Saturday, June 2, 2018

Proudly Irrelevant

What’s up people, welcome to Office Hours with the Brofessor: the show that’s proudly irrelevant.  You’re probably thinking, wow: Proudly Irrelevant.  What a cool new catchphrase!  Well, thank you.  My last one, The Show Where I Say Things, I got from the brilliant theological comedy channel Lutheran Satire.  Check them out if you haven’t, especially “Frank the Hippy Pope”.  The old catchphrase fit the show pretty well, because that’s what it is: a show where I say things.  My friends kept encouraging me to start a Youtube show because it would give me an outlet for stuff I would otherwise yammer on about at parties.  So the original concept was really just a show where I talked about whatever topic was my flavor of the month.  Still, I like “Proudly Irrelevant” more because it really captures the show’s essence: nothing here is applicable to modern, everyday life, and I hear people all the time saying there’s no point to knowing this stuff.  Well, guess what?


I think it’s too bad that people belittle the Humanities for their supposed lack of relevance.  Whether or not something is marketable or timely shouldn’t matter, as long as it’s cool and interesting.  Just as an example, the other day I was talking to some German gap-year kids at a hostel in Vientiane.  They were talking to me about how studying languages was boring.  So, I started talking about the ancient correspondences that exist between Germanic languages, and from there to Proto-Indo-European, and the prehistoric cultural concepts that live on in the words we use every day.  All of a sudden, learning foreign languages seemed a lot more interesting.  Now, what I told these guys isn’t going to help them order in a restaurant or give presentations at work, but it is going to give them a contextual frame for the language points they do learn—and, more importantly, it’s cool and interesting, and instills a love of the language.

As another example, let’s talk about classical knowledge.  It’s appalling to me that students aren’t taught Latin and Greek in school anymore.  It robs students of the intellectual heritage of Western civilization.  I use the verb “rob” deliberately—I really feel that the modern educational system steals a treasure of enormous value from students in not teaching them the classical languages of the West.  An important component of this knowledge is literature.  So even if you did read Homer in school—I didn’t—you probably didn’t read him in Greek, unless you were very lucky.  If you were one of those lucky ones, a baton was passed to you that has been carried for three thousand years over the yawning depths of history.  Reading Homer in Greek or Virgil in Latin, or the Eddas in Old Norse— or, for that matter, the Popol Vuh in Classical K’iche—connects you to something larger than yourself, a connection sorely needed in this generation of egotism and fatuousness. 

But what, in our day, do we say of this knowledge of the ages?  “It’s not practical” and “it’s not relevant”.  That’s not the point, dingus.  The point is that a) the knowledge of the ages connects us to something greater than ourselves, and b) by nature of that connection, it’s badass and cool.  It’s worth learning for its own sake.  This, I think, is the thread that connects everything I talk about here, whether it’s prehistoric hominid behavior, Xiongnu word etymology, or Ket shamanism.  It’s knowledge that intimately connects us to the greater narrative of human existence, and consequently ignites within us a sense of wonder.  So it doesn’t really matter if this stuff is “usesful” or not—it’s still worth learning.  That’s the message of my channel, and that’s why I’m “Proudly Irrelevant”.

Anyway, I know that was a bit of a rant, but thanks for bearing with me.  Next time, it’s back to cavemen!


  1. Yes! I also hate how the Humanities are being attacked or ignored. It’s not true that the Humanities are useless. This marketability is thing one reason is why I dislike Libertarians and Republicans as they tend to attack the Humanities. That and their racism and sexism just to mention a few things.I’m struggling right now whether I should major in a field within the Humanities. I’m interested in Central Asian, Iranian and Chinese history and culture. I’m also beginning to learn Uyghur and Persian. But want to know if it’s worth it the effort. Like the pay and job prospects for example. I would like to know your experience and opinion on this.

  2. Do it bro. I recently told my advisor in my department that I wanted to be a "comparative philologist". She said to tell her which Starbucks I end up working at. I'm totally unfazed. If you really love something and are really good at it, you will find a way to make a living off of it.