Bring Back the Guillotine

Design by Anasthasia Shilov

Children of wealth and nepotism, of exploitation and indifference: 

Do you ever wonder what your head is still doing on your shoulders? 

While you may feel comfortably safe with your head buried in the clouds, toying with theory and philanthropy, do not be fooled—you are not too big to fail. There is a supreme sense of injustice, one which has felled a great many giants before you, that lingers in the hearts and minds of the many toward you few.

Certainly, you must have your out; everybody does. Your insistence on the cleanliness of your money, your claim to detachment from responsibility or obligation, your noble reason for carrying on the family tradition of selling out. But wealth and fame, while intriguing, have a general stench about them that curls the common nose and indicates an impurity, an injustice past or present, which you cannot escape—not where it matters.

Yale specializes in the maintenance of the status quo and the advancement of progressive posturing, carefully breeding a litter of bulldog philanthropists (read: capitalists) year in and year out who will have illustrious, meritocratically obtained careers in fields of immense human interest.

Yale enriches its students with social capital, and as alumni, they enrich Yale in a variety of ways. It’s a simple bit of backscratching which, so long as a few (undoubtedly well-meaning) people become involved in government and nonprofits each year, is deemed acceptable.

This university, however, has become bloated, conspicuously consumed by its own excess. Yale has an obscenely wealthy student body: 

69% of Yale’s students come from the top 20% of family income. 

57% from the top 10%. 

45% from the top 5%. 

19% from the top 1%. 

3.7% from the top 0.1%. 

2.1% from the bottom 20%. 

This is the system functioning exactly as intended, exactly as it has for centuries—serving the children of elites with a four-year resort stay that legitimizes their right to a job they likely could have obtained through nepotism or simple class privilege otherwise.

Here is the question, then: Why are you, of sublime security and comfort, here? Because you can be? Because Yale has always been within your grasp?  

Imagine, if you can for a moment, that you don’t have the security of disgustingly rich parents.   Imagine a world in which Yale isn’t a given, but a way out. Now, imagine Yale as a place that provides your family with a newfound sense of financial security and social mobility. Imagine how it might feel to see your spot taken up by the children of one percenters: capitalists, celebrities, royalty, politicians. By people who have so much less to gain.  

This is the guillotine line of thinking.

“Every fury on earth has been absorbed in time, as art, or as religion, or as authority in one form or another… The deadliest blow the enemy of the human soul can strike is to do fury honor.” —James Agee, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men 

At Yale, we become that which dismantles change. We join a class of authority—if we weren’t already members. A class of political, economic, and cultural influence and control. 

We will never be the source of progress, not from the detached perspective of our neo-Gothic castles. We will forever be the hindrance to popular interests. How could it be otherwise? 

We are not of the people, by the people, for the people. We are of the elite, by the elite, for the elite. 

Any semblance of concern for the interests of common people is a bourgeois concession—mere philanthropy as self-preservation. How could it ever be anything else? Could it be that you are a well-meaning elite (oxymoron) looking to uplift your fellow man? Impossible. If that were the case, you would have joined me in line at the guillotine ages ago. 

For the true way to be a proletarian at Yale is with your head (that infernal thinking and theorizing device) liberated from your shoulders, for the rest of the world to see and shudder—or rejoice—at the sight of.

If nothing else, take this as a desperate plea to the rest of the world: do yourselves a favor and strip places like Yale of all their social credibility.

Better yet, strip those with the luxury of attending Yale—and all the inhabitants of the class from which they emerge, for that matter—of their comfort and detachment. 

Force us to have a conscience. God knows the university won’t. 

Without forced accountability, we’ll go on living our lavish lives, drunk off our own opulence and the richness of our concerned discourse. 

Bring back the guillotine, and don’t stop chopping until you can stand upon a mound of our heads and see a better future in the distance.*

*The sentiments reflected in this text are satirical. They are in no way intended to encourage violence.

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