On the train home from an event at the Museum of Contemporary Art entitled “Self-Care as Warfare” I opened an email from the Princeton Club of Chicago entitled “Salute to Patriotism” inviting me to the 129th annual Washington’s Birthday gala with an alum/general as the keynote speaker. (First, let me say, serving in the military is an incredibly courageous act. I have deep respect for anyone who is willing to leverage their life for their country.) This email triggered in me a sensation, perhaps because I juxtaposed these two events together in my mind: a fancy gala celebrating America next to a talk on self-care and readying oneself for four years of having to fight every day to maintain a progress in what’s looking to be more and more like a McCarthy/Orwellian state.
And so my thought is this: why do all these Princeton Club events seem to reinforce an existing thing? Like the renovation of an already well-maintained road. I don’t think I’ve ever opened a Princeton Club of Chicago email and seen something radical. An idea challenging the norm. An event exploring a marginal environment or real of thought.
This should be no surprise to anyone who went to Princeton. We made fun of ourselves for being apathetic to anything occurring outside the “orange bubble” of campus. Princeton is tradition and tradition is inert and stagnant. Mosquitoes breed in fetid, stagnant pools. Stagnation is not something any person or organization should aspire to achieve.
What is surprising is how I, as a Princeton alum, am not leveraging my education and connections to do radical work. (I want to be clear, too: radical does not mean liberal. Radical means new. That happens to usually be liberal ideas as liberal tends to counter conservative and the literal definition of conservative is to conserve an already held idea. But radical can be a new way, a way unshackled from preconceived notions of red and blue.) A Princeton degree opens doors. It instills an air of “respectability” that could help provide resources or an amplification of the voices of those who don’t have a Princeton degree.
I’d like to band together with other Princetonians (Harvard, Yale, Columbia, etc. can come too, as long as they pledge fealty to Old Nassau [sarcasm]) and made a Radical Princeton Club of Chicago where we don’t just go to fancy dinners or talk about ghettos with a white sociology professor, but where we attend community open houses in Englewood on education reform. Or volunteer with The Plant, a non-profit developing circular economies of food production, energy conservation, and material reuse. We go to these things. We listen. We work. We try and find solutions.
Isn’t this what we did at Princeton? Listening, thinking, discussing, synthesizing solutions. But for things that really didn’t matter, like problem sets, term papers, and theses? And now out in the real world we eat brunch and stay in our little orange bubbles in the larger Chicago community. FUCK THAT. I won’t have it. I’m starting the Radical Princeton (& Friends) Club of Chicago. You wanna join?