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The disease of cliche

Flicking through a few old articles, it’s not difficult to notice the viciousness of some of the ‘Prince’s online commentators. Often operating under pseudonyms, they offer loud, unrestrained criticism. And I like it.

Such criticism forces us to repeatedly renew our thoughts and ideas and prevents us from languishing in the mire of a thoughtless, repetitive, politically-correct world. The United States, a country with such emphasis on free speech and openness, should be the first place to enact these ideas. America, whether you like it or not, is liberal; and, although it’s never held an entirely steady course, tolerance and progress are certainly American values. However, a global torrent of cliche and banality forever undermines what we truly believe. Anonymous commentators do something to highlight this consistent danger and diminish it; however, much more can and should be done.


We are products of this society, and our lives have been filled with this disease of cliche. We all applied to Princeton and know the admissions website too well. Two words could easily replace the stale advice that oozes from every corner: “Apply, stupid.” Instead, applicants are told that “talents, academic accomplishments and personal achievements” should tell their “story.” They should show the university in “their own voice” what’s “special” about themselves. Harvard’s website states that the best applications are those in which the “real student comes through,” and Yale is equally fluffy, telling applicants to “Be yourself.” Once you’ve read one site, you’ve read them all, and you’ve read too much.

This University should recognise that brevity can trump banality. Schoolchildren should be told to apply, be honest and hope for the best because, once they’ve wasted their time wading through the vast electronic bog of vague advice, that’s all they’ll do anyway. The admissions office can still require applications and differentiate between applicants, but it shouldn’t get bogged down in never-ending triteness on the way. And, if our admissions staff are desperate to keep the irritant alive, a link to would do just fine.

Such early experiences unfortunately encourage us to continue in this same spirit once we arrive on campus. The recent USG elections are the perfect example. Just like the admissions websites, USG candidate statements are all too similar and too long. Asked to “believe” by a campaign video, Charlie Marsh refreshingly mentioned in the the Nassau Weekly that “This just doesn’t mean anything! Nothing at all!” Obama can get away with “Hope and Change,” but for USG elections this kind of language is superfluous.

We must not allow this atmosphere to permeate into our future lives. Princetonians should do something to alter the lethargic world of corporate conformity. From finance to politics, or teaching to scientific research, whatever field we enter, we must avoid use of banal, worthless language. Honesty and clarity in opinion is much more beneficial to society than spewing ideas that we think people want to hear. Maybe some candidates do want us to “believe” in their passion and dedication, but is this really why the rest run for office? Sure, spoken honesty in thought and motivation is difficult. Writing in this newspaper last week, Tehila Wenger ’15 deftly highlighted this plight of “verbal vagueness.” We are all guilty of not saying what we think. But if we did more of it this would be a better world. Disagreement can lead to synthesis of opinion and avoid artificial platitude. Knowing others’ extreme ideas and attempting to temper them is less dangerous than allowing them to flourish unnoticed and unrestrained. Being open and obvious is the best foundation for bolstering American ideals of liberality and progress. Otherwise, a world dominated by cliche will hide our true beliefs and will stagnate or regress.

I recognize that everything can be viewed as cliche. It’s a matter of perspective. Maybe, to you, this article is tiresome banality drowning in its own grandiose verbosity. That’s brilliant. I look forward to the online version of this article, and I look forward to dissenting commentators telling me what’s wrong with it. But recognise my viewpoint: We should constantly rethink and rebroadcast our opinions. That, combined with others’ conflicting ideas, can only cause our society to progress and improve.

In this world of political correctness, we spend too much time worrying about what society thinks of us and too little time voicing what we think of society. I’ll finish with Yale’s admissions website. I still think the site, like most others, is verbose and rambling, and I’ve ridiculed it above; but, if it was more concise, it could actually make a good point. Don’t conform, don’t give in to society, just “be yourself.” Unless, of course, you don’t want to — because that might be a little too cliche.


Philip Mooney is a freshman from Belfast, Northern Ireland. He can be reached at

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