A few weeks ago, someone told me that Colgate students are moving the wrong way. Instead of moving with and supporting one another, we are focused on achieving strictly as individuals. This is not to say that Colgate students don’t appreciate friendship; most of us do. But ultimately, he explained, it is every student for himself or herself.
I thought about his words for a very long time. Initially, I convinced myself that his criticism was rooted in silly idealism; we can’t all roast marshmallows and sing “Kumbaya” – we live in a capitalist global economy! The resulting competitive mindset is just the nature of the beast. Besides, competition is healthy and motivating, right? It’s this drive that got most of us accepted to Colgate. But after further contemplation, I realized that such an American
Dream-inspired philosophy, while proven, is in fact flawed.
It is rooted in an uneducated assumption: that success necessitates selfishness. We have had this normative knowledge drilled into us since grade school, and until now, little reason to question it. After all, why fight a philosophy that has brought us good grades, internships and jobs? Because it is inhuman. As soon-to-be-adults, we can’t afford to be this way.
Think about it: trying to one-up our peers in the classroom, glaring at other job candidates while waiting for our interviews or making out with someone’s significant other does our characters no favors. On the contrary, it is reminiscent of how starved men and women might behave on a desert island.
Don’t worry, the alternative philosophy I’m advocating for is not like socialism or communism. Nor is it some pathetic or idealistic wish. It is simple humanity. People are by nature communal beings. We depend upon each other for survival, and back in the day, we even ran in tribes. It’s time we looked outside of our crazy personal lives and again considered the feelings and struggles of our peers. To put it plainly, we need to get back to acting like a
community. Not only is it the moral thing to do, but it is also fulfilling.
The key to creating a true Colgate community is dispelling the notion that giving to and respecting others subtracts from one’s self. It does not. Helping your peers in class will not injure your intelligence, giving advice to another job candidate won’t gnaw away at your chances of professional success and respecting a fellow peer’s romantic relationship won’t make you any less sexually desirable than him or her.
On the contrary, looking out for and understanding others helps us become stronger, more insightful and well-rounded people. To be straight, if you continue to treat life like a competition, you will die alone. Or, as the aforementioned person more eloquently explained it, Colgate needs to act more like a football team. Right now, we’re running alongside each other in our own straight lines, much like runners on a track. What we should be doing is passing the ball, watching each other’s backs and taking a hit for one another when push comes to shove (literally).
So, please, take the blinders off. As a senior soon to kick this place, I want to know that when I come back in 50 years, things will be better. I want to know that my alma mater is bigger than the cliques in the Coop, the cheating at the Jug and the divisions between Greek and non-Greek life. I don’t want to see the prejudices – racial, socioeconomic and gender-based – that quietly but forcefully dominate this school. We worked hard enough to get into Colgate, so for future students’ sakes, let’s treat each other better.
Contact Shannon Gupta at [email protected]