There are times when I wonder whether maybe I shouldn’t be so cynical about Alma Mater and so disgusted with the poor moral character of its graduates. It’s academics are excellent on the whole, the exceptions being too exceptional to hold against the rest of the institution, and most of the faculty I knew were not only excellent instructors but also good people. I didn’t leave in touch with as many close friends as I had hoped to keep, but I’ve stayed in touch with several over the past seven years and hung out with quite a few others at reunions.

Then I hear from people like Junior Bear and his closest college friend (and principal at our lunch table), the Younger Third Lord Blair, and my cynicism and disgust are renewed. I get the feeling that both of these guys regard me as something of a class traitor. All three of us come from haut bourgeois families, but Lord Blair likes to be unabashedly arrogant and condescending in a vaguely British way, Junior Bear is a hideous social climber, and I have never hid my egalitarian principles and tastes or my vehement distaste for their airs of superiority. The Younger Third Lord Blair is a scion of one of Altoona’s most prominent families, and I’ve spent enough time around him, his older brother and his parents to know that they are all highbrow but powerful local color.

Consider this conversation between the Second Lord Blair and a presumably more downmarket Altoonan wearing a Nazi military uniform:

2LB: “Are you Dwight Eisenhower?”

Nazi: “No. I’m a Nazi.”

2LB: “Just thought I’d check, since you’re wearing that uniform.”

Nazi: “No, it’s a Nazi uniform. I’m a Nazi.”

The problem is that 2LB and Y3LB approach practically their whole social life this way. They don’t just use this kind of edgy sarcasm with people who are genuinely their equals or with goosestepping Appalachian bigots, but also with people who are more or less decent but happen to be their socioeconomic inferiors. This is how the Younger Third Lord Blair ends up making fun of me for being unemployed or for applying for fry cook positions. The last couple rounds of this shit didn’t rile me up, and I was able to get sufficiently out of body to somewhat appreciate the humor, but it’s still fundamentally an abrasive, inappropriate and dangerous way of relating to others. Y3LB took apparently took a much less aggressive but still condescending approach to his main college girlfriend and her parents, alienating them to a great extent by so doing. Junior Bear, for his part, seems constitutionally incapable of not being an egregious dipshit about the socioeconomic gaps between him and his girlfriends. Sometimes these gaps even exist.

Even when I keep calm and carry on with no difficulty in the face of this condescension, it makes me wonder why the hell I went to a college that is so infested with socially climbing shits. The appreciably marketable skills that I gained in college were taught, fairly haphazardly for the most part, in geology courses that could have been fit into a single semester. I was a good writer when I matriculated, but my organizational skills were atrocious, combining with my poor time management, propensity to social drama and recurrent manic depression to result in a shitload of late and mostly mediocre research papers. (If they were better than my classmates’, it was because the writing, research and organizational skills of my classmates verged on the witless. Even at prestigious schools, this is a lot more common than one would hope.) It’s very simple: Alma Mater did not teach me how to write; I taught myself. Therefore, for Alma Mater, its boosters or its officers (here’s looking at you, Billy Fish) to even insinuate that it taught me to write better than I would have been taught at a less prestigious school would be a fraud.

But I shouldn’t use the subjunctive. That very sort of fraud is a staple of Alma Mater’s promotional literature for prospective students and its calls for alms from the alumni. I don’t know if the alumni Alma Mater gets to provide glowing statements about the wonderful versatile skills they got from their liberal arts education believe what they’re saying, or even understand what they’re saying. If they’re making shit up, or even if they’re dense enough to believe themselves, they should be paid for their efforts, as mercenaries customarily are, but I doubt they receive their due wages. In my view, paying the peons enlisted in one’s racket is a mitigating factor in defense of one’s racketeering, but if anything, Alma Mater probably got them to make charitable deductions to their employer in exchange for their temp work. As I’ve discussed at length before, these people don’t even know how to demand an appropriate cut from the ward bosses when they engage in graft. I’d find them at least marginally more respectable if I knew that they were being honestly corrupt and showing enough self-respect to demand payment for their marketeering; that would indicate that their liberal arts education taught them how to recognize the world of graft, engage it (tee-hee), and live in truth.

Alma Mater, however, is not about living in truth. It’s generally all right at the departmental level, but at the institutional level, it’s an entire college that is less culturally Catholic than Dennis Lynn Rader. If our boy Denny can admit that, yeah, he tortured and killed some people because that was how Bill Thomas Killman rolled, the Alma Mater alumni community should be able to admit that, yeah, it’s a bunch of socially climbing hustlers out to high-hat America for a living and for the lulz. He’s a fucking serial murderer, for God’s sake. We are but posh thieves with habits of condescension towards our socioeconomic inferiors. Why the hell are we less introspective than a guy who tied himself up in his basement and took bondage selfies?

Networking with these people would involve being sociable with them. I used to attend alumni events more often, but I got tired of making small talk with the kind of people who usually show up. A fair number of them are just vile. If I really wanted to mix it up with ill-mannered people of low moral character, I’d probably go back to school for an MSW and start ministering to Sacramento’s wiggers. That way I’d get paid for telling pants-on-the-ground losers that they probably shouldn’t let their seven-year-olds play first-person-shooter computer games, instead of not being paid to refrain from encouraging stuck-up bitches to either come across some noblesse oblige or go fuck themselves. Alma Mater will be just as irrelevant to any social work training I pursue as it has been to my unpaid employment as a vineyard and winery apprentice.

That’s the other thing. Until recently I was working as the de facto assistant manager of an integrated agricultural and food processing operation. That may sound pompous, but it’s exactly what I was. It had absolutely nothing to do with my having graduated from Alma Mater, of course, and Billy Fish is cordially invited to suck on it if he thinks otherwise. Junior Bear’s reaction all along to my employment in that capacity has been that I was wasting my life on stoop labor, and I’ve known all along that this assessment was misguided. The reasons I left the farm had almost nothing to do with the work and everything to do with completely extraneous bullshit. I kept trying to do something professionally and socially worthwhile with my life until Farmer Uncle and his idiotic hangers-on made it practically impossible, and that’s why I’m applying for these less skilled, truly menial jobs in SoCal, just to get going again in the interim. It’s not as if I’ve been a career fry cook since college. Junior Bear, meanwhile, works as a life insurance salesman in an office where some of the other salesmen have no college education. His line of work amounts to bugging friends, relatives and acquaintances, some of them from his family’s church, to buy insurance and financial products that they don’t really want. His summer job in college, as a pool manager for a number of apartment complexes, was of more value to society than what he’s doing now, but of much less value than what I’ve spent most of my career, if it can be called that, doing for free. It would make some sense if the people bugging me for being a disappointment to Alma Mater were engineers or physicians, but they aren’t. They objectively have less useful training and fewer useful skills than I’ve acquired working seasonally at a very badly run hippie farm.

But maybe they have intellectual interests and accomplishments to offset their being useless eaters in the workplace? Nope. Not the ones who give me shit for being a loser, in any event. It’s amazing when I stop to think about it, but Junior Bear, the Younger Third Lord Blair, and most of their friends have almost nothing to say about classes that they took at Alma Mater. Their comments are consistently vague ones about how wonderful Alma Mater is, how important it is to their identity, that kind of thing. Or, as Junior Bear once put it, “I never thought of the library in terms of books.”

At least Rod Blagojevich has the honor to refer to the objects of his crass interest as “fucking golden.” That’s another chap who lives in truth, and in a nicer big house with a much better view of the Front Range than our boy Bob. Indeed, they don’t know how lucky they are, boy, back in the USSR, because ADX Florence is a super special place in a way that the Soviets never figured out. I reckon Blago would give me a squarer deal on the graft than Alma Mater or its alumni boosters, and with a much more noticeable intellectual flourish. Dude knows his Shakespeare, and he’s been reading up on the presidents lately. He has time, you know.

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