Graduation or Appropriation?

By Krystl Meph

College campuses, as they should be, are ground zero in the fight against American heresy. But why are students, professors, and administrators – so justifiably eager to root out fascist climate- and gender-deniers –  so willing to appropriate the Eurocentric regalia of dead white Christian males like Thomas More?

The vast majority of college graduates don’t even know who Thomas More was, or that his novel, Utopia, “written in Latin and published in Louvain in 1516, is generally regarded as the quintessence of Christian humanism in its English context.”

If they did know that, they’d kill themselves before donning the garb of a Christian man who was also Lord Chancellor for notorious wife-murderer King Henry VIII. They wouldn’t even care that More’s fiction sketched out “a basic subsistence to the working-classes, a six-hour working day, national health, state education, universal adult suffrage, religious toleration, and the ordination of women.”

Nor would they care that More imagined a totalitarian system much like the “applied socialism” of hard-core communists: a place where “no one was entitled to waste time or arrange anything to suit himself; no wine-shop, ale-house, brothel, ‘lurking hole’ or ‘secret meeting place’ was to be permitted.”

A place that is much like our own college campuses, minus Christianity: where “people were obliged instead to work or play according to government regulations.”

Scrolling through my Twitter feed over the weekend, I found myself enraged looking at photo after graduation photo like these from CSU Sacramento. And I intended to write a scathing takedown of the entire university system that blindly follows the privileged white European academic traditions we all hate so much.

But the more I thought about More – no pun intended – the more I came to appreciate his “absolute fidelity to Catholic orthodoxy” and his desire “to rejuvenate the intellectual rigor of the Middle Ages in a concerted attack on heresy and heretics.”

Minus the Catholicism, that is exactly how I feel today at UC Berkeley.

Burn the heretics!

But take off those absurd robes first. You might accidentally light yourselves on fire.

Krystl Meph is a student senator at UC Berkeley and the regular higher education columnist for The Sacramento Brie.

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