Occasionally, when frustrated with the idiocy that characterises the workplace – or at least, every workplace I’ve ever had the misfortune to frequent – I consider returning to the realms of academia.
Then, something happens to remind me that the realms of academia are at least as daft as the realms of real life: a toffs’ club invites a pair of daft bigots to speak at their debate; and instead of nobody giving a fuck (beyond possibly turning up to jeer and laugh at the idiots), a mass toy-pram-throwing session ensues.
Now, Nick Griffin and David Irving are undeniably cunts, and undeniably people you wouldn’t want in charge of a whelk stall, never mind the country. But if you think that this means that a toffs’ club shouldn’t be allowed to invite them to talk stupid shit, then your views are idiotic.
Chris Brooke, who is [obviously, given his profession] dead clever and also a great chap, approvingly quotes some people who are almost certainly lovely in person, and are almost certainly exactly the reason why I’d never go back…
Mike: â€œThese privileged and stupid people have shown their contempt for the whole of the rest of society, with the sole exception of those few fascists who want to destroy it. They may be assured that the whole of the rest of society has nothing but contempt for them.â€
I thought it was only crazy right-wingers who referred to everyone they disapproved of as [Islamo]fascists? Anyway. The fact that the Oxford Union-ites are rich toffs is of no relevance whatsoever – how the fuck is calling someone ‘privileged’ in the context of this kind of argument anything other than meaningless personal abuse?
Antonia: â€œItâ€™s not even as if Irving and Griffin get to expound their vile views and be challenged: they have been invited to speak instead on freedom of speech. And even if they were to, is it not breathtakingly arrogant that Oxford undergraduates believe that in a five minute debating speech they could somehow defeat either, when it took a Cambridge Professor of Modern History weeks on the stand to rebut Irvingâ€™s assertions?â€
Similarly, an undergrad Marxist would struggle to defeat Milton Friedman. That’s why you invite articulate speakers on both sides. Have you ever been to, or heard of, a debate?
loneraven: â€œMaybe Iâ€™ve as little chance of getting attacked on the street tomorrow as I do any day. But here I am, thinking about it. Here I am, going to sleep at night thinking, there are far-right groups in Oxford tomorrow, oh dear. And why should I have to think that? Why? See above where Iâ€™m a human being, where I deserve to feel safe every second of the time in my home city, where white people donâ€™t have to worry about visual indicators and I do. How dare the Union blithely invite RACISTS into my city, so safe in their straight white male privilege that they donâ€™t have to think about the consequences of what theyâ€™re doing? I am not straight, white or male, and I have no uncomplicated identity, no simplicity or belonging – but I am an Oxford student. No one is allowed to contest the basis upon which Iâ€™m here, at this place and at this time. How dare they take the one thing that I have all of my own, my home, and compromise that?â€
Again with the ‘privilege’… garr. You’re a fucking Oxford student; even if you grew up in a workhouse eating rats and being beaten by Dickensian sadists, you’re totally fucking ‘privileged’ now.
On average, people who are gay, black or female face harder lives than people who are straight, white or male. But if you’re gay, black or female with an Oxford degree and you fucking dare to suggest you’re anything other than one of the luckiest and safest people in the world of any sexual orientation, race or sex [*], you are a fucking idiot who doesn’t deserve that degree. Come on, do you think the life chances and the opportunities open to a gay black woman with an Oxford degree are poorer than those of a heterosexual white man with a GCSE-level education? Seriously?
In short, the thing which pisses me off about academia to the extent that I’d never go back is the incessant me-me-me-ish ‘ooh, I’m so deprived, not like those posh bastards’ whining. If you are a student or an academic, then on any sane metric your life is awesome. You have it better than the vast majority of the idiots who vote for Nick Griffin. Stop fucking whining about oooh, I’m being *so* oppressed.
So I’ll stay in London, spending time with people who at least appreciate how disgustingly overprivileged their very lifestyle makes them…
[*] What about Aung San Suu Kyi?, you ask. The point is that her education gave her the choice on whether to go to Burma and fight against the junta, or to stay in the UK and be safe. The vast majority of the world’s population, whether male or female, do not have that kind of choice…