Saturday, April 16, 2005

The world's hatiest wall (updated) (and again)

From the Collegian, "Symbolic destruction of discriminatory words promotes campus unity"

The Writing on the Wall was torn down in the culmination of "End Discrimination Week" on the Haymaker/Moore lawn.

The Wall, which was sponsored by the Kansas State University Association of Residence Halls and the Student Governing Association's Diversity Programming Council, was built last weekend, and people were free to paint words of hate on the wall starting Monday.

Volunteers were guarding the wall 24 hours a day because of safety reasons, Tiffany Happer, senior in architectural engineering, said.

Yeah, that, and we wouldn’t want anyone defacing the wall of hate, would we? Can you imagine if some punk-ass, shaved head, white kid had come during the night and spray painted “can’t we all just get along” on the wall of hate? There would've been blood in the streets, man.

There were two speakers that shared their experiences with hate and discrimination. Peter Wetzel, sophomore in elementary education, said to fight hate, quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his speech.

"To fight hate, we have to know hate," he said.

And build walls, don't forget that. But, really, anyone that didn’t already know what hate is, is, to borrow a word I learned from the wall of hate, “retarded.” From the wall of hate I also learned that "robot" and "landscape architect" are terms of hate. I plan to use these in the future. To end hate, I mean. Always to end hate.

Words, as well as actions, are capable of inducing hate.

So, words absent of actions are still capable of inducing hate. By this logic, the wall of hate, scrawled as it was with numerous racial, religious and ethnic epithets must be the hatiest, inducingest thing around.

"Words are powerful. Not unused. They are still said," he said.
I have little to no idea what this means. Maybe it was a little bit of freeform poetry.

Discrimination and hate, however, don't have to happen.

"It's important for people to see that oppression doesn't have to exist, and we can do something about it," he said.

And, to that end, a wall was created and inscribed with hundreds of hateful words. Obviously.

The other speaker, Candi Hironaka, associate director of educational administration, is third-generation Japanese. She said walls do not help with eliminating hate.

Walls are built to keep something out and also to keep something in," she said. "You walk around that wall and everyone can see words directed at you."

However, the wall is a "visual projection" of hate.

"We hear words and they are gone for some. But by seeing words, it can be more hurtful," she said.

Hironaka, who teaches leadership in practice, said relationships with others can help with discrimination.

"Leadership is about relationships with others. If leaders aren't stepping up, progress won't be made," she said.

Happer, who coordinated the event the last time it was done in 2003, said the idea came from a conference she attended at the University of Utah.

The wall helps show the different forms of hatred.

"It puts a face to diversity and discrimination," she said.

It’s nice to see it acknowledged that diversity and discrimination have the same face, and that this face is actually a wall. For the symbolism, y'know?

Sarah Decke, coordinator for leadership development, said the wall can remind us of our words of hate.

"We aren't going to truly live together peacefully if we don't remind each other of how hurtful hate can be," she said.

Ooh! Ooh! I volunteer to be the societal hate reminder! Every once an' awhile, for no apparent reason, I’ll just randomly insult bystanders. For diversity, y’know. To help end hate. Always to end hate.

Although the program had the same level of success this year, it was still beneficial.

I love the construction of this sentence. “Although…” it was the same as last year, “it was still beneficial.” Implicit in this sentence, is that in previous years the success level of the wall must have been very low, and that this is also true for this year.

"It impacted a new group of people," she said.

In addition to The Wall, Haymaker also put together a display of flags in their front lawn. There were five different colors of flags to represent hate crime statistics in 2004.

So all the hate crime statistics, for a population of 293 million (assuming this a statistic for the whole USA) can be fit on half of one lawn outside of Haymaker. Never have I been more proud to be an American.

Hironaka asked the crowd to be courageous.

"Challenge to exercise your courage muscle. Speak up. Don't be silent," she said.

"Challenge to exercise your courage muscle." FDR couldn't have put it better.

update: I must say, in defense of the wall, that it is not completely ridiculous, at least as an idea. I mean, the idea is a coherent idea (unlike, say, diversity). The idea being that words, when written out, would impress upon people their significance. For example, people flippantly throw around the word "retard." But, when it is written out on the wall of hate, people might realize that this is not the best thing to do. I tend to use the word retard, and will continue doing so (at least in certain contexts, such as among friends and family), because I realize that hate requires a hateful motive. Still, the written epithets on the wall might impress upon people a certain significance that the spoken word, with its inherently temporal nature, might not.

But, in execution, the wall was a horrible flop. Having huge obscenities scribbled on a wall in plain view of a street that children might be going down is a, y'know, retarded idea. That, and the idea of impressing upon people the significance of their words by writing them down simply doesn't translate into reality, however appealing as an idea. I went and saw the wall with a couple of friends, and we ridiculed it merciless, as I would guess most people did. For some people, seeing the wall was just a way to expand their vocabulary. After we left the wall, we kept on trying to think of more and more hateful words. Not exactly a success for the wall, I would think.

A liberal friend of mine even said that the wall was stupid. That some things might seem like a good idea in the abstract does not mean that they will translate into a reality as planned. Unintended consequences are near inevitable, as it is impossible to plan for every eventuality.

At the risk of lapsing into self-parody, I will say that this is one of the central tenets of Hayek's social and political philosophy. We shouldn't undergo radical courses of action against traditional morality (i.e. building a wall scrawled with obscenities) because we will never be able to know exactly what the outcome will be. Traditional morality has undergone a process of cultural evolution, and so is the best morality for this world we live in, according to Darwinian "survival of the fittest." Therefore, to ensure the best possible consequences for our actions, traditional morality should be foll0wed as a rule of thumb, and radical courses of action only taken in drastic circumstances.

updated 2: I tend to agree with Steve Carrell from the office when it comes to invidious discrimination. In the diversity episode (which, again, you simply must see) he says, and this is a paraphrase, "Abraham Lincoln once said, if you are a racist, I will attack you with the North."

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