by Captain Ruffles
*Play Taylor Swift’s Wildest Dreams while reading for maximum effect*
Part 1: Him
He was an upper-middle-class kid from New York, and he never let you forget that. He stood out because, well, because he was a cis straight white Obie and dressed accordingly. Which is to say, he didn’t have much fashion sense at all. The way he walked into class, all 5 foot 10 inches, was full of the exaggerated swagger of a white boy who thought growing up in a post 9/11 world made him tough like his immigrant grandparents.
His parents voted for Biden and Obama. He, too, was a liberal. But being a liberal didn’t cut it at Oberlin. Especially when he was an Econ major. People called him nasty things. They called him the b-word, the c-word, and even the f-word. Bidenist. Centrist. Fiscally responsible.
Part 2: Them
They were a blue-haired they/them from the Bay Area. Well, they were actually from Orinda, but that’s basically the same thing if you’re a rich white Cali kid in need of an identity. They read the Communist Manifesto in ninth grade and voted for Bernie. Twice. Like a real revolutionary.
Their parents voted for Biden and Obama. They’re still mad at their parents for being reactionaries. They were a communist. This meant they called Econ majors names. Like bitch, cuck, and fuck.
Part 3: When Worlds Collide
It’s a Politics 200-level class at Oberlin College. Today’s lecture is on Das Kapital. When the professor completes their summary of Marx’s class analysis, the Bro raises his hand.
“But Professor, while they aren’t perfect, markets are still the best way to generate wealth.”
Two seats in front of him, a crochet needle drops. The Communist, who had been making a green bucket hat this whole time, reaches down to pick up their needle off the floor. They scratch at the anarchist patch on their black denim jacket. They swing around in their chair, replying, “Markets depend on the existence of an underclass of people to funnel wealth into the hands of a small capitalist minority.”
The Econ Bro purses his chapped lips, firing back back, “Markets create inequality, sure, but the wealth they produce can be redistributed with the right legislation. I don’t see how an economy is supposed to work without them.”
The Communist smirks. “All economies are planned in some way or another, darling. The free market is an ideological and social construction. Not that you’d get it.” They turn back to face the front. The Econ Bro bites down his lip too hard. He bleeds a little.
The professor and the rest of the class are impressed by how bad at listening these two are.
Part 4: Two Ships In The Night
The Communist saunters down the hallways of King. As they make it to the entrance of their next class - GSFS this time - a voice calls out to them.
“Umm, excuse me.”
They turn around to face the vaguely whiny, faux frat guy voice behind them. It’s Econ Bro.
He continues talking, “I don’t think you understand how markets work.”
They retort, “I understand that capitalism is a system fundamentally based on exploitation.”
“Capitalism has brought millions of people out of poverty.”
“Have you ever even met a poor person?”
After that especially idiotic exchange, something became painfully obvious to anyone who overheard the Rich Marxist and the Econ Bro. Something that escaped both of them. That, standing there in the halls of their overpriced liberal arts college, failing to think through what they said, failing to hear each other, lazily invoking poverty as an abstract concept when it was convenient for their arguments, they had much more in common than they realized.
Or maybe they did know.
The Econ Bro looked down at his worn-out sneakers and then looked back up. “Are you doing anything Friday night?”