Ignorance and naivete underly campus life

So there I was, shuffling through the crowd trying to get into the Fishbowl so I could print up a paper that was due in 15 minutes, when I hear some guy up in front of me decrying the NATO strike on Serbia.
Minding my own business, I don’t say anything. But then, as I am about to turn the corner, the very same guy holds out a flyer and asks me to vote for the Defend Affirmative Action Party.
I hold my tongue and don’t say what I am really thinking (“No, stupid”) but the irony of the whole situation descends on me as I’m running laps, trying to find a computer in time. This is a party that is based on defending affirmative action (hence the name) supposedly because the existence of affirmative action inhibits the use of policies that are biased against minorities.
OK, I can see the logic in that. What I am having a hard time with, however, is figuring out how someone who is a representative of such a party could be anything but pro-NATO. Let’s think about this folks: genocide; ethnic cleansing. Ummm, that sounds appealing, doesn’t it? As far as I can tell, this is probably the worst type of discrimination that could possibly be inflicted, yet here was some yahoo telling me I should vote for him seconds after ridiculing NATO and the United States (pause while the author scratches his head in bewilderment).
Unfortunately, he is not alone in his inanity. I see this sort of thing almost daily around campus, and I believe I have finally figured out what causes it. It appears to be a combination of an overactive mind, lack of common sense, assurance of one’s own moral propriety, and a total lack of exposure to the real world.
These people can be found everywhere, proselytizing on every subject imaginable. You can find them babbling about the plight of Indonesian sweatshop workers, trying to save the spotted owl, telling us the death penalty is “barbaric” or why the United States should stop trying to be the world’s policeman.
All right people, I didn’t want to have to be the one to tell you this but here it comes, so listen carefully: Ann Arbor is 50 square miles surrounded by reality. If you grew up in some suburban white-bread place like Rochester Hills or Long Island and then came here for school without ever having been anywhere else (and no, I don’t count the family vacation to the Bahamas), YOU DON’T KNOW JACK ABOUT LIFE.
When you have been to Thailand and seen a mother willing to prostitute her own 14-year-old daughter for $20 an hour, then you can tell me about the evils of sweatshop labor. When you have personally met a formerly self-sufficient family of four that had to go on welfare because they could no longer find work logging, then you can tell me why the spotted owl is so important. If one of your parents is a Holocaust survivor, then you can tell me why America shouldn’t be the world’s policeman (it’s not like they are going to call Iceland when the shit hits the fan, you know).
If you have never seen, or never even stopped to consider the existence of places like Pooler, Georgia, or Black Rock, New Mexico, where families grow up in trailers or in houses with dirt floors and the kids don’t own a single pair of shoes — yet you are whining about someone in Honduras making a “living wage” — my only response is: Get a clue.
I realize that, being young and in college, we are granted some level of stupidity by those older and wiser than us, but let’s try not to overdo it here.
The problem is, the whole safe, protected university environment lets people who, in a more natural setting, would have already been culled out of the gene pool, thrive and prosper. Why? Well, because they don’t have to earn a living, deal with raising kids or any of life’s other little issues that are going to hit them like a sledgehammer after graduating (provided that mommy and daddy actually “cut them off,” of course).
This may be a real shock for some of you, but you see gentle reader, my purpose here is not to castigate, but to educate. The real world is out there, closer than some of you might realize. (Take a drive up to Flint if you don’t believe me.) The real world is not kind. The real world is not just. And, Lord knows, the real world is not fair.
The real world is filled with thieves, rapists, lawyers and everything else that is wrong with humanity. You think the death penalty is barbaric? Ever had to console a friend after she was raped? If you have, then you understand me telling you that I would whack the guy myself and not think twice.
Yet that is exactly what makes it so beautiful. Seeing the ugliness up close and personal makes the good things that much better. Getting an “A” on a test is great, but finding out that you landed a great job that dozens of other people were trying to get is even better.
So enjoy college while you can — just realize that, while it only gets harder after this, it also only gets better.
Brandon Sanz’s column originally appeared in Monday’s University of Michigan Daily.