One Last Kick For A Dead Horse
by Wade Stuckwisch
(reprinted from the Hampshire College Omen, vol. 14 #7 (April 28th, 2000))

See The Poster | See the First Follow-Up

 Writing for the Omen for something like three years has taught me, I think, quite a
bit about how people function or don't function as individuals in a community. But first, a
long digression. I remember, somewhere in my early, impressionable years at Camp
Hamp, running into the idea of "dialectic conflict." It's one of those terms you encounter
and try to use in academic papers for semesters and semesters without ever really
understanding it. It's sort of like a less annoying "post-modernism" or an easier to
understand "Freudian psychology." From what I've been able to piece together over four
years, "dialectic conflict" in general is the process of formulating an argument based on a
thesis and a conflicting antithesis. For Hegel, dialectic conflict was seen as the process by
which divine truth could eventually be discovered (known as Hegelian dialectic). The
Marxists attempted to de-mystify Hegel's construction dialectic by formulating the idea
of "materialist dialectic." This philosophy worked conveniently well with other Marxist
ideologies like class war. In general, the basic ideal of dialectic conflict is that, by the
conflict produced, some greater truth could be discovered through a synthesis of the two
arguments. For Hegel it was the absolute knowledge of the divine; for the Marxists it was
an earthly socialist utopia. I've always been fascinated by the philosophy of dialectic
conflict, maybe just 'cause I'm such an argumentive sonofabitch. But in my view, there
are two major assumptions involved  in the way the philosophy of dialectic conflict has
developed. One is that there is an absolute truth; some sort of light at the end of the
tunnel. Scary thought, that there might be no absolute truth or ideal or meaning or justice
in the world, huh? I think maybe some of the Existentialists mulled over the idea but I
don't think any of them ever really came to grips with it. Camus was close, but to
paraphrase Charles Bukowski, you get the feeling it never affected him. The other
shortsight to me seems to be the idea that human beings will ever have the wisdom or
mental capacity to form any sort of decent thesis, or even recognize the antithesis, much
less ever reach any sort of divine synthesis.
 This said, I'd like to address the whole Omen poster debate one last time. The
whole debate was quite a firm reminder just what an stupid ignorant tribe of simians the
human race really is, despite how smart we like to think we are. Through out the entire
debate I can think of a grand total of one person on either side of the issue who seemed to
have anything fresh and intelligent to say about the whole situation. Instead, what the
whole controversy seemed to generate was a lot of buzzwords and name-calling from
both sides of the aisle. I think the only result of the whole debacle was helping
Hampshire students decide who their enemies were and putting names to faces. The
beauty of the Omen is that is does create controversy. Check a few back issues--we've
been doing it for years. The Omen at its best forces people to think by poking them where
it hurts, or at least I would like to think that it does. The whole debate over the Omen
poster, though, really shook my faith in the ability of conflict to spawn its own resolution.
 One argument I remember hearing over and over again amid the wash of cute
academic phrases stolen from last semester's SS class was the idea that the opinions of
the historically repressed (women, ethnic minorities, etc.) are silenced by some form of
privileged voice perceived to belong to the non-oppressed (as if no white person or male
has ever experienced any form of oppression in their lives). I don't argue with that point
at all; in fact I agree with it wholeheartedly. Unfortunately, the insidious voice of silence
works both ways. Over and over again I hear people's opinions discounted as "racist" or
"sexist" or "misogynist" without a second thought. The moment any of these labels is
applied to an idea or, worse yet, an individual in order to demonize and devalue it or him
or her, the effect silences and oppresses just as effectively as any white or male privilege.
Over and over again it seemed that people with opinions in any sort of disagreement with
the dominant liberal Hampshire discourse were treated as ignorant, or even insane or
retarded. If you wonder why so many people seem so insensitive about issues of race and
gender on this campus, (and, by the way, I think there's no excuse for the level of
insensitivity I've seen) maybe it's because you never listened to their side before you
decided that you possess the knowledge of the divine and they're just ignorant or stupid...
after all, why be compassionate when no one listens? I can't think of a more dangerous
atmosphere for an institution supposedly dedicated to free thought. Silence is a two-way
street and people really need to acknowledge this if anyone ever expects to reach any sort
of greater wisdom from this kind of debate. And if anyone tries to say I'm a misogynist
because I quoted Charles Bukowski earlier, or that I'm fetishizing black culture because I
can recite large portions of "Shaft" from memory, or that I'm a dangerously demented sex
fiend just because, god and/or goddess forbid, I made that goddam poster, well, you're
welcome to your opinion but I cordially invite you to jam it up your ass if you refuse to
even try to see my side.
 In the end, I'd just like to say that my favorite thing about Hampshrie has been the
true freaks, the people who will probably never be truly understood by anyone, who will
always be loved by a few and despised by many. I didn't like all of them but Hampshire
would be a shithole of an intellectual and creative quagmire without them. Sure,
sometimes they're way off-base or even dead wrong about shit, but at least they brought a
fresh perspective, maybe even inspired you to try to see their warped point of view.
Enough of this boring liberal neo-fascist hippie communal bullshit. Hampshire is not a
commune, and it never fucking should be. With this many brilliant freaks around,
Hampshire should be a warzone. If somebody isn't uncomfortable then something's
wrong. And my one regret about that fucking poster is, when one guy stood up at an all
community meeting and shook my hand for being part of the Omen, that I didn't give him
a firmer handshake. Dialectic conflict, baby. To quote Bukowski again, I prefer
somebody who screams while they burn.