Last week I did something I never imagined was possible. I had a conversation about capitalism. Sure, I understood little of what I was saying, but as a cocksure University student too naïve to realise the insignificance of one measly Communism lecture I genuinely believed I was becoming smarter.
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Being the cynical party pooper I am, it didn’t take me long to ponder the whole point of doing Uni. People of all shapes and sizes convinced me of the worthlessness of an Arts degree, while punk kids from the ghetto (otherwise known as Monash students) preached to me the evils of Melbourne University. I had barely even set foot in the ‘prestigious’ grounds of the campus and I was already being lectured. To be perfectly honest the whole concept of a wasted Arts degree didn’t faze me a great deal. Given my lack of short-term plans such a course seemed perfectly tailored to me. Besides, such an attitude afforded me the luxury of choosing subjects I wanted to do, rather than those I knew I should do.
Cinema studies was the obvious first choice. It seemed downright impractical not to choose a subject that entailed watching a film each week and then talking about it. My attitude to Cinema, though, somewhat weakened as the semester wore on. Taking nothing away from those who actually have a major in Cinema, I seriously can’t see myself as a professional film theorist. Why? Because I don’t see the substance in a postmodern analysis of Happy Gilmore, a Freudian interpretation of Mr Bean’s Holiday, or a political reading of Space Jam. I’m simply not interested in the intellectual significance of menstruation in contemporary film! The complete absurdity of film theory is exemplified in a recent article I read, which decomposed the preoccupation Psycho has with anal-compulsive behaviour:
“A closeup of Marion’s first car license plate lays it to rest: It is ANL-709, the letters spelling a revealing word while the numbers cushion an anus-like zero between two more substantial digits” (Sterritt, 1993, 106)
To add one final point to this argument French New Wave and experimental cinema are indisputably stupid forms of art. And no, I refuse to reference that using the Chicago method.
To counter the detrimental impact Cinema was having on my brain I decided to choose Politics and a seemingly vague subject entitled Famine. It took me to two weeks to discover that Famine was actually part of the Geography stream, an area I so passionately despise, however I persisted with the nightmare in the vain hope that my lecturer would one day share hilarious anecdotes about Africa. On the contrary he informed me that the world is a pretty depressing place and that my intensive eating habits last year corresponded with a rapid rise in Africa’s rate of malnutrition. Oops. Likewise Politics drilled in a few wake-up calls. Wake-up calls such as ‘You don’t even know who won the Cold War’, ‘Your knowledge on the Russian Revolution extends only as far as Animal Farm,’ and – my personal favourite – ‘You don’t even know how to pronounce bourgeois’.
All in all, though, I can’t complain. Thus far my Uni assignments have entailed watching Jurassic Park, writing poems, recycling blog entries, insulting Robert Mugabe, and ‘analysing’ the ways in which Psycho and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off challenge Hollywood conventions. To add salt to your wound, I will be receiving the questions to my most difficult exam three weeks early and my only other exam is multiple choice. I love University!
My studyaholic lifestyle, which involves reading at least 100 pages (Rivers, 2009, 45) a week of dry, inane literature (Jurrah, 1956, 345) that “references every second word” (Yze, 1487, 90), and has sentences that seemingly last forever (Bizzell, 1979, 6; Neitz, 2005, 67), so much so that when you reach the end of the sentence (Bennell, 1991, 876-877) you are incapable of remembering what the beginning of the sentence said (Gysberts, 1995, 16) and hence determining the “general overarching principle” (Wonaeamirri, 1814, vvvvi) of the sentence, has been reignited by university; semi-colons also contribute to this effect (Rigoni, 1965, 99) as writers seem to have this obsession with tagging an already complex phrase (Leoncelli, 2003, 777) with an irrelevant piece of information (Hawkins, 1991, 117) that could have very easily been included (Agileovert, 1333, 55) as a separate sentence altogether (Johnson, 1879, 79; Smith and Smith, 67B.C., xiv). Nevertheless, it’s something I’ve learnt to deal with.
More importantly university has entailed a series of social changes that extend broader than simply reading the mX three days a week (to correspond with the amount of days I attend uni). Maybe it’s just my utter inability to talk to people about anything besides football, but meeting people and subsequently sustaining good friendships at university is fairly difficult. If it wasn’t for the societies I’ve joined (thank God for the Christian Union – pun intended) my University contacts would comprise of secondary school friends and an assorted jumble of people I might see once a week at a lecture or tutorial. Some days I wish the tutor would stop talking about socialism or whatever, and say to everyone “Okay guys, let’s play cheesy icebreaker games!”
Which (loosely) brings us back to capitalism and my renewed brain capacity. One of the great realisations I’ve had about University this semester is that it isn’t just a means to an end. Admittedly a fancy title next to my name will improve my chances of getting a job in two or three years, but at the end of the day I’m learning a hell of a lot. The other day I borrowed a book dedicated to world issues, something I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing three months ago. As humbling as it is, I appreciate the realisation that I know so little about what there is to know. In fact, if you excuse the fact that I can never watch a film ever again without deconstructing its discreet political agenda, then being a University student is actually a pretty awesome experience.