Bursting the Bubble

Jamie Rodney critiques event culture in The Bubble.

You’re a joke. The committee you sit on is a joke. The team you play for is a joke. The event that you blew £75 of your money to go to is a joke. The event that you spent six months of your life is a joke. The opinions you’re writing is a joke. All of this is a joke, and if you listen closely you can hear the bitter laughter of your older self, wondering how the hell you thought any of it was important.  

Of course, that’s not all on you. Because St Andrews is a joke. Its traditions are a joke. Everything you love and hate about this University is a joke. I don’t enjoy writing that, by the way, but it’s true. There is no other word for a town so full of pretend actors and pretend musicians, pretend social justice activists and pretend creatives, pretend models and pretend journalists.

And yes, pretend. Because no matter your level of expertise in your chosen (pretend) activity, if it takes place within the cosy confines of a University in which everyone knows each other, which cares as little about the wider world as the wider world does about it, then it doesn’t count as real. And at some level, you must know I’m right.

I can’t be the only one who thinks there is something deeply wrong with an institution that calls itself a Bubble like that isn’t a problem. You know I’m right, but you’ll continue to invest huge amounts of time, effort, and emotional energy into the game of charades you’re currently playing. Just like I will. Because we’re a joke.   

But that’s not all on St Andrews. University is a joke. Look at it this way. There are people our age with proper jobs. In marriages. Raising children, even. And we’re…. what? Spending four years in what is basically adult fairyland, to earn a degree that probably won’t get us a job at the end of it, and in the meantime, waste time on activities that… 

I was going to go on like this for the next two hundred words. Really rub in the sheer meaninglessness of whatever it is you spend your spare time doing. Maybe even tie in Trump and Brexit, because that always helps. But I can’t. I stand by every word I’ve written so far, but I can’t. Last night I was at an event meant to fund some of the charlatanry I’ve described. I saw the host, who had single handedly taken charge of running, planning and publicising the event rushed off their feet trying to make it a success. And I thought of the four hundred words you’ve just read and which I’d written the morning before, and felt ashamed.

Because even if the purpose the event served was fake, the flair, care, and sheer hard work that had gone into it were real. And I don’t think anyone has the right to criticise that.  

So, yes, the world we St Andreans will eventually go into is uncertain, and unstable, and won’t really care about what we did at university. Yes, anything that happens in the Bubble is going to be, by nature, ephemeral. But anyone who, despite that uncertainty, despite that ephemerality, manages to create something worth creating at university, deserves praise. Because maybe, just maybe, the skills we learn through our activities in this fake world, could have an impact on the real world. 

And because if we’re a joke, we may as well be a good one.



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