Some NYU students who identify with leftist ideals are the very bourgeois they oppose.
On the first day of class at New York University, my literature professor opened the course by saying, “You know, you guys just pay to be in the bourgeoisie, right?” Everyone in the class was nodding their heads and having discussions around Lenin, Marx, Engels and other famous leftist figures. The consensus of the discourse was that classism and capitalism are the roots of most evils in modern society and that they must be eliminated.
I couldn’t help but laugh at the contrast of the discussion with the number of Goyard and Hermès bags on other students’ desks. I’ll admit, I got a superiority complex that first day with my $5 Target bag.
I wondered if my peers really lacked the self-awareness to identify that they were actively promoting these capitalist ideas. I created a false wall between them and me. I believed I was walking actively thinking about how every decision I made or word I spoke contributed to a collective ideological war.
After sharing my thoughts with friends who didn’t continue their university studies due to financial reasons – just like that 42% other high school graduates – They put me in the right place. My ability to spot these hypocrisies was due to the fact that I had the privilege of being in this room, the privilege of having enough free time to read theory, and the privilege of moving around the country at will. A research a 2017 study by the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators found that most colleges are out of reach for eight out of 10 high school graduates. My own privilege has blinded me to who actually has access to higher education, which not all of my friends have.
It’s hard to identify as proletarian, communist, or socialist when you attend a college that costs more than $58,000 annually if you pay full price. While NYU provides generous financial aid to most of its students, those without it embrace leftist ideology but not ideals. However, many of my peers and professors I met at NYU claimed these titles. Some were even active in the New York University chapter of the Young Democratic Socialists of America. How could this be? Was it all performative? I myself believe that health care should be free, that private ownership is wrong, and that unions are necessary, but I was given a Louis Vuitton bag for high school graduation. The bottom line is that my ideals didn’t match my personality. My choice to separate myself from my peers with Goyard and Hermes bags and no student debt was a privilege in itself.
According to the study The New York Times reports 62% of NYU students comes from 20% of the median family income, while only 3.6% of its scholars can use the opportunity to move up. While the statistics in this article are insightful in analyzing the demographic disparity of the institution, the nature of this article also supports the capitalist idea that the ultimate goal is to distance yourself from being an underclass. Instead of fighting for social programs and class equality, we should only fight to preserve the intelligence of the lower class. The inequality that New Yorkers face on a daily basis is almost impossible to ignore, but the social sentiment that they are not intelligent is often used to normalize this economic abuse.
Attending university is a great way to start looking for yourself and understanding the society to which we dedicate our illusions. Hell, all of your 20s. We begin to develop our sense of identity to match our ideals. However, the controversial nature of this within the class hierarchy cannot and should not be ignored. Accepting your place in society doesn’t necessarily mean you have to follow the social norms of that class.
Privilege gives opportunity. This opportunity can be used either for self-development or for expressing the collective voice. It’s time to put our money where our mouths are and use our advantages to listen to the working class. We need to become their allies instead of preaching false moral sentiments in the classroom.
The Opinion section of WSN aims to publish ideas worthy of discussion. The opinions presented in the Opinion section are solely those of the writer.
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