| March 20, 2013


Saw this in the subway today, and was shocked. First at the banality of it, the stupidest of reasons, but then at the brazen honesty. It always amazes me when the starkest of truths not only leak out but are proudly displayed.
The glare in the car was atrocious so let me just run through it. It reads:

Thank you, CUNY School of Professional Studies, for my favorite cap, even if I only got to wear it once.

Then below it says:

I always knew that I could.
What’s your reason?

Add a pseudo-engineering diagram of a tassel being rotated to complete the picture, and you’re almost done. But it’s the small print that brings it all home. Down at the bottom there is a hashtag(!):


They manage to locate the most vacuous, but perhaps precisely significant act–we like to play along with this archaic ritual, covering over the deeper concern which is that it is the other way around: it is the tassel that drives our “meaningful” educational dreams. Our dreams, that is, are more simple, more absurd, than we can notice while we are dreaming them.
But then we find the clincher. As if the apparatus must recognize that it does not know a good reason, it asks us instead. And yet, here we find the aggressive moment, the desire of the apparatus itself: don’t just tell us your reason, as if it were so obvious. No, you must #findyourreason. Fair enough, you might say. But why a command and why this command? Isn’t it likely that what we are witnessing is the urgent need of the apparatus to not only run on the dreams of others but to have any dream suffice as long as it is sufficient reason to enroll. The apparatus reduces itself–and wasn’t this true already?–to propogating and branding the instruction to find your way to it.
We can perhaps see this from the other direction, as high schools, operating parasitically on this empty “reasoning,” more and more pursue “college preparation” with single minded enthusiasm, all the more aggressive for the license granted to them by the perceived youth of their wards. Here the discourse of success provides the cover for oft blatant displays of coercion, predicated on the survival needs of the apparatus itself.
In exchange you are encouraged to invest your desires in a cap you will only wear once…