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Issue 01 – Easter 2020


How To Be A Radical

On roots


Back in my undergraduate days, some friends and I came across a collection of Ivy League lightbulb jokes, published by an on-campus blog. Each one opened with the classic, “How many students from [insert school here] does it take to change a lightbulb?” And they answered by capitalizing on some common stereotype of each of the various Ivies. For Harvard it was, “One, he holds the lightbulb and the world revolves around him.” For Princeton: “Two, one to stir the martinis and one to call the electrician.” The best was probably Yale’s—answer: “None, New Haven looks better in the dark.” But the self-deprecatory Columbia response was priceless: “Seventy-six students: One to change the lightbulb, fifty to protest the lightbulb’s right not to change, and twenty-five to hold a counter-protest.” Anyone who will venture out onto the Columbia quad during his lunch break will learn how accurate, and how pathetic, is that characterization.

I mention my own alma mater’s embarrassing infatuation with protests because the subject of this essay is how to be a radical, and I want to be clear from the outset that the Columbia protest-counter-protest game is the furthest thing from what I have in mind. I hate to rain on the parade of angry activists along College Walk, but the truth is there is nothing radical about their bitter stalemate by the sundial.

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About the author

Urban Hannon

Urban Hannon’s writing has appeared in First Things, Ethika Politika, and other publications. He currently studies theology in Rome.