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Friday, September 24, 2021

Column: Check your privilege

Life is the dancer, and you are the dance. You make it up as you go along. Every step, every jump and every chassé is of your doing. But you cannot define yourself by any one movement. To do so would box you into an existence that is limited by the parameters of your own self-definition.

There are plenty of people who say things like this: I’m a feminist, I’m an American, I’m disabled, I’m Latino, I’m Christian, I’m This, I’m That. But what does that all mean? In the endless search for self-identity, humans cling to things that mean little -things that are transient and oftentimes divisive. Once you identify yourself as “Christian,” you may lose sight for what it is to be “Human.” I’m not saying that all Christians lose sight; what I am saying is that your identity is wholly separate from the things that you say you are. And when Christians do lose sight, you get horrible atrocities like the Crusades, the Inquisition and this whole priest pedophilia Freudian nightmare. Their egos get in the way of treating humans kindly.

One’s identity is transcendental to those useless descriptors. I can call myself a “columnist” but that’s not who I am deep down. In America, people love to define themselves by what they do, because utility is essential in a capitalist society. “You don’t do anything? But this factory needs to run! You’re a goddamn waste of space.”

I’m not really interested in these self-definitions. I enjoy the nuances of the dance movements much more – or the little things, if you will (like leaving someone hanging during a handshake-to-pound). It would take me too long to mention them all here, so I will instead outline the best of them in a handy-dandy list I like to call “Quirky Human Behaviours Exhibited by Students at UC Davis.”

(For the record, I routinely find myself adding the letter “u” in random places. I’m not sure if it’s because I was a rowdy Brit in my past life, but I think it’s just totally wholesome to add a “u” in words like humor, honor or behavior. It’s like they’re incomplete without the “u.”)

Crocodile tears

“Sorry” no longer carries the same weight it once did. It’s now a word that serves as a catchall for any uncomfortable social faux pas.

“Sorry for being late” is one great example. Or when people ask fake questions. Case in point: the Wells Fargo downtown. “HI, HOW ARE YOU?! I’M SO EXCITED TO SEE YOU! AND BY THAT I MEAN I GET A FAT CUT FOR EVERY CHECKING ACCOUNT I OPEN UP!”

Do I know you?

Maybe it’s just a byproduct of being a senior, but I routinely find myself stupefied by certain people on campus who say hi to me. It’s not that I’m socially awkward or anything – it’s just that I can’t for the life of me figure out how the fuck I know that person.

Any other seniors having this problem? I’m like, “that girl looks hella familiar! I’m just going to smile like I know her.” What really bothers me is when people say “Do I know you?” when they actually know where they know you from. They just dance around the issue so they won’t be perceived as creepy. This brings me to my next point.

Smiling = creepy

Why does smiling confuse people? These days you can’t smile at people without it being considered A) sexual, and B) therefore, creepy.

Smiling is a tool that can be wielded effectively by those who are attractive, but if you’re ugly, then you’re shit out of luck. I’m not even going to use anecdotal evidence here (because Lord knows I definitely could) so let me blow your mind right now: Dion, Berscheid and Walster (1972) in their piercing, bold study entitled “What is Beautiful is Good” basically PWNED everyone who retorts with the pithy line, “you can’t judge a book by its cover.” That admonition is no more than a reaction-formation that covers up the fact that we irrationally imbue “good” qualities to physically attractive people. To quote Schiller (1882) “Physical beauty is the sign of interior beauty, a spiritual and moral beauty.”

How can something so irrational, so primordial, so unfair still exist in our society? I’ve heard the phrase “check your privilege” thrown around many a time at this campus. Could beauty be one such privilege? Study after study shows that our society gives physically attractive people the upper hand – and we’re not even aware of it. But the Cross Cultural Center would never admit that – they’re too busy unpacking other privileges. They carefully gloss over this problem because it’s taboo; they are afraid to rock the boat just like every other bureaucratic institution at UC Davis.

But beauty is fleeting and character is timeless. And it’s no secret that attractive people who take advantage of unattractive people actually suffer from poor self-esteem and are in a perpetual search for validation. Or – to quote my friend Dan Maroon – “they’re just hammered.” Either way, my life would be fundamentally different if I were orders of magnitude more attractive than I am now – even more so, I believe, if I were white. It would be bomb if I was an underwear model or something. Free Calvin Klein tighty-whities for life.

DAVE KARIMI is listening to deadmau5 right now. It’s great paper-writing music. If you’re from the CCC and have a U.P.R. (Ugly Person Retreat), sign him up at dkarimi@ucdavis.edu.

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