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A Yale Head
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PRACTICALLY the whole of each of our succeeding
classes comes under the influence of our society system, practically every man in each class labors under the delusion that he has a chance to make good. And this tremendous influence is powerful up to the very end of Junior year. A man must conform to its dictums or throw up his chances of social success; inevitably he is swayed by it. A discussion as to the virtues proper of individualism or of conformity to Yale standards is not the purport of this leader. "There is,” says Sir Roger de Coverley, “much to be said on both sides"; and the subject is not new. But there is a phase of the question which has not lately, at least, been treated in detail: The Yale hypocrisy which this tremendous influence breeds.
A lie is an uncertain quantity. Mr. Kant, Herr Kant perhaps it should be, says that a lie is never justifiable; and I am rather disposed to agree with him. A lie under certain circumstances may seem absolutely justifiable to the liar; but
then it may seem absolutely unjustifiable to everybody else. The theory that the end justifies the means has been dragging out a rather precarious existence during the past few thousand years. Whether it is proper to bluff in poker, whether a lie to save a friend is excusable, a lie to save a woman commendable, is beside the question. But it will probably be acknowledged that it is wrong to tell a lie, to live a lie, for purely selfish ends. And it is this which is the hypocrisy of Yale.
Yale hypocrisy crops out under various conditions. Many of them to the average mind would almost justify the deception; others are wholly reprehensible. Perhaps the most reprehensible to the college mind is the very possible hypocrisy of a heeling of Dwight Hall. Very possible, I say, for the accusation can never be pushed wholly home. An absolute sinner who has aspired to Deaconship may angrily explain his inconsistencies by vaunting his struggle toward a better and a cleaner life. Nevertheless, college gossip has it that in some years the leaders of Dwight Hall, or at least men who aspired to such positions, have not been entirely dominated by an unselfish and Christian spirit. Of course it is not the positions of power in an uncongenial activity which has attracted such men; it is the fact that such positions have been used in other days as stepping stones to the ever-dominant Senior societies.
The same influence is exerted over the supposedly free college press. Undoubtedly there are News heelers, there are LIT. heelers, whose ultimate ambition more concerns a golden pin of strange device than it does the watch charms of the papers. But this is not the worst feature of our press hypocrisy. A man's conduct before he begins to exert any public influence most largely concerns only himself, and his ultimate college god. But the moment he does begin to influence others through the press, the whole college world comes into the question. And this college world has a right to the real opinions of this successful college man, opinions unaltered by what the powers that be might think, or what
March 1906] JAN 5 '40
he thinks they might think. Without doubt the public has a right to the true opinion of this man in college public life; but the public does not always get it. In Senior year it is true our college papers speak their mind comparatively freely; but it is only comparatively freely. For the vast influence to which they have yielded in earlier days has warped them, many of them, into ultraconservative men, which they were never meant to be.
The vast influence I speak of is no tangible thing; it is the influence of, may we call it again, a man's own college godno god who stands by his side as he writes, saying, "Write this, do that," but a god whose influence is infinitely subtle, often misunderstood. But a false god who sways a man ever so slightly in a moment of indecision may send him over the precipice, into the darkness of hypocrisy.
I rather think that this influence is more dominant in our lives than in our speech. When a man writes a thing down, even when he says a thing, he is apt to reason it out, pro and And this reasoning element is not so evident in our actions. For others may read inconsistencies in his writings, note them in his speech; but his actions are all his own, inasmuch as he alone can entirely understand them. It is following out this analogy that a man will heel another doglike for a month, another whom he will not open his mouth to defend, and whom he will abuse openly the month following. It is a different matter to push this accusation home, to prove it on paper to be so. It would of course be the height of impoliteness to cite individual cases; and, on the other hand, the News would be very likely to refute anything less definite with a final assertion of opinion, "This is not so." But I think that there are men in academic Yale who may feel in their hearts that I do not lie. And it is to these men, and not to the editorial policy of the News or any other paper, that I would make the blackness of bootlicking evident. I heard a man say before one tap day that he would give his soul to make a Senior society. To my mind he had given it already; and I thought of a line or two
from Kipling's "Tomlinson," when the devilkins report to their Lord on Tomlinson's soul
"And they said, "The soul that he got from God
he has bartered clean away.
We have threshed a stook of print and book,
And many a soul wherefrom he stole,
Now hypocrisy in a man's general individual life is the most dangerous hypocrisy of all. It is possible that a man may hang his hypocrisy up over his office desk, or keep it between the leaves of the Bible in Dwight Hall, to be used only in office hours. But when he carries it around with him to his eating joint, to his room, over to the New Haven House to get a drink, it is pretty sure to be fastened on him fairly well by the end of his college life. Wherefore all discussion as to further form of our hypocrisy would come in the form of an anti-climax; and anti-climaxes are detestable.
I think that at the end we must admit that there is hypocrisy at Yale, all of us. But I can see that to many. men this hypocrisy may still seem justifiable, or at the least excusable. A man who knows more of the world than the majority of college men told me that Yale standards, the standards, the forms which are responsible for our false attitudes, are the standards of the whole United States; and I rather think he was right. Conditions in American life, as well as conditions in our little Yale life, make men-and mar them. But two wrongs have never made a right; and I call Yale useless unless it can train men to a higher code than this over-busy, over-tolerant American life will give them. And there is a higher code, there must be, for I turn to the court of last appeal, and I find this—
"This above all: to thine own self be true,
J. N. Greely.