I’ve taken up an old habit again recently—I’ve found someone on this campus to play a good round of billiards with (or pool, or snooker, or what have you). And it has been the most enlightening experience of my recent collegiate career. Humor me here, friends, and read along. Writing is a limited medium: we can only present a singular strain at a time for the sake of coherency, clarity, focus, development and a thousand other things my editors scream at me when I indulge a sickening predilection for tangents.
So what do we accomplish with this magazine? When we are so limited by space and time, when we can’t publish everything that deserves to have its time in the sun, when we can’t even present every facet of one side of an argument, much less a full debate—what purpose do we serve and why should you care to read our works at all?
Our use is in our infuriating limitation.
I read articles and I get downright pissed at the writer for failing to explore a facet of the issue. I whine and moan about it to anyone who will listen to me. Very few of them will engage me, but the presentation of an issue in one light without much of a chance for engagement does get me ranting and raving, and that is a start.
But all of that pent up rage and opinion (and I have a lot of it) just goes to waste. Well, usually it goes to yelling at the TV show I’m watching alone in my room on a Saturday night, so not quite a waste—perhaps worse. And it’s in part, I suspect, because we’re bowling alone.
That’s right, I’m referencing that ubiquitous Robert Putnam schlock almost all of us have to read at one point or another here, the argument that the loss of civil society leads us to be less informed, less democratically active citizens. But it’s true—though we spend a good deal of time together, and though most of us are very socially involved, we’ve formalized so much of our leisure. It’s harder to just rand away with people, and even harder at this place, sometimes, to find people willing to be more than just echo chambers or sounding boards for your moanings and groanings.
And this is why I like my billiards buddy. While taking a shot, we jabber on about this and that, and we can jabber about almost anything. There’s no ordering, no prescribed actions or topics, and, brilliantly, we disagree on many things
In a class or a club, it’s at times hard for me to have a good argument, to find someone crass and opinionated and uninhibited enough to really go at it with. But I can fight with my billiards buddy, get my ass whipped in a game of eight ball as well as in an argument, and in the respect I have for her as a player—not an opponent but just someone I enjoy being around—I take her dissenting views seriously. And I bring up these articles at times. We fight, and I provide the point-counterpoint that I felt so conspicuously missing in the articles.
So that is our purpose. We are a fuel, sometimes to stoke the fires of your own opinions, but more often than not, I should hope, to light a fire under your ass to rage and rant about how wrong we are. About how wrong Greer Feick is about the way to end slavery (6) or how wrong Simon Rimmele is about the evils of tax havens (28). And it is my hope that you’ll take the rage with you when you “go bowling,” or what have you, that you’ll bring us in your mind, into your casual conversations, and gain something more, something intangibly but significantly different than you could through class discussion by it.
In summary, I hope this issue pisses you off. And I hope you run your mouth off about it over a beer and a good bar game. And I hope you love every minute of it.