Low Talk in High Places – The New Yorker
history professor: My goodness, I sat in on Harvey’s anthropology class yesterday. Does he drone on, or what?
philosophy professor: Yes, exactly. Harvey speaks so slowly, I felt like I was suddenly thrust into a pre-Enlightenment, post-Hopi notion of chronological structure in which time literally moves backward.
history professor: When he started discussing the Yanomami love of sport, I finally understood Robert Ingersoll’s Gilded Era promotion of euthanasia.
philosophy professor: Euthanasia for you or for Harvey?
classics professor: Is that a rhetorical question? If so, it is very funny.
ethics professor: Guys, I feel a little conflicted talking about Harvey when he’s not here. Are you sure this is appropriate?
philosophy professor: Oh, look who’s suddenly become epistemologically Kantian. Of course it’s appropriate! We’re not really talking about Harvey, per se. We’re talking about our own value structure through Harvey.
history professor: Right. It’d be like if we were talking about Genghis Khan as a way to discuss our feelings about colonization. But instead of Genghis Khan and colonization, it’s Harvey and how goddam slow he talks.
philosophy professor: Or how he dresses like it’s the early nineteen-eighties, which was an era replete with the illusion of social mobility, in contrast to the reality of life in practically every urban center.
history professor: Although Harvey seemed to do pretty well. He bought that duplex condo at the height of anti-Keynesian supply-side economics.
philosophy professor: If by “anti-Keynesian supply-side economics” you mean “Harvey’s parents bought him that duplex with their dirty Wall Street money,” then, yes, he did.
ethics professor: Wait a second—capitalism is an important part of the American mythos. Outside of the Paris Commune, free-market economies have been the only sustainable forms of democracy.
history professor: Correct. Which is why, when Harvey took over the humanities department, it felt like I was living during the Yezhovshchina period in Soviet Russia, when Nikolai Yezhov, the head of the Soviet secret police, whom I’m comparing unfavorably to Harvey right now, was purging innocent intellectuals, whom I’m comparing, favorably, to us.
philosophy professor: Yes, it is like that. And have you ever noticed how Harvey takes his sister to every quarterly function because he literally can’t get a date?
history professor: Indeed, Harvey’s such a loser. Like the Justinians, eventually.
philosophy professor: At least the Justinians, because they existed before harnessed electricity, didn’t have hair that looked like they stuck their finger in a light socket.
history professor: Yes, Harvey has hair like that.
ethics professor: O.K., this has gone too far! Just because Harvey doesn’t resemble a pre-Raphaelite model with locks like those of the brutish biblical metaphor Samson doesn’t mean that we should gang up on him like the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (with Harvey being Poland) or the Karađorđevo Agreement (with Harvey, of course, being post-Tito Bosnia-Herzegovina)!
philosophy professor: Actually, sir, I find your moralizing the most misguided of all! We are three educated adults engaging in completely valid colloquy. Your rejection of our discourse, casually known as “gossip,” is reprehensible (like Harvey’s breath after he eats tuna fish). Gossip has been a vital part of social dynamics for thousands of years (which is likely the length of time that Harvey has been alive, judging by his taste in music). And, while I’ll allow that gossip has been used to discuss matters of lust (which Harvey would know very little about), it has also been used to organize large societies (which Harvey would probably run into the ground, given the chance, just as he has run the humanities department into the ground). Even the Bible, a book which, if interpreted through a Unitarian Humanist lens, offers many valuable parables (unlike Harvey, who offers nothing, not even a couch to sleep on during my divorce, even though he lives alone in that duplex condo that his parents bought for him with the money they embezzled during the height of deregulation), employs gossip. Yes, our dynamic is completely valid, and it is you, sir, who is to be condemned. Your behavior makes you no better than Harvey, whom, as discussed, we dislike.