Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Back again - or rereturning

Sorry to have been out of touch in the last couple of weeks. In that period I have managed to move house, travel to the other end of the country for an ordination, interview unsuccessfully for a university post (I didn't get it because my course proposal was not eclectic enough, my teaching manner was perceived to be too magisterial, and my approach to the subject too intellectual, possibly to the detriment of weaker students ...) and land back in my home town for a two month stint of inter-contractual support (gratefully received). 'Eeep', I believe, is the only appropriate noise to be made at this juncture. If there is anybody out there still reading this nonsense, just rattle your chains a bit. I suppose I'm lucky I don't have squatters by now.

As usual, I'm here to tell thee naught for thy comfort. At least nothing that will make your wallets feel better. Are you feeling yours? Mine's got an awful pinch. It wasn't helped by listening to the radio during my morning ablutions and hearing some twerp from the defeated Old Knuckleheaded Party ( Pat Ronisethepur) tell someone from the recently elected New Knuckleheaded Party (Hiram Ripemoff) that spending cuts would take money out of the economy. I might not be an economist, but it seems to me that for every pound the taxman leaves in the punters' pockets, that is not a pound taken out of the economy but a pound left in the economy (unless it's in the pocket of a man who leaves the economy).

We were then treated to the spectacle - or should that be oracle, since this is radio? - of a representative of the Unison trade union reminding Hiram Ripemoff of the New Knuckleheaded Party that cuts affect human beings. It was a point well made and one I felt myself concurring with wholeheartedly. But it seemed, however, to fall on stoney ground. And no wonder. After all, what is a human being, as my academic colleagues would ask (with all the confidence of hostages to fad-makers, struck down with Stockholm Syndrome)? Talk of human beings in the current climate is a bit like talk of goal lines: the boundaries are where the referee says they are. We are not human beings in this country. We are tax payers. Let us get that straight at least.

Still, Mr Unison's talk of human beings is not quite kosher. Scratch our humanist, who is laudably defending human dignity in a climate of spending cuts, and we'll probably find a man whose model of human behaviour embraces freedom of abortion, civil partnerships and all the panoply of liberal culture. And just how human is that?

I'm reminded of Chesterton's gargoyles Hugde and Grudge from What's Wrong with the World? Those in favour of freedom of capital tell us they know best. Those in favour of State provision tell us they know best. Both argue that the average punter will suffer if the opposing side's policies are followed. And, ultimately, the average punter is left in the middle wondering which way is up.

But of course neither way is up. Both ways are down. The pursuit of security through economic recovery or the provision of security through State provision (even when diluted with the benefits of champagne socialism) are both ideological substitutes for the sane, human and Christian relationship to wealth, wealth creation, education, and all the other services which charity compels us to perform for our fellow human beings.

But who is telling that tale in these times? And how will Pope Benedict's visit in a couple of months affect this monochrome picture, even with the coloured chalk of Newman, the Fathers and hermeneutics of continuity?

We have fished all night, Lord, and have caught nothing. But on your command we will let down the nets.


  1. Consider my chains rattled.

    Interesting that the gentleman from Unison only mentioned that cuts affect human beings: last time I looked, so did taxes.

    I hope you find a something more permanent soon; there must be at least one or two institutions in the country that value intellect and teaching ability (friends of mine in Italy have been "enjoying" Mr Berlusconi's attempts to privatise higher education for the last two years, which has left one commuting to Sicily from Tuscany every week).

  2. Phew! Innocent is back. Gratias agimus. Sorry to hear of you losing out on the appointment, Innocent. It seems that intelligence and ability are no longer sine qua nons for academe. But the dumbing down of teaching has been going on awhile.

    When I was still gainfully employed (I'm retired, thankfully...)I once used the word 'disabuse' in a report to the Division Head. The report was first reviewed by my boss who enquired if 'disabuse' was really a word (this is the USA after all). Despite my assurances that it could be found in the OED, he insisted I change it! Shakespeare would not have been amused.

  3. Gentlemen, thank you. I'm going to apply for a post next in Scotland. They at least will make it a point of principal not to be scared of an Englishman!

  4. Er, Innocent, in view of the Scottish opportunity, you might want to investigate a potential Scots heritage.

    'Smith' is listed among the Scots Clans (with a motto of "Hold Fast", no less - good advice!). So perhaps appearing in an appropriate Smith tartan kilt might 'grease the wheels', as it were, in the interview?

    Just a thought...