Sunday, June 11, 2017

Faber College, Class of 2017

Annapolis, Maryland - A few months shy of four years ago, I summoned the pretention to post a blawg (“Priceless Advice”) about Nellie Junior and his impending departure for university. This was 2013, a perfect time, such as with any period during the past eight years or so, to examine a lot of depressing economic facts, of which the piece was chock full. C’mon man, this was three years after Recovery Summer, donchaknow! Junior, like Senior, is a pretty loose guy and so we yukked it up about what the future would hold for him and then I said, “Hey chief, check back with the old man in four years.  Take it easy and remember, it’s all about the green.” And that was that. 

In the intervening years, the middle son left for a nearby maritime institution and the youngest is soon headed off to attend a similar organization, beginning with a summer patrolling jungles and firing weapons. I call it the real world “Call of Duty,” the faux-world COD being one at which a sizable percentage of millennials are really skilled because they play it in their parents’ basement. All day. And oh yeah, that percentage grew 8 percent during the last four years. No green there.

As a man who knows his limitations, I had only two pieces of advice for Junior when he left for Faber College: 1. “There are more important things than grades” (and yes, I almost added “like winning the Caddie Tournament.”). 2. “Don’t even think about coming home with a degree in Psychology unless you want to be serving me eggs and joe in the local diner when you’re 30 – and getting expert at COD.”    

Yeah, subtle Dad.  On 1: I didn’t want him to have a psychotic focus on his GPA and incessant worry about academics. Rather, I wanted him to make solid friendships, enjoy playing NCAA lacrosse, and develop a plan for a lucrative career.  On 2. I wanted him to eschew any major involved with “helping people” and instead, drive hard at what would help him. 

In addition, I advised him to distance himself from a certain, clannish group on campus, for whom the greatest skepticism should be shown.

“You will be,” I intoned, “in the presence of many people who received very good grades, but have never lived a moment in the every-day, rough-and-tumble of life and hence, have little idea how the real world actually operates. They are called," and here I grimaced and then said with mild dismay, "'Professors.’”

Now, at the end of four years, it’s quite clear Junior followed through on most of the old man’s priceless advice. He has a legion of friends in the BA category, played through four good lax seasons on the fields of glory, and developed a skill held by darn few Caucasian kids worldwide.  There remained one last challenge: Graduation and the Commencement-Day addresses.

I attended the event and first up were the student speakers – the screeching echoes still assault the ears. ‘….racism…sexism…xenophobism…glaciers…” and my fave gem from a kid, “…the one percent, like, control, like, everything!”  It’s sophomoric stuff that you hear from a surprising number of adults, and yet these kids are just entering adulthood and isn’t it so, like, cool that in order to come up with these, like, wise musings, they’ve been forced to live in a country club-like setting for four years?!  There’s no doubt where these students are headed: Performance art studios, arctic elk non-profits, and poetry slams. 

But alas, I hear all three are crowded “spaces.”

Then there was the outside Commencement speaker – a real dreamboat. Hey, can I even say that?!  She’s an “activist/writer/artist – a creativist.” Better yet, she also moonlights as a “public intellectual” from a “courageous” Third World nation which, as no less than The New Yorker Magazine informs, hosts the largest city in the world with no central sewer or water system.

I learned a lot from this “public intellectual” because she told me herself she was going to engage me in a “dialogue.”  She should know - it is after all, a thinking "persyn's" world, certainly not a world where drones - such as the audience of parents - have to show up, hustle, and sweat out real jobs, day after month after years for decades. We  hapless breadwinners were simply enthralled with the exhortations about inequality and global climate cooling change warming and multiculturalism and tolerance and the need for cross-hybrid gender rapprochement and transcultural synergies and before I leave, you can bet I’m gonna check my privilege. And goodness, I know darn well that it takes a village – just give me one with plumbing.

What’s so rich is that this is the same jive I heard three decades ago when I graduated from Faber and had an obscure United Nations’ bureaucrat as a Commencement speaker, yelling at us about American capitalism and imperialism. "That fellow seemed rather sold on himself,” observed my calm, mild-mannered father, who was in attendance.  Yep, Dad - a self-made man who at age 18 took part in the invasion of Okinawa and later spent five months patrolling the streets of Tokyo as part of the occupation force, even as the UN was being formed in San Francisco.  Hey, who knew?! My laid-back old man - both a capitalist and an imperialist!

I wish Faber had called in Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs or Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, who once said in exquisite capitalist fashion, “In dealing with poverty here and around the world, welfare and foreign aid are a band aid. Free enterprise is the cure.”

Wait a minute, that wasn’t Dimon. It was Bono.  In the same month and year I
penned my first pre-Faber blawg to Junior.   

But Faber doesn’t get Bono, and doesn’t even get Dimon or Blankfein. But we did get holistic appeals to our guilt-ridden Ids.  Ich bin ein bedauerlich.

Nellie Junior is immune to these appalling lectures.  He majored in Chinese, is fluent in Mandarin, and spent last summer working on IPOs in Hong Kong.  He rolls on to finance, his middle brother boards a guided missile cruiser, and his youngest brother heads off to the delightfully named “Beast Summer.” Wow, just think of it: From Grandfather to Father to Sons – Nelligan men in this new generation boast one capitalist and two future imperialists! No creativists! Darn! But then again, this is America, where we have water systems, and where all non-creativists are quietly absorbed in a “work ethic.”

Today, as yesterdays four years ago, I only have two pieces of advice for Junior as he heads off to Taipei.  “First, gao fu schuai, there are more important things than dialogues. And second, don’t even think about coming home unless you have a cool ten million in green to show the old man.”

Priceless advice, indeed.