What is cancel culture? Is it a side effect of the era of social media and the 24-hour news cycle? Is it the gap-filling mechanism for the space where the American justice system has failed and yet society demands a reckoning? Is it a manifestation of the United States punitive justice methodology? Is it merely the newest iteration of an otherwise ancient human custom?
These questions and more were posed and pondered in a recent conversation held by the Criminal Law Society and BC Law Professor Steven Koh. Students shared their views on how to define cancel culture, who is subject or not subject to it, its efficacy, and its justness. The discussion stirred many of my own thoughts on this phenomenon.
What follows is a virtual conversation between me and my friend Meg Green ’21 about our experience with OCI. We actually met during OCI callbacks at a Boston firm last year.
That was a dramatic title. What do you mean about humanity?
T: What I mean is that despite this On-Campus Interviewing (OCI) process seeming (for many) like the defining moment of your career, in which you either succeed heroically or fall tragically like an ancient empire, it’s just a job placement process, likely the first (or second or twentieth) over the course of your long and exciting career. Approach it with the correct perspective. Is it scary? Yes. Is it awkward? 100%. If you strike out will you fail at anything and everything else you attempt for the rest of your life? Of course not. That’s absurd. That’s all I am getting at. Stress can bring out the worst in people. So just go through this process humanely and humbly and know that keeping your cool and being nice to people is never the wrong approach.
2020 was not the year any of us expected. Given everything happening in the world around us, it is easy to lose sight of the good. But in honor of Thanksgiving, I wanted to reflect on a few things that I am most thankful for.
I think we can all agree that last week was unbearable. As Election Day turned into Election Week, we earnestly refreshed our news feeds while struggling through case readings. As of Saturday, it was finally over (kind of). I know many of us are tired of the political discourse, but there’s still work ahead. As members of a law school situated in an area that voted overwhelmingly in favor of Biden, it might be easy to settle into our bubbles and set aside the nation’s immense division. Unfortunately, that mindset won’t help to find a solution. In this post, I share a few proposed remedies to mend our polarized society. I’d like to include the caveat that I haven’t necessarily implemented all of these myself.
First up is the work of René H. Levy. Levy is a neuroscientist and author of the book Mending America’s Political Divide, where he utilizes his scientific expertise to propose practical solutions. Levy attributes the increasing political divide to our primitive psychology. He breaks this down into two innate instincts: political tribalism and political hatred, both of which result in a profound loss of empathy. Levy’s action plan highlights impulse control and empathy skills as two main methods to rebuild and coexist:
A few weeks ago, I shared my story of realizing how burnt out I really was. Since then, I’ve made a few changes in my life. I’d be lying if I said I was 100% better 100% of the time; I still have some great days and other not-so-great moments. However, I can truthfully say that I have tried to be more intentional in my thoughts and actions over the past several weeks, and I do feel a difference overall.
In my last post, I admitted that I didn’t really know how to take a break. In fact, I couldn’t remember the last time I had taken a day off. After much reflection, I’ve realized that this inability to wind down is not something I want to wear as a badge of honor. I have friends who are cardiac surgeons, Medieval Literature PhD students, and budding entrepreneurs- they all are in rigorous professions having to balance numerous responsibilities. If they can consistently take days off, then I can surely manage the same. My life is not going to fall apart if I unplug for a bit. I’ve made Sundays my day off, where I try to spend most of the day doing things I enjoy without feeling guilty about the pile of work on my desk. In doing so, I’ve realized that not only do I feel good on Sundays, but the days when I am working are more productive, too. Before, I used to measure my productivity by the number of hours my laptop screen was on, disregarding that during much of that time, I wasn’t actually getting work done. Now, I give myself permission to take days off and take breaks throughout the day. That way, when my screen is on, I’m doing a better job of being productive during that timeframe. Sometimes when my phone is freaking out, all I need to do is turn it off for a bit and then back on. I guess the same goes for me.
In the early days of the pandemic, I read a tweet suggesting that public health authorities seeking to overcome conservative skepticism about the virus should heed the lessons of Cultural Cognition. Cultural cognition is a theory, coming out of Yale Law School, that perception of factual issues is shaped by normative commitments. In other words, our moral beliefs shape how we understand facts.
Around the same time I read that tweet, a conservative friend warned me about various Governors’ lock down orders and local officials’ enforcement of social distancing measures. He said that once government assumes a new power, it is unlikely to give it up. It seemed absurd to me to imagine governors and state health officials as crypto-fascists eager to control citizen’s lives. I have, however, ranted at and to my friends and family about federal government surveillance powers using the exact same argument.
If you talk to most people at BC Law, they’ll agree that it’s a special place. It’s a place where you’ll make lifelong friends, where you’ll be challenged to think by your professors, and a place that allows you to join one of the strongest alumni networks. Looking back on my time at BC over the past few years, I can confidently say that I chose the best law school for me.
But instead of just hearing all of the reasons why I love BC, I thought you’d like to hear from a few 1Ls, 2Ls, and 3Ls who shared their favorite parts of BC Law:
“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”
― Anne Lamott
We live in a world where we glorify the hustle. You worked for 10 hours? Well, I worked for 12. You slept 5 hours? Oh, but I only got 4. Business school and law school are feeding grounds for this kind of toxic environment, and I fed into it. I’ve always prided myself in being able to handle chaos and a busy schedule. I’m a yes-person; I pile things on my plate with complete disregard for whether I actually have the bandwidth to take them on. For as long as I can remember, I’ve subconsciously led myself to believe that this trait of mine is heroic. “Other people can’t handle this level of stress, but I can. Chug along and don’t look back. Taking breaks is for the weak, and that, I am not.” And for years, this lifestyle felt great. That is, of course, until suddenly, it did not.
Here at BC Law, community is a central part of student life. Unsurprisingly, the pandemic has changed the way that BC students can interact with each other, both inside and outside of the classroom. For instance, the BC Orientation Program for 1Ls, LLMs, and transfer students was completely virtual, and back on campus we must maintain proper social distancing and wear masks at all times. But still, the desire to maintain friendships and experience Boston is important to many, even if it looks and feels a little different. Therefore, I wanted to share with all of you some ways that my friends and I plan to enjoy the great outdoors before we get hit with the Boston winter weather.
About five years ago, I stumbled onto some Afrofuturist art in a market in northern Uganda. I was moving through a maze of kitenge stalls when I came to a makeshift gallery that a young artist had set up in a forgotten corner of the market. One of his pieces was of a dramatic skyline, with arched spires climbing into the sky, draped in tropical vegetation. In the foreground, people in stylized, angular kitenge clothes were walking through a bustling public square. I asked him what it was and he said, “It’s the Kampala of the future.”
In contrast to a lot of antiseptic and tech-centric futurism, his mix of sci-fi architecture, verdant ecology, traditional culture, and civic harmony suggested that the ideal future would incorporate a healthy dose of the past. It reminded me of an aphorism from the other side of the African continent, embodied in the adinkra symbol, Sankofa, which depicts a bird with its head turned backward, retrieving an egg. The Sankofa symbol and word convey the idea that in moving forward, it is important to bring along what is essential from the past.