Selling What Out

I'd like to associate myself with Dana Goldstein's remarks on The Trap. What's more, I'm reminded by this debate of a column that I think I kept meaning to write for the college paper when I was in school and never got around to, namely that a lot of people heading into careers in investment banking or management consulting had a bizarre habit of appropriating the language of "selling out" even though it was far from clear that they had anything to sell.

If you ruin your band's sound in an effort to write more radio-friendly songs, you're selling out. If you quit your job on the Hill to start shilling for health insurance companies, you're selling out. When you dumb Veronica Mars down after season two in a desperate bid to gain a bigger audience, you're selling out. But if you just decide at the age of 22 or 23 that there's nothing you're sufficiently passionate about to make you want to give up the stability and prosperity that comes with a corporate career, you're not selling anything out, you're just applying to law school.

And there's really nothing wrong with that. But the nominal self-critique involved in dubbing such activity "selling out" is really a form of self-dramatization and self-praise, carrying with it the implication that of course you could have written the Great American Novel or turned around and inner-city school if only you hadn't been so damn selfish.