Missing the meat of the matter

Jake Gordin responds to Prof David Benatar's rebuke of his article on the uselessness of student activism


I would like you to imagine a steak in front of you (no, no, I'm being serious). There are commonly two regions on a well prepared steak, differentiated by colour. The main body of the steak will be dark brown in colour, while the outer region will be a thin white/cloudy layer of meat. This outer layer is what we steak-connoisseurs call ‘the fat'. If you're watching your weight or you're suffering from Type II Diabetes (or you're my father, who happens to be all three - watching his weight, a type II diabetic and ‘The Fat' itself), it is customary to cut off the thin fat layer. Even if you do decide to eat it, it doesn't really make a difference to your overall dining experience. The reason for this is because the fat layer, being lesser in substance, is really quite an ancillary aspect to one's steak.

It would be anathema to the International Fine Steak Tasting Society to criticise the quality of a steak based predominantly off of the fat layer, as the fat layer isn't really the point. What the connoisseur is truly concerned with is the meat of, well, the meat. I do feel Professor, that if my article were a steak, your response to it would warrant expulsion from the International Fine Steak Tasting Society, as you're too hung up about the thin fatty layer. The overarching point, the dark brown portion of the collection of wordy thingies that some people call an article, is thus: student activism, in general, is useless.

I consider them, as they are currently done, to be pointless exercises in righteousness, and students who think otherwise are, as I so bluntly put it, delusional and arrogant. Unless, the issue in question is taking place in the same country as the university and thus student activism will have the issue continuously banging its head against the country's front door. THAT is the meat of my article. The main purpose, the main idea I was pushing, however, corresponds only to the ‘thin fat' of your response. Unfortunate that you seem so focused on such a minor part of the article, but here we go: let's trim your fat: 

You say that I "believe [I am] immune to the charge of arrogance for thinking that [my] debut column is going to make a difference". Quick point of clarification here Professor: I have never, at any point - either in my life or my piece - proclaimed my humility (or was it my humanity? No, no, it was humility...). I wouldn't dream of it. I suffer many of the characteristics of adolescence, and arrogance, for the time being, is one of them. I even said: "Though I suspect all teenagers/twenty somethings have always been of such a mindset (I am too, in certain ways. Just not monumentally stupid ways)." Look, I'm even quoting myself, who the hell does that?

I do not consider it hypocritical to criticise various other activist students at UCT for their arrogance however, because unlike them, I am fully aware that what I - an insignificant first year undergraduate - say or do makes little appreciable difference to anything. I never said, nor think, that what I write on Politicsweb, or in Varsity, or in Sax Appeal, or on the underside of a vegan muffin makes a shred of difference. The article, due to the fact that it is essentially a little slice of student activism, illustrates precisely that point.

But then there is the ‘meat' of your response, and you seem to be pretty taken with the final paragraph, about the reasons why some people eat meat. Well, I'm not too fussed about that part of the article. That last paragraph wasn't something I liked - it was a sickly thing, hastily thrown together. Interestingly, I expressed my displeasure at being unable to flesh it out (get it?) in numerous emails to both my father and the Politicsweb editor, but extending on that idea in addition to what was already written would be tantamount to writing a novel, so we left it alone. Besides, what I was getting at is that the societal reasons for the meat industry - employment, nutrition and taste - are why there just won't be a stop to meat production.

My piece - specifically the end of it - wasn't about my defence of eating meat/killing non-human animals. It's not even an attempt to do that. I think vegetarianism - a matter of dietary and environmental concern - is not so straightforward, morally or otherwise. If I had to engage "honestly" with vegetarianism as you suggested, it would be done in more than one concluding paragraph. I was simply trying to link the industry's view on the matter and how that would render Green Week pointless.

You also use the word ‘rant' to describe my writing style. Ummm, yeah, I guess so. The abrasive manner in which I wrote was to have the piece, at heart, be an emotive one. It keeps things interesting; my persona is supposed to be a sort of caricature teenager - I'm not that much of an asshole in person (kind of, but not really). Additionally, the whole BA vs. BSc thing is just a running joke at universities, no one takes them too seriously (I certainly don't).

"Perhaps Mr Gordin is merely trying to be funny. If so, he should write for Sax Appeal (UCT's RAG mag), not Politicsweb" - what does that mean? One can't be funny on Politicsweb? Well, if that's the case I'll gladly leave. You bet your medium-rare rump I'm trying to be funny! This last piece wasn't a very successful attempt, but I'm learning. I think humour is what more writers should focus on - or at the very least try make things entertaining. All the syllogistic rigour in the world is worth nothing if people pay it no attention.

Regards, a friend,

Jake Gordin

P.S. Slavery? Really? Oh boy, and I thought I was controversial...not so different are we?

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