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Humans are stupid.

Humans used to be intelligent. Humans used to travel the globe, reach for the stars, ask the fundamental questions. They worship Pagan Gods, sought to do mighty deeds, and make names that lasted forever as something to aspire to. Some even did so well they became Gods themselves.

Now however…

It all started in one of those places where you think people would know better. Columbia University is one of those places known for its record of highly educated and highly successful graduates. I think. Given the article I found, I suspect that was all lies.

Classical Mythology Too Triggering for Columbia Students

 

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Apparently, in an age of respecting other cultures, diversity, and inclusivity…the ancient religious tales of the Romans and Greeks need to be silenced, because some people can’t handle them. Now, this is pretty stupid when you’re coming from a place where you believe in and worship the Roman and Greek Gods, but it’s arguably even worse when you can’t handle something you consider to be fiction.

I mean, I can understand people not being able to read “True Crime” novels, because they don’t like to think about all that bad stuff happening to real people. But when you come at it from an area where not even “fiction” can talk about something because you get Triggered, well…at that point I don’t think the problem lies with the writer or the story.

So here goes. Prepare for snark.

During a forum hosted by the Multicultural Affairs Advisory Board on Literature Humanities last semester, a student shared an experience with an audience of instructors and fellow students. This experience, she said, came to define her relationship to her Lit Hum class and to Core material in general.

Oh boy.

During the week spent on Ovid’s “Metamorphoses,” the class was instructed to read the myths of Persephone and Daphne, both of which include vivid depictions of rape and sexual assault. As a survivor of sexual assault, the student described being triggered while reading such detailed accounts of rape throughout the work. However, the student said her professor focused on the beauty of the language and the splendor of the imagery when lecturing on the text.

Yeah, I looked up the story of Persephone as told by Ovid. There are three things of note in it. 1) Hades was under the control of the strongest love spell you can imagine, essentially a cocktail of PCP and Rohipnol, known as Cupid’s Arrow. 2) Rape back then meant “Capture” as well as the meaning we have today. 3) THERE IS NO GRAPHIC DEPICTION OF THE RAPE!!!!

Literally, the text goes: Hades gets shot, Hades sees girl, Hades grabs girl, Hades runs for it. Hades and Persephone in the underworld. Next thing you know, she’s Queen and that’s all you read. Except that Ovid really does say it quite prettily. Even with it being an English translation, it’s a really well worded story (even with all the notes in it). I can see why the Professor focused on the Language. I have read writing that good since Nietzsche (who is held to be the most writer of the German Language).

“The land [of Sicily] quakes [as Typhoeus the Giant buried beneath it tries to escape] and even Rex Silentum (the king who rules the land of silence) [Haides] shudders lest the ground in gaping seams should open and the day stream down and terrify the trembling Umpire (Shades). Tyrannus [Haides] had left his dark domains to and fro, drawn in his chariot and sable steeds, inspected the foundations of the isle. His survey done, and no point found to fail, he put his fears aside; when, as he roamed, Erycina [Aphrodite], from her mountain throne, saw him and clasped her swift-winged son, and said : `Cupido [Eros], my child, my warrior, my power, take those sure shafts with which you conquer all, and shoot your speedy arrows to the heart of the great god to whom the last lot fell when the three realms were drawn. Your majesty subdues the gods of heaven [and sea] . . . Why should Tartara (Hell) lag behind? Why not there too extend your mother’s empire and your own? The third part of the world’s at stake, while we in heaven (so long-suffering!) are despised–my power grows less, and less the power of Amor [Eros]. Do you not see how Pallas [Athene] and Diana [Artemis], queen of the chase, have both deserted me? And Ceres’ daughter [Persephone], if we suffer it, will stay a virgin too–her hope’s the same. So for the sake of our joint sovereignty, if that can touch your pride, unite in love that goddess and her uncle [Haides].’

That’s some damn fine writing. Better than most of the fiction I’ve done for sure. But that’s what you get for having a poet write stuff, they tend to make it pretty. And how does our dear student deal with beautifully told tales of Godly deeds?

As a result, the student completely disengaged from the class discussion as a means of self-preservation. She did not feel safe in the class.

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Really. You couldn’t hear a story about events that happened thousands of years ago without having to jerk yourself into an antisocial state, all because you didn’t feel safe in your classroom. From a story. From thousands of years ago. About Gods.

Now, there’s two ways I can go with this.

1) The story is fictional, it never happened, and it’s more about a kidnapping than an actual rape. There’s no nudity, no sex, the words “penis” and “vagina” do not appear anywhere in the story, and literally millions of children have read this story and have walked away completely fine for milk and cookies after. And when you get down to it, Pluto and Jupiter are the reasonable ones here because by the end of it Venus and Cupid drugged Pluto, Ceres cursed the living world with famine and death, Persephone cursed a man into a bird, and by the end Pluto is probably sitting there with a brand new wife wondering what the fuck just happened to him.

2) The story is real, this really happened to sentient beings we refer to as Gods. Persephone was kidnapped and probably raped (by a drugged out and mind controlled Pluto). In which case you, young lady, instead of feeling sympathy for a Rape Victim, are such a narcissistic bitch that you are self appropriating Persephone’s trauma and making it about you because it “triggered” you.

Not, “poor Persephone, let us feel sorrow for her.”

Not, “let us talk about what horrid bastards Venus and Cupid were.”

Not, “was Pluto morally responsible for his actions under the power of the universe’s most powerful aphrodisiac, which he was given without his consent.”

It’s “I can’t talk about this story because I can’t handle the fact it’s about Rape! And I was Raped! And everyone should cater to me and my trauma because that’s the most important thing about this situation, fuck that Persephone bitch who actually got raped when she tells her story!”

imageAnd yes, I know I’m hitting the “retarded button” hard on this one, but my Gods I could have posted that one quote and then filled the rest of the post with nothing but retard memes and it still wouldn’t convey how much stupid is in this kind of thing.

And did you ever think that maybe part of the reason you didn’t feel safe is because you probably just pissed off three Gods with this kind of inconsiderate and selfish response? Let’s see, you just essentially told Persephone it doesn’t matter that she was raped, you only care about your personal trauma. You just told Ceres that you don’t care her daughter was raped because, hello, your personal trauma. And you just told Pluto that you don’t care that both he and his wife were raped because of YOUR PERSONAL FUCKING TRAUMA!

That’s like slapping the Queen of England in the face with a rotting tuna and wondering why all the guards are pointing guns at you!

Really, this is the only face I can make at that.

Really, this is the only face I can make at that.

But it we go back to the idea that for this girl the story is “fictional,” she feels completely endangered by a god damn fairy tale. She is so terrified by a story she wants to break down crying and make people stop talking about something interesting because she can’t handle it.

THEN WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU IN COLLEGE?

It can’t be to learn, or else you’d be trying to learn how to deal with your trauma. You know, like all those soldiers who are using Ovid’s Metamorphosis and other tales like it to deal with their POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER. You know, that thing you apparently have that means you can’t even listen to a story vaguely describe events that probably don’t even have any relation to what happened to you. Except, apparently, instead of triggering those soldiers with the “graphic depictions” it’s actually helping them.

So maybe, instead of trying to hide away and censor something you don’t like hearing about, you could learn from it. Learn that even Goddesses get raped, and you’re not a goddess, so it’s okay that something bad happened to you and you couldn’t stop it. Maybe you could use it to understand Persephone’s trauma and thereby, help understand your own trauma. Maybe even learn from her example, after all she went on to be Happily Married to Pluto after it was all said and done. Maybe you could learn from that example that life goes on, and it gets better, and your rape doesn’t have to define your life or make you live an existance of complete and utter soul crushing terror. After all, Persephone has to live in the UNDERWORLD where everything is DEAD. You’re still here, and that’s pretty okay.

Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” is a fixture of Lit Hum, but like so many texts in the Western canon, it contains triggering and offensive material that marginalizes student identities in the classroom. These texts, wrought with histories and narratives of exclusion and oppression, can be difficult to read and discuss as a survivor, a person of color, or a student from a low-income background.

thGODS FUCKING DAMN IT!

You had to do it, you just had to do it.

First off (ignoring the racism of the whole “western cannon” thing, as if the tales of every civilization didn’t have stuff about traumatic events and offensive themes) they’re ignoring factual history. Rome was the most diverse Empire of its time, arguably the most diverse empire till the British. There were peoples of nearly every color, every race, every creed, every orientation, and every class, all living together and generally getting along. Did bad things happen? Yes, that’s called life.

But here’s the funny thing, all those “people of color” worshiped the Roman Gods when they were part of the Empire. There were millions, probably billions of “poor” or “low income” people in the Empire. And I’m not going to caculate the number of rape victims, especially since Rome seriously got kicked off with the Rape of Sabine and didn’t stop rolling for over a thousand years.  And you know what?

They all worshiped the Roman Gods. They all listened to the tales told by Ovid. They didn’t feel marginalized, or offended, or triggered. They didn’t feel excluded or oppressed. They felt joy, and hope, and comfort. Because all the bad things that happened in their lives happened to the Gods too. So they knew the Gods understood their pain and even if they didn’t make the world a completely safe and happy place, didn’t make it any more miserable than it had to be. They were not demeaned by these stories, rape victims were not marginalized simply because Persephone and Daphne got raped as well.

The MAAB, an extension of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, is an advocacy group dedicated to ensuring that Columbia’s campus is welcoming and safe for students of all backgrounds. This year, we explored possible interventions in Core classrooms, where transgressions concerning student identities are common. Beyond the texts themselves, class discussions can disregard the impacts that the Western canon has had and continues to have on marginalized groups.

I’m not even going to talk about how “the Office of Multicultural Affairs” sounds like something from Communist China. That’s just too easy. I will say this though, in trying to prevent transgressions concerning student identities, you have seriously transgressed against the identities of all Roman Pagans, and probably a shit ton more Pagans, as well as the ENTIRETY OF ROMAN CIVILIZATION.

And lit classes are not the place to talk about how “western cannon” has an impact on marginalized groups. That is the place of either political science classes, or maybe history classes. Lit classes are about the study of Story Structure and Writing. It is about the function of a language and how those pieces of literature that shaped society were built. The effect they had on society is another matter entirely. The nature of their impact on you can be important, but when all you take away from a piece of literature is “OMFG I’M TRIGGERED!!!!” that is not really relevant to the story, your classmates, or society.

I’ll give you a personal example. I had a lit class in which we dealt with the story Beloved, by Toni Morrison. It’s a messed up story, involving a lot of mental anguish, heavy doses of pushing the boundaries of sanity, and is a fricking terrifying horror story on top of it. When I first got introduced to it, I was in a very dark, dark place, I was very close to going pill popping, padded room nuts, and I’d been studying magic and the supernatural for about two years, and that book and its movie adaptation (which was really well done) triggered every psychological issue and every supernatural warning I had at the time. I nearly wigged out several times, barely made it through the movie, and over all utterly hated the experience.

And I wouldn’t have gotten rid of it for the world.

Because by facing my issues, and then talking about it afterwards, I could face my fears and my traumas. Censoring the story would not have benefited me, my life would not have been any easier or less traumatic for having dodged that particular bullet. It certainly would not have helped my class mates. We would not have learned anything about it, or how the story and its characters might help us deal with our own lives. And the funny thing is, I was probably more triggered by that movie than the girl was by the Ovid story. At least Ovid made it all sound pretty, Beloved was fucking gross to watch. When you account for when it was made, we’re talking Hostel and Saw levels of gross here.

But college is where you go to learn. Not about the things that make you happy and comfortable (Gods know I have enough math classes that violated that principle alone), but about the things that might make you sad and uncomfortable. Because college is about being a grown up, about learning the things in life that are hard to understand (from Math to Lit to History to Philosophy, etc, etc, etc). It’s about facing those things you do not like to know or want to learn, and learning them anyways because doing so is supposed to make you a better, more intelligent person. And no, that doesn’t always “include” everyone, especially when dealing with things from the past.

Students at the forum expressed that they have felt that Literature Humanities and Contemporary Civilization’s curricula are often presented as a set of universal, venerated, incontestable principles and texts that have founded Western society. Such a presentation does not allow room for their experiences in the Western world or in class discussions. While these founding principles have been liberating in many ways, instructors should more consistently acknowledge during class discussions that many of these same principles have created an unjust, unequal, and oppressive existence for many, as Professor Montás has suggested during our forums.

Yes, you are going to have that in a Lit Humanities course, because that’s what they fucking are. Those are the books that have defined Western Civilization as determined by the people who lived it down through the years. Lit Humanities courses have existed for over 500 years! Those books have been gathered and handed down for centuries. They defined what we were and what we wanted to be. And since most of those people not mentioned by those stories didn’t happen to be around while they were being written, of course they are not included in those stories!

Ovid is not going to have anything about Indians and their experience under the British Empire…because neither of those damn things existed as part of Roman Mythology. Pride and Prejudice is not going to have anything about the plight of Gay Men in America because it is a love story about Upper Class English Girls! Black people were not enslaved because of Moby Dick! Dante’s Inferno never made anyone be born in a low income household! Western Literature tells people’s stories, it never made anyone do anything! And Yes it talks exclusively from European traditions, it is the Cannon of Western Literature. If you want something else, there are classes on Eastern Literature, Islamic literature, and African Literature (admittedly, that last one might be a bit small since they really didn’t write anything down until after the Europeans showed up and taught them how to write, but still). Do not complain that Western Lit is about White people WHEN EUROPE WAS FUCKING FILLED WITH WHITE PEOPLE AND NO ONE ELSE BECAUSE THEY DIDN’T WANT THE FUCKING COLD, MISERABLE LITTLE SHIT HOLE THAT IS THE EUROPEAN LANDMASS!

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One of the defining elements of a Columbia education is the Core. The Center for the Core Curriculum, professor Montás, and many instructors have been receptive to our feedback and expressed dedication to addressing these issues. Altering the Core Curriculum is another important discussion—one that would undoubtedly require the insight of the larger student body. In the meantime, we hope that our recommendations will enable students to have a more intellectually rewarding experience in their classrooms.

 

Well done. you want to change hundreds of years of recorded literature, history, and other subjects because some people can’t handle their problems or the shit life throws at them. I spent over half a decade and thousands of dollars for a degree that is worthless, because you want to keep flooding the market with a bunch of lettered crybabies who can’t even read a myth without mentally shutting down and pissing their pants with their narcissistic fear. You are the poison that is killing education. You are why America has fallen so far bellow in education standards. Because you silence and censor stories that the weak cannot handle, so that the weak will not realize their weakness. You make adults into babies, and babies into those who get to decide what adults should study and know. Well done. You’ve insulted humanity, and you’ve insulted the Gods, and I’m pretty sure there is not a thing out there that you have not managed to insult with your pathetic stupidity. Well done.

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I was going to write this and post it on Bellum Iustum, but since this was more political than Roman religious I decided to do it here. Also, sorry for the typos I know are in here, but this has managed to piss me off so bad I’m not even re-reading it to try and correct them.

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