Jazz Hands In The Real World

In a scathing op-ed, professor emeritus at the University of Kent, Frank Furedi, ripped the decision by the Oxford student union to replace applause with “jazz hands.”

A new nadir was reached last week with reports that Oxford University Students Union is to replace clapping with ‘jazz hands’, where participants signal approval by silently waving both hands at the sides of their bodies, palms facing outwards.

The purported justification for this is to avoid offending those who are upset by loud noise.

In the words of the student union’s welfare and equal opportunities officer: ‘The policy was proposed to encourage the use of British Sign Language clapping to make events more accessible and inclusive for all, including people who suffer from anxiety.’

What’s wrong with “jazz hands,” aside from the fact that blind people can’t see jazz hands, so if it’s an access issue, it trades access for those triggered by loud noises for those who can’t see? Sure, it’s a childish indulgence, but does it hurt anyone (other than blind people)?

The Oxford policy is important because it symbolises our culture’s slide into infantalised decadence, where enfeeblement is celebrated and learned helplessness indulged.

In the current climate of invented grievance, victimhood — no matter how spurious — is a passport to special status on campus.

Students are encouraged to cultivate their vulnerabilities, rather than emphasise their strengths.

By promoting the belief their students cannot cope, universities are robbing undergraduates of their resilience and leaving them ill-prepared for the real world. (Emphasis added.)

There’s the rub (and, for the hard of thinking, the reason for this post). There remains an assumption by those of us who don’t subscribe to this brave new world that such indulgences may be harmless at the moment, but they will create a generation incapable of functioning outside their ivy covered walls in the real world.

Don’t be too sure about that.

Furedi’s assumption, that this infantile elevation of victimhood and misery would be smacked hard in the real world, would have been unquestioned a decade ago. It was the subject of parodies and memes, jokes galore, by adults everywhere who would certainly not tolerate such antics in their world. But as it happens, they not only have tolerated it, but enabled it.

Dear med student who reported me for asking him where he was from during a case: you aren’t a brave hero, you have made me stop allowing medical students into my OR for the forseaable future. Asking this isn’t a “microagression” it’s an ice breaker. Can we stop encouraging this?

This, from an orthopaedic surgeon, reflects not merely the sensibilities of a student, for whom asking the banal question, “where are you from?” but that med students will not receive the practical benefit of being in the operating room to assist an experienced surgeon. Their education will be limited. Their skills will suffer. Not that they are likely to care, since students believe they’re far more capable than those with experience and skills these days.

But there is a med school administrator in the middle, the person to whom this sniveling whiner cried about the trauma of this microaggression, who could have told the student to grow up. And he didn’t.

College deans and presidents have scraped knees pandering to their outraged students. And deeply empathetic academics explain at great length why they must cater to their consumers. In 2012, I implored academics to “take back the classroom.” They didn’t. On the contrary, they rationalized why it was better to fail students and embrace their world of self-indulgence than be the grown up in the room. Perhaps part of the problem was how few professors were adults.

It’s since becoming more apparent that the “real world” will show no greater resistance to the whims of the children than the Academy. In response to the surgeon’s twit, the question was posted as to what to do and who would do it. It’s not that there aren’t adults who recognize that we’re breeding a generation of self-indulgent narcissistic weaklings who lack the grit and resilience to face the problems life will bring them, but few want to be the mean old man who says “no.” As long as no one says “no,” then they persist in their stunted childhood fantasies.

And if one says “no,” the children’s outrage machine cranks up to eleven.

If such childish indulgences like “jazz hands,” and the valorization of victimhood and misery are allowed to fester because the adults in the room won’t say “no,” then it infiltrates the “real world” until it is the real world. It’s already happening, even if you prefer not to see it.

It’s not too late to end this infantilization, but it requires something most of us are loathe to do. Stop tolerating childish demands. The only way this happens is for the grown ups, en masse, to put our foot down and say “no.” But can we do it?

35 thoughts on “Jazz Hands In The Real World

          1. Howl

            No argument. It don’t get any better than that. Have you seen the video where Joe Morello does half his solo without sticks?

      1. Richard Kopf

        Perhaps I have a slightly better idea rather than a mere smile. That is, from now on, I will carry a giant Happy Face when I attend events. I just hold it up when I approve. If I disapprove, I put on my MAGA hat. As it turns out, this could be fun.

        Is it time again for silent movies?

  1. Rxc

    We have two new kittens in our house. 18 weeks old, filled with curiosity and energy, with no wisdom whatsoever, demanding attention and crazy whenever they are awake. Contrary to the popular thinking, cats CAN be trained. The very first concept they need to learn is the word NO, spoken with a clear, firm tone, and accompanied by removal from the bad behavior. If the behavior is particularly dangerous (jumping on to the stove), it can be accompanied by a very short tap on the nose or butt, for emphasis. A squirt bottle can be useful to help train them to stay away from the xmas tree. But training this concept is fundamental.

    The rot has metastasized out of academia into the wider society. Eradication will be painful.

      1. B. McLeod

        Legislatures should provide for adults to carry TASERS, and employ same to drop these whiny children in their tracks whenever they complain about “microaggressions” or “unsafe spaces.” This should also be the solution applicable to children who run screaming through restaurants or retail establishments as though they were wild animals with no training.

  2. wilbur

    Dear Ortho Doc:
    The problem seems to lie less with the reporting student – who is probably beyond redemption – and more with the diversity dean who took the report seriously and acted upon it.
    And the real problem is a bureaucracy that installs a diversity dean whose job is to do precisely that.

  3. DaveL

    Unfortunately, the infantilized world that rewards and valorizes victimhood is not and can never be the real world. The fact that there may be mechanisms beyond academia that help insulate precious snowflakes from the real world does not change this. That’s because the real world is not simply the world beyond academia, it’s the world beyond civilization, the world beyond humans. This is the world in whose soil our food grows, where disease organisms breed, where hurricanes form and from whence the winter cold reaches into our safe spaces.

    As long as enough tough, capable individuals remain to contend with the harshness of the real world, the anti-reality bubble can be extended beyond academia, but it will never be “the real world”. And as soon as the last old curmudgeon is pushed out of the water treatment plant who insists turbidity measures are not an instrument of white supremacy, or the nuclear plant loses its last old-timer who remembers reactor coolant as anything other than a capitalist plot, the real world will make itself known again in no uncertain terms. Hence the “unfortunately” in my opening sentence.

    1. SHG Post author

      Or maybe they’ll just keep pressing the button on their iPhone, wondering why nothing is happening, until they starve to death.

      1. L. Phillips

        We should be so lucky. They will go feral first, convinced that whatever they may want at any given moment is their “right”.

        1. DaveL

          I don’t think “feral” is the right word. A feral animal is one which, by definition, has left behind a domesticated life where its needs were provided for by others, and learned to survive on its own in the wild. I don’t think we really have a word for an ox which has grown too fat and lazy for the yoke, except perhaps “dinner”.

    2. Dan T.

      Lots of old-timey science fiction postulated future societies where people lived in hermetically-sealed indoor environments (“Caves Of Steel”, to use Asimov’s title) tended by robots and rarely exited from by the coddled humans. Things weren’t very good when the systems failed, though.

    3. Rxc

      This. Nature does not care about anyone’s feelings. Neither do the vast majority of the people on earth.

      1. Mark Myers

        Re: Rxc’s comment

        When it occurs to a man that nature does not regard him as important, and that she feels she would not maim the universe by disposing of him, he at first wishes to throw bricks at the temple, and he hates deeply the fact that there are no bricks and no temples. Any visible expression of nature would surely be pelleted with his jeers. Then, if there be no tangible thing to hoot he feels, perhaps, the desire to confront a personification and indulge in pleas, bowed to one knee, and with hands supplicant, saying: “Yes, but I love myself.” A high cold star on a winter’s night is the word he feels that she says to him. Thereafter he knows the pathos of his situation.

        – Stephen Crane, The Open Boat

        1. rxc

          @Mark Myers – Thanks for the reference. I looked it up. A story written by a proto-woke author of an experience that terrified him. He was saved by one of those deplorables who knew what to do, and who died saving his butt. He could have been one of those sportswriters (“Why don’t you two guys pound the daylights out of one another while I write something pretty and inspiring that I can sell to people”)

          I have actually been in such a situation, while sailing a sailboat across the Atlantic. The sea and the sky can be blue or grey, depending on the weather, and when your boat falls over because the steering failed, it focuses you on survival like nothing else in the world. Flowery words are no help, because the sea and the waves doesn’t care about you at all. Neither do the hard stars or the clouds. You are on your own, unless you have tech to summon help.

          Link available on request.

  4. MikeE

    Sound sensitivity is a real thing. My 4-year-old son is sound sensitive and he does get very anxious when there are loud noises. He sometimes covers up his ears (often with my arm or his mother’s arm).

    We are looking into buying a pair of sound cancelling earmuffs that the autism websites say can help.

    There. Problem solved without eliminating a millennia old custom of making noise to show ovation.

  5. Guitardave

    I used to say, (into the mike after a song that flopped) ” Don’t applause, just throw money” which inevitably led to some idiot bouncing a nickle off my axe…..that didn’t go well….
    But jazz hands?…i spend 10-20,000 hrs refining a skill, trying to make a semi-universally appealing sound and i get jazz hands? All that work so my big dumb deeply insecure ass can get a little approval, a little love, and now ya wanna mute the universal sound of approval? Double-double face palm.
    Rant over.

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