Berkeley 1984

Welcome to Berkeley, Goats and Monkeys!

Roy Lisker
January 1984

" Welcome to Berkeley, Goats and Monkeys!"See Othello, Act IV, scene 1, line 261.

The citizenry of Berkeley, California is about equally divided between snobs and louts. During working hours, as social panic whips the snobs up into a mad frenzy, one can witness them dashing about all the by-ways of the university campus. The louts are out pan-handling. Anxiety over the $80,000+ yearly salary that snobs feel that they deserve by virtue of being educated so clouds their outlook, that much of their time is spent repenting every nickel wheedled out of them by the begging louts. Yet it is the louts who are the true capitalists. They are the ones who keep the money in circulation. Without them there would be no multiplier effect. Snobs do not invest in the local community;their commitment to delayed gratification finds its outlet in verbal diarrhea.

Make no mistake about it: the louts really are loutish, the snobs really snobbish. The two groups are easily distinguished by observing the way they snuffle their snot. The lout delights in long, ear-splitting , bowel-curdling draughts. Beginning several blocks away, they rise in volume as he approaches his destination. The snuffle may be rounded off with a belch of gratification, preferably in the face of the snob he's shaking down for a quarter.

The snob snuffles with refinement, never relaxing that sneer which knots the muscles about his lips. Through a host of ever-so-subtle innuendoes he conveys the message that there is a putrescent odor in the vicinity, which to continue to ignore, despite his exquisite manners, is rapidly becoming impossible.

Professional snot-snuffling at so high a level of sophistication can only be acquired through years of education. It conjures up the admiration of all who lack the higher breeding. Observe the gaze of the lout as he watches a snob brushing aside a crowd of uncouth louts to hurry to his course in Structuralist Macroeconomics: you will find nothing but envy therein. The lout despairs of ever being able to sneer , snicker or laugh at brute human misery in just this manner, as if it were some kind of God-given spectacle designed for the snob's amusement.

The lout realizes that such training begins in the cradle and costs many hundreds of thousands of dollars. It may even happen, as it does often enough, that the lout is actually a former snob who flunked out of Berkeley after failing that course on Structuralist Macroeconomics.

However the provenance of a lout is of no interest to the snob. Snobs only make fine distinctions between their own kind. As far as they are concerned, panhandlers, vendors of hand-made jewelry, drunks, schizophrenics, road people, street musicians, derelicts, the homeless, or the merely unemployed, are all of a piece: louts, or bums, or street people, or trash, or human garbage, or whatever.

In notable contrast to the above, snobs do uncover rigid distinctions among themselves. They're doing it all the time. One can hazard the suggestion that the principal activity of the snob consists in differentiating between various kinds of snob.

Snobs in college towns fall into 3 comprehensive categories: administrators, faculty and students. A Berkeley snob is easily placed in this scheme by observing his facial expression. An administrator never smiles. He needs to keep up the pretence that he's always thinking about important matters. Others must recognize that he is always working for them, that he really deserves his grossly inflated salary. Because it's just about impossible to get through life without smiling once in awhile, administrators tend to feel very sorry for themselves, thinking themselves in fact more to be pitied than those wretched louts!

A faculty member tends to cultivate a somewhat fixed or stereotypic smile, the sort that looks as if it were slapped on with a bit of paste. Their function in society more or less guarantees that they are always running into embarrassing situations. Take for example the matter of dealing with that lout who cracked up in the middle of the course on Structuralist Macroeconomics. His father, believe it or not, is a prominent psychiatrist, his mother the president of the Woman's Auxiliary of something-or-other. When the lout flunked Structuralist Macroeconomics his father declared him an incurable neurotic, kicked him out of the house and cut him off without a penny.

Whenever the professor of Structuralist Macroeconomics passes this lout on Telegraph Avenue a conditioned reflex pushes that plastic mail-order catalogue smile to the fore. Perhaps he does feels some guilt for what he's done to the poor guy- but he's not going to give him a quarter. That would be debasing the currency.

Were one to interrogate him at that moment, he might explain that in flunking the lout he was merely following orders. He must excuse himself: the situation is awkward. He is on his way to a cocktail party at the Faculty Club, followed by a lecture given by the lout's father, entitled "Structuralist Macropsychodynamics" !

The faces of students have more motility than those of persons in the two other categories: In the course of the day they will exhibit the normal gamut of joy, fear, pride, anger, anxiety and so on. Yet identifying them is particularly simple: students are arrogant, nasty, confused and lost.

Why are students so lost and confused? It's because they haven't yet made up their minds as to whether they intend to frown for the rest of their lives like administrators, or wear pasty smiles forever like faculty.

They are arrogant and nasty because, in Berkeley at least, so many of them come from a world with too much money and therefore expect everyone else, faculty, administrators, even louts, to bow down to them.

Incredible as it may seem, despite the impenetrability of snob myopia, a discerning eye can detect numerous layers of class distinction among the louts. Since louts are, by and large, obsessed with the need to bring the rest of the world down to their own level, they may themselves be unaware of these distinctions. The drunk sees a drunk in anyone who takes a drink, the manic-depressive commiserates the manic-depression of all his neighbors , the panhandler sees the latent bum in every pedestrian.

Louts also have their canons of territoriality , no less inflexible than those of the full-blooded snobs. Anyone who shares a bit of their space, standing in a soup kitchen line, waiting with them in a free clinic, outside the door of an emergency shelter or flea-bag hotel, simply must be just like them: just as shameless, just as low-minded, just as contemptuous of purpose or ambition, just as smug and useless.

Putting all of this together, one begins to see why it is so hard to be a resident of Berkeley - for us normal people that is. If you're seen talking with a lout, you must be a lout . If you express a serious idea on any subject, both snob and lout will assume you're working for a degree. Once they learn that you aren't, that perhaps you aren't even enrolled in some institution of higher learning, public opinion will assume that you're one of those paranoid louts who believes he's the Messiah. Although there is also the danger that some of the louts may conclude that you're one of those professors pulling in fabulous salaries, too stingy to part with a quarter. This is a situation in which the louts will treat you like a snob and the snobs will treat you like a lout.

No matter what you do, there is no way to insure that all snobs will accept you as another snob. Their utter incapacity for making distinctions between different kinds of lout is compensated for by their unerring ability to ferret out louts in snobs' clothing. Merely drop that glacial sneer, melt that plastic smile, lift that scowl of anguish from your brows, and the snob will hurl you into the abyss of lout-hood with malicious glee . It is this propensity which, more than anything else, unites all the different kinds of snob: identifying and spitting on louts.

That's Berkeley! All real people are encouraged to move elsewhere.


This excerpt is taken from the Blue and Gold Yearbook of Berkeley, 1986:

" At Berkeley alone there seem to be more than thirty thousand styles. But, sadly, this isn't true. We've got Stoney decked out like a deranged professor who lost his tenure it adds to his appeal. We've got the Polka Dot Man, of course, and Julia with her bubbles, books, and balls (eye, that is). Let's not forget Roy Lisker's fat polyester ties and his endless sawing of Vivaldi to bits, sometimes with orchestral accompaniment, sometimes to jazzy-sounding word repetitions. Yeah that Roy ..."

The complete article can be read at:Yearbook 1986


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