The September issue of The Blue & White is on campus now, and Bwog will keep on running the highlights. If you’d like to read the whole issue, you can now do so on the magazine’s new archives website—theblueandwhite.org. Here, Staff Writer (and Bwog Editor) Alex Jones recounts a visit to the Harvard Club.
The Blue & White dispatched me to the Columbia Alumni Association’s “Annual Inter-Club Beer Tasting – Saison Global Language Exchange” event at the Harvard Club of New York City. As the magazine’s sole contributor with a membership at the Columbia Club, the assignment was inevitable. The editors were looking for a brief note on the event including some jabs aimed at the attendees without real engagement in the culture war. Simple enough.
But as I sat in a high-backed chair, eating fried clams and wondering if anyone there played golf with Jamie Dimon, I decided that I might have enjoyed the gilded age—that I liked counting stuffed baboons and elephant heads among our posh company—even as I felt I shouldn’t. Such extravagance seemed to me not the Columbian mode of interaction with wealth.
The average student spends too much time lazing in the cocoon of conventional liberal wisdom to be admittedly satisfied in that setting, even if he were raised in it. Certainly, we have our cadre of “sellout” finance types, but how many would feel comfortable admitting their aspirations to wealth in CC?
Perhaps I draw too-hard lines for the sake of sport (forgive me—I’m an undergrad one year more yet). Still, Columbians are coy about their aspirations to money. They aren’t after lobster mac and big game on the walls, and those that are are compelled to conduct themselves with a falsely charitable sprezzatura. Instead, Columbians earn endless degrees in search of an examined life. Such pursuit is lauded. And the “life well-considered” should find an audience at the University, but I can’t help but find that too-abstract path an inferior means, to the common end: some Aristotelian “good life.”
I asked the straw man helping me with this piece, “What is wrong with trying to make a little money, to live nicely, to pay off debt, to save for a family?” “Nothing,” he replied. “But shut up about it. Discussing money is rude, and the Core unites us all.”
That might be the simple answer: that most everybody aspires to wealth, only with varying degrees of subtlety and decency. It wouldn’t be the first time I didn’t know which fork to use first.