently we’re not supposed to have those in college or else no one will hire us.

Curme wrote “[the pursuit of] knowledge is an insufficient condition for finding purpose.” Then I should have dropped out years ago. Maybe we were wrong about this whole higher-education thing? This capitulation to “this is the way it is,” rhetoric is a vapid, liberalizing excuse. Curme said students have a “predisposition to leadership.” Then why do most of my peers look like followers?

Berndt’s “party school” is actually a collection of people experiencing euphoria in unhappiness. Unable to realize the everyday conditions of this society make us miserable, and instead of acting to change them, they internalize the pathos of whatever happens to be in vogue that season and decide they need it. These are conditions that are imposed, but we could refuse. You could stop attending classes you hate, you could find something you actually have interest in. When I ask people what they are interested in, mostly what I hear is an advertisement for a product or a lifestyle. This is your “culture.” You could stop participating in this death culture; stop complaining about how “expensive” it is to drink, or how “broke” you are while continuing to “go out” every weekend.

The dominant drinking behavior, wrote Berndt, is “all-in-all, pretty typical.” This is a pathetic, empty apology for this culture. The defense of Tradition has led mostly to religious and ethnic genocides, wars and the perpetuation of sexist and racist mythologies. My parents used to ask me: “If your friends were jumping off a cliff, would you join them?” Advice: apply that question to every decision you make from morning to night every day until you have gained some semblance of standards for acting responsibly in the world.
It is time for a new story. When I withhold my attendance from weekly binge-fests and bar cramming, I withhold more than my presence and buying power, I deny the continuation of this culture.

haydenka@miamioh.edu

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