31 May 2007
I was shocked by it when I first started to encounter it at 13 or 14. There was really no hint of it in what I had read up to that time. ‘Socialist’ writers such as H G Wells and Bernard Shaw took a pretty detached view of the goings-on of human society and suggestions that it might be nice if all people lived in larger, cleaner houses, or lived in a cleaner, healthier and more aesthetic way, did not draw attention to the erosion of liberty that would be necessary even to attempt to bring this about.
My ideas of human society were based primarily on books written in Victorian or Edwardian times, with a bit of influence from such things as cynical Aesop’s Fables. I always took note of ideas about motivation and reflected upon them.
Consider, for example, A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The message of this book, to me at any rate, was that no one will do anything for anyone unless they are paid with money for doing so. In the story, Sara is left by her father at a select boarding-school. She is a parlour boarder and treated as a show pupil by the headmistress, who nevertheless resents her cleverness and self-possession, until her father dies and she is left penniless. Then she is made to sleep in an attic, where a scullery-maid also sleeps, and to work for her keep as a drudge and errand runner in all weathers, and assistant teacher of elementary French.
It is only if you have a parent who will pay for things for you that you have them, and what you have will be in accordance with how much the parent has to spend. Otherwise you will be reduced to the state of the servant girls and beggars in the streets.
Of course, people other than parents may give other people things; when Sara was well off she used to buy items of food for one of the scullery maids, and when she is poor she gives some buns to a starving beggar girl. This attracts the attention of the lady who runs the bun-shop, and she (the lady) takes in the beggar girl and feeds and clothes her from then on — in effect, adopts her, but without having to account for what she is doing to any agents of the collective.
In those days there was no compulsory education and adoption was a matter for individuals to undertake if they chose with no need to seek permission.
That was the way the world was; the way people treated you depended entirely on whether you could pay for what you wanted, or needed.
Eventually Sara is found and rescued by a wealthy friend of her father’s, who has been looking for her. While he is looking for her he is made aware of how many children are living in poverty. He is sorry for them, and harrowed to think that Sara may be in a similar state, but his friend tells him that his resources are limited. He could not provide for all the destitute children, but must concentrate on finding and helping Sara, whose father was his friend.
In the world as depicted in the books that I read there was no disapproval of ambition. The respectable bourgeois worked hard and rose in the world if he could; his children lived in well-built houses with a few servants and might have Mary Poppins as a nanny.
My father had been a very poor boy, and the great efforts he had made to rise in the world had not got him very far; he was headmaster of a primary school at the London docks. My parents were respectable but still very far from rich. Nevertheless, their efforts had resulted in their being able to give their child a better start in life than they had had themselves; they had delayed having me until they had saved enough money to be sure that they would be able to pay for a professional training for me.
When I came top of the grammar school scholarship exam at the age of ten, very soon after the 1945 Labour landslide election, egalitarian ideas were bubbling invisibly below the surface, but nothing I had read had prepared me for the idea that I should not want to take exams as fast and as hard as possible, and that I should be prevented from doing so because not everyone could. To take more exams than other people and at an earlier age was apparently viewed as reprehensible; it was an attempt to score off other people. Having social interactions with other people should be one’s sole aim in life. One should not want to do scientific research just because it was what one wanted to do and what would enable one to feel most alive. One should, apparently, only want to spend one’s life doing good to other people, in some shape or form, and interacting with them socially.
These ideas may not seem strange or surprising to a modern reader, but it was the first time I had encountered them and I found that they were being used to obstruct and hinder me.
By the time I was 13 my worldview was essentially formed; none of the books I had read had depicted, or appeared to advocate, an egalitarian society in the modern sense. Practically all societies of the past, as described, had contained some large households which provided a hotel environment for those living in them (sometimes even called ‘hotels’, at least in France and Italy), and it had never been regarded as reprehensible to attempt to rise in the world by any activities regarded as legal.
In retrospect, as a recipient of a grammar school scholarship, I was in the position of Sara in A Little Princess. With my fees not being paid by my father but by the state, I was exposed to the tender mercies of the local education authority and community generally, as Sara was exposed to those of Miss Minchin — who could no longer be bothered to provide her with a formal education, but allowed her to read the schoolbooks in the empty schoolroom when she had run her errands for the day. And she did this, not because she felt any concern for Sara’s need to rise in the world to a position that might suit her, but so that Sara might become useful to Miss Minchin as an inexpensive teacher when she was a few years older.
Similarly, my tormentors did not mind how seriously they blocked my attempts to establish my claim on the sort of university career I needed to have; my acquisition of skills and qualifications was reduced to a snail’s pace, but I was allowed to proceed with heavily handicapped supervised ‘courses’ which might eventually lead to my being useful, not to myself, but to society, in a lowly capacity as a teacher of maths.
Then I was thrown out into a society where all my efforts to recover from a bad position and regain an academic career of a suitable kind were blocked by the continued advance of the modern ideology, according to which, as I found, it is criminal to go on trying to get a career that society has shown it does not want one to have.
30 May 2007
Edward Field, 20, was missing for ten days before police found his body. His family and friends had searched for the chemistry student at Bristol University and used Internet networking sites to try to find him.
Mr Field, whose family live in New Malden, Surrey, is understood to have been worried about his end of term exams, although a spokesman for Bristol University described him as ‘exceptionally’ clever.
Last night a close friend said: ‘Ed was a really bright boy with everything to live for. ‘Exam stress may have played a part in what happened but there are a lot of different pressures in student life and it is impossible to know.’ (from ‘Student worried over exams found hanged in woods’, Daily Mail, 29 May 2007)
Being ‘exceptionally clever’ is certainly no reason why an undergraduate should not be stressed about a university exam. He may have needed to do exceptionally well in order to proceed to the sort of exceptional and rarely obtainable career which he needed to have.
Those who are not exceptionally clever are much more likely to feel that, whatever their exam results, they will be able to get by in whatever sort of life is available to them in modern society.
It has been recognised by authorities other than me that the correlation of academic success with IQ breaks down at the highest levels of IQ. It is also recognised (but as far as I know only by me and other people here) that those with the highest IQs may have the greatest need for careers that can only be obtained by the highest academic success (and not necessarily even then).
It is also recognised (by me) that high IQ arouses hostility and it is easy for teachers and tutors to use their hostility in ways that are very effective in damaging a person’s prospects.
Why was this undergraduate, if really exceptional, at Bristol instead of Oxford or Cambridge, and taking his degree at so late an age? This suggests that his life may already have gone seriously wrong in the same way that mine did, although it is unlikely that he was so extreme a case.
He had been at Bedales public school, and we know that people from public schools are discriminated against. Perhaps that was why he was not at Oxford or Cambridge. And perhaps his tutors wanted to make him feel “challenged” (or, rather, undermined).
The fact that a “close friend” finds it “impossible to know” what he was stressed about is not particularly enlightening either way. My closest “friends” at Somerville had no insight whatever into my position when I was thrown out with a second-class degree. After that had happened their remarks were extremely misleading, if not positively slanderous.
29 May 2007
Two items in yesterday’s news show the onward march of the hidden agenda of modern society, to penalise and reduce the numbers of the formerly respectable and law-abiding population by favouring and enlarging the criminal population with, on average, lower IQs.
Up to 3,000 foreign criminals will be released from prison on to Britain's streets without any attempt to deport them, Government papers have revealed. A note sent to probation staff says as few as 250 convicts from European countries will face even preliminary deportation proceedings every year. It pins the blame on an EU directive which rules that committing a serious crime is no longer sufficient grounds for removal. … As a result, the vast bulk of the estimated 3,300 European criminals released from British jails each year - including burglars, thieves and muggers - will simply walk free.
The note to probation staff revealed that just "approximately 250-300" offenders will face even an attempt at removal - which could of course be unsuccessful. ... It emerged that Ministers are floundering on a second promise relating to foreign convicts - to send home foreign nationals imprisoned in Britain. Jails are at bursting point - with a record 80,812 inmates on Friday - so Labour is desperately trying to secure agreements to send 11,000 convicts back home to serve their sentences. But it is expected to take years for any significant number to be removed. (Daily Mail 28 May 2007)
Wrongly jailed after a woman cried rape, Warren Blackwell applied for compensation for his three wasted years in prison. Torn from his family and sent to languish in jail as a convicted sex attacker, the innocent father-of-two imagined he was due a hefty sum for the miscarriage of justice. Instead, he was flabbergasted to learn the Home Office now intends to charge him nearly £7,000 for "board and lodging". The money is for the cost of food and accommodation while he was behind bars, and will be deducted from whatever compensation he receives for wrong imprisonment.
Mr Blackwell, 37, said: “They accept they put me in prison wrongly and accept I’m due compensation. Then they say, ‘Thank you for your stay with us, hope you didn't miss your family too much during three years in the clanger, now off you go - oh, and here's your bill.’”
"I was jailed not just for a crime I didn't do, but for one that never even happened in the first place. She made the whole thing up, as was accepted by the High Court." Mr Blackwell's ordeal began when his accuser, now 39, claimed she had been seized with a knife outside a village club early on New Year's Day 1999, taken to an alley and indecently assaulted. She picked him out of an identity parade and a jury found him guilty, even though there was no forensic evidence and he had no previous convictions. ...
Eventually, the case was investigated by the Criminal Cases Review Commission which found his accuser had fabricated at least seven other allegations of sexual and physical assault. She frequently changed her name and police forces did not realise they were dealing with the same woman. (Daily Mail 28 May 2007)
In this case, as in many others, it is now possible to label the victim as innocent because a review board had declared him to be so, since some new evidence has come to light which affects the probabilistic weighting which they give to something being true. But suppose the woman in question had not had previous convictions for dishonesty, or this had not come to light, but she had nevertheless made her accusations against Mr Blackwell? This shows how easy it is for people to be convicted on probabilistic judgements based on purely circumstantial or unsupported evidence.
It is doubtful whether judges or juries take seriously the old-fashioned principle that a person is to be regarded as innocent until he is proved guilty. There appears to be more of an idea these days that a person is to be considered guilty unless and until a socially acceptable alternative explanation can be proposed.
28 May 2007
State schools can never be made fit for any children because it is fundamentally immoral to deprive an individual of the liberty to make his own evaluations of the uncertain existential situation and deploy his own resources to react to it in what seems to him the best way. (Basic Moral Principle.)
Now it is true that state education may appear to be very bad even to a person who takes into account only a few of the crudest principles. But even if on these very crude criteria (literacy, juvenile crime) it appeared to be ‘good’ it would still be morally wrong, and would be having bad consequences which were less quantifiable. Even if it could be ‘proved’ that it had no bad consequences of any kind it would remain morally wrong.
In fact, it is only on superficial and rationalised grounds that it is admitted to be ‘bad’. Actually it is doing precisely what it is really aimed at, making life as difficult as possible for the functional and formerly respectable high IQ individuals.
What could be more appropriate than that such an individual should be forced to pursue the aims of his highly-taxed life among an unemployable and criminal population?
‘We need ... schools ... that deliver the goal of a truly socially mobile society’ says Cameron. And what does that mean? Rapid descent for the high IQs, I suppose. But it has already happened quite a lot, and is still happening fast enough. There is really no need for any further acceleration.
27 May 2007
Further to yesterday’s comments about giving up on the belief in society, I should, as usual, insist on the importance of the hypothetical. People have a resistance to accepting the possibility that everyone may be against them, or that their lives may be irrevocably ruined, but it is not a matter of believing that those things are the case, it is only necessary to accept that these thing are possibilities and to stop distorting one’s mind in a decentralised way to avoid noticing the indications that they may, realistically, be the case.
In practice, however, I have certainly found that accepting these things (without giving up) has aroused hostility and opposition.
I had not realised that trying to recover from a bad position, once one has been thrown out by society, makes one a criminal. If you go on trying to do what society has decreed you are to be outcast from, this not only arouses no sympathy (except from the few very exceptional people who are here now) but actually arouses opposition, either covert or overt as vitriolic abuse.
As you know, I was quite identified from an early age with being a respectable and successful middleclass person and I saw no difficulty at all in living within the law and with a fair amount of respect for other people’s territories, physical and psychological. But I found this was not enough to prevent myself from being perceived as a criminal.
And, by the way, perhaps I should repeat that although when I regained my centralisation at the age of 19 I cried for three days for the loss of my destiny, I was not actually giving up and did not actually lose it (as everyone around me would have liked to believe at the time). But, of course, I was not any longer in the market for explaining myself to other people.
26 May 2007
Although giving up on the belief in society is very traumatic, it is difficult to see what one is giving up on. One is breaking a taboo which puts one beyond the pale; one can never again feel any sense of supportive solidarity with the human race. They can all be against one; one cannot prevent this if they want to be; they are not under one’s control. One must be identified only with what is under one’s control, and that is very little.
One loses the possibility of glamour; glamour comes from social glorification, and you are stripping society of its power to glorify you. This seems, at the time, like a terrible loss. If you (say) get a Nobel Prize, it will not reinforce your sense of significance. But, you decide, you must give up on the glamour that you wanted to get from it, so that you will not be incapacitated from doing the work that may get you one, if ever you can get into a position to do such work.
And you accept that you have lost your destiny; you will spend your life asserting the significance of what should have been in loss and mourning; but you will never give up. You know that everyone would disapprove of this; ‘move on’, they would say, ‘give up’.
You must accept the discontinuity in your life in order to go on pursuing the same things as before, and mourning for their loss. More usually, people wish to retain an idea that they are still in the same life (I wished it myself); that it is continuous with their previous life, just modified.
Maybe they will get less of what they wanted out of society and in a different form, but they don’t want to think they have given up on it. This means that they will need to keep their minds distorted and decentralised.
It is (paradoxically) only by giving up that you are enabled not to give up, and pretending not to have given up means that you have really lost the essential thing.
You said how was it that, at the SPR, I could feel like a convicted criminal wearing broad arrows and be clearly aware of the implications of all their jibes and taunts, and yet really feel as much a Professor as ever, although not socially recognised as such, and regard those who taunted me, and those whose machinations had placed me in this position, as the real criminals, and as having acted badly by the standards which academics ought to have.
I think the positive part comes out of the centralisation; you don’t decide in advance that this is the position you are going to adopt. Any significantly centralising manoeuvre is, I think, experienced as negative, as loss and dangerous. You don’t know what may come of it, you may never be able to be motivated to try to get anything again. But in practice, if the effect is really centralising, positive and unforeseeable results ensue, and you find that you are confident and sure of yourself in a way that you never were before, even when your life seemed to be most successful and socially rewarded.
As for the risk of losing motivation, I found that I still had very strong motivation to get social recognition as a Professor as soon as possible, and a Nobel Prize. I also had very strong motivation to work on an adequate scale in any area where I had started to see what could be done and confidence that there would be significant progress which I would be able to make in the light of the perceptions which I already had in those areas.
This did not, of course, give me any motivation to fiddle around in those areas inconclusively or ‘theorise’ about them vaguely, as other people did. But there was a very strong drive to get into a position where I could work on them on an adequate scale. Such drives, if they could not be implemented, did not go away. But they would be less tormenting if I could be intellectually active and functional on an adequate scale in any area of work which had some realistic content, and which could be done in a way that was contributing either to my career advancement towards a Professorship or to my build-up of capital.
24 May 2007
It follows that ‘education’ in the modern world must be antagonistic to able individuals. As I have pointed out before, if you wish to ‘refute the supposition that top achievers possess extraordinary talent or aptitudes that allow them to outpace their less fortunate counterparts’, as the website of Florida State University puts it, then if a person appears likely to provide evidence to the contrary, they must be deprived of opportunity — as I was throughout my ‘education’, continued to be afterwards on account of lack of paper qualifications and any way of earning money, and still am being. My life was ruined at an early stage of the development of the Welfare State, but the ideology was already then clearly present and quite highly developed.
Whenever I was being prevented from doing something that I wanted and badly needed to do, it would be made to depend on my asserting something about my having some specific level of ability, usually ‘being a genius’ (genius undefined) or being ‘better than everybody else in some category of persons’. Opinions of this sort had not entered at all into my considerations about the desirability of doing whatever it was, but it was an effective way of blocking any further presentation of my reasons for wanting to do it — not that any such presentation would have had the slightest hope of success. Thus, to quote the headmistress of the deplorable Woodford High School, which I had wanted to leave at the end of the first day, and not expected to be opposed by my parents in doing so, ‘It would not be fair to treat her as a genius before she has proved that she is one.’
Now, of course, the wish to assert that there is no such thing as exceptional ability is much more explicitly expressed, although it has been influencing everyone in the educational and university systems for over 60 years. Consider the great enthusiasm which is expressed for the views of the well-paid and statusful Professor K Anders Ericsson. (Article here, found via Stumbling & Mumbling blog; my comments in square brackets; italics mine.)
Widely acclaimed as the torchbearer in the Expert Performance Movement, Ericsson's ascent to superlative status is buoyed by his contrarian [?] view. His research refutes the conventional wisdom and everyday supposition [not any longer, surely] that the top achievers among us possess extraordinary talent or aptitudes that allow them to outpace their less fortunate counterparts. Ericsson's work tells the world that, in fact, there is no mysterious genetic hard-wiring for greatness, no intrinsic tendency for talent and no natural high-performance endowments. ...
With the November 2006 release of "The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance," Ericsson led a team of researchers that produced this first-ever collection of academically reviewed studies of expertise and expert performance. The seminal [?] work received enthusiastic reviews and critical accolades in the academic and mass media alike.
Ericsson’s work purports to prove that there is no such thing as innate ability, and the enthusiasm with which it is greeted demonstrates how fundamental to the modern ideology (the new religion of collectivism) is the destruction of the concept of the individual.
Actually his work does not, and could not, prove any such thing. He has paid a good deal of attention to activities involving motor skills, such as sports and the playing of musical instruments. It certainly does not seem likely that a person will excel at such things without a lot of practice, but that does not prove that anyone could reach the same level. I am, I imagine, below the average in ability to play games, and although I can slowly improve by practice (at playing squash, for example) to something approaching a normal level of performance, I would never expect to be able to perform well. There is some component of aptitude that I do not have, although my mother did. She was a natural athlete, captain of most games at school. She had medals for swimming and, until I was born, played hockey for the county. My father, on the other hand, was unsuited to games. My mother said that people laughed at him when he ran.
In games-playing aptitude I would seem to have inherited more of my father’s genetic endowment than my mother’s.
Even if Professor Ericsson has included leading ‘intellectuals’ or ‘academics’ among his experts, that is a population consisting of those who, like himself, have found it possible to rise to socially-recognised prestigious positions in modern society.
Demonstrating that a good deal of practice and conscientiousness has contributed to their position as recognised experts does not, and cannot, rule out the possibility that other, less quantifiable, factors may be present. (One factor that is very likely to be present, as in Ericsson’s own case, is an ability to tolerate the modern ideology and to bring one’s own thinking in every area into line with it. A predisposition to do this might have genetic determinants.)
No, according to Ericsson, there was no special genetic aptitude present in the case of Mozart. He just put in a lot of practice at an early age.
The type of logic being invoked is rather like the lines of argument unfortunately adopted in many modern court cases. Did someone kill his/her babies/parents? He/she can only claim innocence if medical or psychological ‘experts’ are prepared to agree that there is a more plausible culprit in the form of a recognised medical condition or an alternative murderer with the right sort of personality and motivation. Provided there is a good alternative story (or one considered ‘good’ by socially approved experts) the person may be declared innocent.
Similarly, we can produce an alternative explanation of outstanding achievement in terms of practice. Maybe practice alone is enough to account for it. It is certainly not possible to prove that any other factor is present, and so (thus the modern mind works), since this is the most socially acceptable story, we are justified in asserting that there is no other factor in the situation. To quote Ericsson, ‘With the exception of the influence of height and size in some sports, no characteristic of the brain or body has been shown to constrain an individual from reaching an expert level’.
Ericsson, who grew up in Sweden, completed his Ph.D. in psychology from University of Stockholm in 1976, followed by a post-doctoral fellowship at Carnegie-Mellon University. After a 12-year tenure at University of Colorado at Boulder, which included a two-year stint at the Max-Planck Institute for Human Development and Education in Berlin, Ericsson joined the FSU psychology faculty in 1992 as the distinguished Conradi Scholar, the first endowed chair in the College of Arts & Sciences.
"Dr. Ericsson was critical to launching a doctoral degree program in cognitive psychology," says Janet Kistner, FSU department chair, clinical psychology. "His presence enabled us to recruit some outstanding cognitive psychologists to join our faculty, as they were eager to have opportunities to interact with Ericsson and happy to be part of a developing program in expertise."
Lucky Professor Ericsson. How I envy him his status, salary, and expanding opportunities. Just what I need myself, continue to suffer from the lack of, and could make good use of, but have not yet been able to get.
You see the great enthusiasm for endowing academic institutes in which well-paid and socially statusful people can energetically produce work which is of little informational value in itself, but which may appear to an uncritical mind to support the modern drive to destroy individuality.
If the funding being devoted to the development of Dr Ericsson’s programme in expertise were to be deflected to my incipient independent university, which is being kept as inconspicuous and unproductive as possible by financial deprivation, some really progressive research might be done and at the least a few books expressing suppressed points of view could be published.
22 May 2007
To be functional in a given situation depends on what occurs to one; confronted by any field of research I would, as I did when I made contact with psychical research (immediately after being thrown out of Oxford University with a second-class degree) be as openminded as possible in looking at all the data that presented themselves, and allow relationships between them to occur to one’s mind. Gradually, in fact probably quite soon, I would expect to see what appeared to be the best lines to pursue in advancing understanding of the phenomena and relating them to other fields of science.
This happened when I considered the phenomena of psychical research, and I am sure that it would happen again if I had any opportunity to develop any of the areas of research which I began to delineate, or if I were able to work in any other field of research.
An extensive knowledge of what had been done beforehand in the field of psychical research was irrelevant because everyone else’s mind had evidently worked so differently. (This applies also in other fields which present any threat to the modern ideology, such as theoretical physics, philosophy and psychology.)
I had not been at the SPR many months before I had concluded that out-of-the-body experiences would provide an area of research which could lead to revolutionary insights, and would be the best way of starting to develop the field of psychical research, if one were able to work on it on an adequate scale. There were written accounts of people having such experiences, and there were people coming to the office, both as occasional visitors and as permanent personnel, who described having similar experiences, some of them habitually. The experiences often had characteristics in common.
And yet out-of-the-body experiences (OBEs) were regarded as the dubious imaginings of people who had spiritualistic belief systems. Any number of academic and supposedly scientifically-minded people would have been able to make the same observations as I did of the occurrence and potential availability for study of such phenomena in the population, but (to the extent that they were ostensibly interested in advancing knowledge of reality at all) their attention had always been elsewhere.
There was much resistance to my appealing to the public at large for actual cases of OBEs, even among our “supporters”. To do this was, apparently, to expose the subject of parapsychology (and, of course, oneself) to charges of unscientific credulity and spiritualistic belief. There is a strange kind of logic here, which I have found even among the most intelligent intellectuals (e.g. philosophy professors). The logic goes something like this, I believe — although it is never actually stated. "It is okay to obtain information about hallucinatory experiences such as OBEs provided the only purpose is to demonstrate that they are not, in fact, supportive of any spiritual or other non-reductionist beliefs. It is not okay to obtain information about them in their own right, however, since that is providing implicit support for spiritualist beliefs." Yes, there is a fundamental inconsistency here, but even philosophy professors seem not to notice it.
Actually, there are plenty of inconsistencies that are not noticed by philosophy professors, and to which the philosophy department of my independent university could be drawing attention, if not kept harmless and inactive by financial deprivation.
21 May 2007
... the police could not be blamed for rising crime. Nor, he added, was it up to officers to mend the ‘broken society’ responsible for increasing lawlessness. ‘We broke our society — all of us, as parents, as citizens, as members of society — and we have a shared responsibility, with Government, for fixing it.’ (Daily Mail 18 May 2007)No, it was not the individuals who have broken modern society. It was the rise and rise of legislation influenced by socialist ideas. Especially, and crucially, society was broken by the inception of the Welfare State in 1945.
Those responsible for this were middle-class intellectuals who should have known better, such as those who held office in the Attlee government, or supported it, and who planned to use their supposed concern for the numerically large working class in order to destroy territorial individualism.
Extracts from article ‘Dual Britannia’ by David Kynaston (Financial Times Arts & Books 18 May 2007), my comments in square brackets:
“Oh wonderful people of Britain!” exalted Iris Murdoch. ”After all the ballyhoo and eyewash, they’ve had the guts to vote against Winston! I can’t help feeling that to be young is very heaven!” Another Oxford philosopher, Isaiah Berlin, danced a jig at hearing the news that Labour had won the July 1945 election by a landslide, while a precocious public schoolboy in Sussex, the 16-year-old Bernard Levin, was so ecstatic that he hung a red flag out of his window and braved the consequences ...The working class, like the non-leftwing middle class, were at the time (the 1940s and 50s) largely uninterested in collectivism, planning and intervention. They wanted to identify with their own territories, families, small houses with gardens, and pay packets. The ‘privileged’ middle classes had, on the whole, larger territories and a different range of activities, which included intellectual and cultural activities. In destroying their lives, the ‘activators’ (as Kynaston calls them) severely damaged territorialism and individual liberty throughout the population, leading to the current breakdown of civilisation.
Put baldly, there existed in 1945, at the apparent birth of a new world, a dichotomy between the expectations of most progressive-minded politicians, planners, public intellectuals and opinion-formers — call them ”activators” — on the one hand and those of the great mass of ”ordinary people” (still some 75 per cent working class) on the other. ... For all the Attlee government’s notable achievements [i.e. for all the appalling and irreversible onslaughts on individual liberty] — above all the creation of the NHS and the modern welfare state — this mismatch was soon apparent. ...
There were many reasons why Old Labour failed to enthuse the electorate, but four areas were particularly telling. [E.g. divergence between the social conservatism of the working class and the progressivism of the "activators".] ... the millions were no more enlightened when it came to education. "The Party are kidding themselves if they think that the comprehensive school has any popular appeal," was how the shrewd, Lancastrian, working-class Minister of Education George Tomlinson put it in early 1951; but by later that year the abolition of the divide between grammars and secondary moderns was official Labour policy, following intensive pressure from the largely middle-class National Association of Labour Teachers. Towards the end of the decade an authoritative survey (by Mark Abrams) of working-class attitudes to education found widespread admiration for grammar schools and almost equally pervasive suspicion of the goals of comprehensive schooling, especially the egalitarian aspect. Yet not all that long after, in 1965, Anthony Crosland (Highgate and Oxford) famously, or infamously, set out to destroy "every fucking grammar school" in England and Wales ...
Civilisation, in any of the ways in which I would define it, has already broken down, although this may well continue to become more obvious to the naked eye of even the politically correct observer.
A civilised society may be defined as one in which an individual has a clearly defined territory within which he is free to operate. In a non-territorial, tribal society he must constantly refer to the subjective preferences and pressures of the communal group.
In modern society it has become difficult to be sure of whether one is acting within one’s rights or not, and any form of behavior can be turned into an imprisonable crime if it is made the subject of an ASBO. E.g. ‘You are not allowed to look as if you might be intending to visit your family in such-and-such streets within such-and-such times of day.’
Unfortunately, the word ‘civilised’ is nowadays used to refer to ideals which cannot be achieved, or even aimed at, without unlimited confiscation and reduction of liberty. E.g. ‘In a civilised society no child of school-age should have to spend hours every day attending to the needs of a physically disabled parent.’ This is a goal which recedes into infinite distance as increasing numbers of the genetically dysfunctional are kept alive to reproductive age by the NHS, and as everyone is ideologically indoctrinated by their state-financed ‘education’ with a total aversion to doing anything ‘menial’ (or really useful) for anybody else.
19 May 2007
It is very difficult to write about, because it was essentially a manoeuvre to make it possible not to give up. I knew that it would make me an outsider and I had not expected to have to be that. I was a perfectly respectable middleclass person and until my life was made to go wrong I had been treated as a member of the club by respectable middleclass teachers etc. But now my wish to get back into the same position was being used against me as a decentralising factor.
I could only escape the trap by becoming independent of anyone else’s opinion. I would not stop behaving like a respectable bourgeois and successful academic person, nor would I stop feeling as if I were one, but I would not be a member of the club. Nor did I think that the club, as it was in practice, should be able to exclude me. I retained an image of the way society should be, to which the way it was in practice was irrelevant.
However, I would not ‘belong’ any more. I would be a criminal and outlaw because I was breaking the taboo which decrees that respectable persons do not think of themselves as better than society tells them they are. Of course it was a long time since I had been treated as if I ‘belonged’ anyway. They had set up impossible arrangements, ignoring my protests and complaints, and said that their judgement about me was fixed until further notice. If, and only if, I could succeed on the terms they prescribed after traversing the obstacle course, would they consider accepting me as a person who was good at doing the sort of things that, in the right circumstances, I was superlatively good at doing.
18 May 2007
The brightest 700,000 children in the country will be encouraged to apply for extra holiday lessons at their local university ... Academic high-fliers will be invited to study subjects as diverse as maths, creative writing and magic.
The £3.6 million scheme is part of a Government effort to counter concerns that bright pupils are not being challenged by the state sector. (Daily Mail, 12 May 2007.)
Compulsory education is fundamentally immoral and oppressive.
State education is immoral, oppressive, and a contradiction in terms because the majority of people desire the oppression of the individual.
A 3.6 million pound scheme is proposed so that children designated as ‘gifted and talented’ can be offered demoralising time wasting at summer courses at universities. But never mind how harmful this rubbish is to them. The real point is that it will lead to more money (freedom) being confiscated from taxpayers, including individuals such as myself whose supervised ‘education’ ruined their lives. My drives and needs to acquire usable qualifications were opposed and frustrated so that I was thrown out at the end with no way of making a career or even of ‘earning’ money, nor with any eligibility for social security. I could not say that I was ‘seeking work’ since I had no qualification for anything which I could realistically have done. So I was completely alienated from the oppressive society in which we live.
Those who have been left socially disabled by their ‘education’ should at least be exempt from taxation, and in practice I have paid plenty of it in my struggles to work my way out of the pit into which I was thrown fifty years ago.
I am reminded of John Stuart Mill’s father who did not want his son to go to school (even a private one) so that he would not acquire habits of idleness. Similarly, a realistic parent might not wish their child to go to summer school where they would become (even more) demoralised and acquire habits of purposelessness and woolgathering. But, of course, the main raison d’etre of such goings on is not so much to do harm to the children concerned as to squeeze the taxpayer still further, however disadvantaged he may already be by the harm that was done to his life by his own ‘education’.
16 May 2007
The Conservatives distanced themselves further from grammar schools last night, claiming they do not help bright children from poor backgrounds. David Willetts risked infuriating traditionalists on the Tory Right by saying selection in schools widens the gap between rich and poor. ...
Last night Mr Willetts, the Tories' education spokesman, reinforced the message by claiming that a return to grammar schools would widen the gap between rich and poor. He rejected the long-held Tory view that academic selection is the best way to raise standards in schools and vowed the Tories would do more to develop Tony Blair's city academy programme than Gordon Brown.
Mr Willetts told the Confederation of British Industry yesterday: "We must break free from the belief that academic selection is any longer the way to transform the life chances of bright poor kids. "We have to recognise overwhelming evidence that such academic selection entrenches advantage, it does not spread it. A Conservative agenda for education will not be about just helping a minority of pupils escape a bad education." ...
Left-wing Labour MPs and teachers' unions have urged Mr Brown to dump city academies, which are built with private sponsorship. ... However, Mr Willetts promised to open more if the Tories returned to power. He said Mr Blair's academy model of privately-sponsored independent state schools was "a powerful route to higher standards"... In exchange for up to £2million in sponsorship, private backers from business or faith groups can set up an academy ... The Government pays school running costs and the rest of the expense of opening new buildings — typically about £25 million. (Daily Mail, 16 May 2007)
A return to grammar schools would widen the gap between rich and poor? But doesn’t he really mean the gap between above-average and below-average IQs? Grammar schools would fail to inhibit the academic success of those with above-average IQs so effectively as do the present comprehensives, which are better at preventing the difference between high and low IQs showing up in academic achievement.
‘Such academic selection entrenches advantage, it does not spread it.’
I.e. it does not spread it very, very thin like melted butter applied with a palette knife, so that it is no good to anybody.
The Conservative agenda will not, it is said, ‘be about helping just a minority of pupils escape a bad education’. Well, yes, those with high IQs are in a minority, quite a small minority. Fifty years ago, those classified as ‘gifted’, approximately corresponding to potential university graduates, constituted about 3% of the population. And we certainly must not allow the tiny minority with the highest IQs of all, over 150 or 160, say, to escape a bad education. They should have as bad an education as anybody else, in fact they will need to be discriminated against, to ensure (as nearly as possible) equality of outcome.
Not that I advocate grammar schools. I first became aware of the modern hostility to ability at the age of 14, when I was sent to a state grammar school and forced to remain there for a year against my will. What I advocate is, first of all, the abolition of state education altogether, and then of compulsory education.
And I advocate also that instead of encouraging private backers from business or faith groups to apply the resources which they have available for charitable giving to setting up city academies, they should devote them to helping those who have been ruined by their ‘education’ to recover from the damage done to their lives by making donations to my organisation, an incipient independent university supported by a cooperative entrepreneurial empire. [Still kept so small and insignificant by hostility that it can be misrepresented as a group of individuals who are so enthusiastic for particular preoccupations that they have freely chosen to live in poverty and constriction in order to ‘follow their interests.’]
14 May 2007
People think they cannot do anything about their position as finite and mortal in relation to physical reality so, to find some way of asserting themselves, they turn to other people as a source of significance, especially as those others seem to be conscious beings like themselves.
So, having accepted that you can’t do anything about your own physical limitations, you can assert yourself best by having a real effect on the consciousness of someone else, and the most powerful way of doing this is by making him have experiences which he does not want to have.
So Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine mislead one another into experiences of fear and anxiety, in which they become decentralised; i.e. they stop referring to their own internal psychological criteria and distort themselves in any way that may placate other people and avert the threat of what other people may do to them.
The fact that this is associated with lying and deception satisfactorily places the person doing the decentralising in a position of superiority to both objective reality and to the decentralised person who is anguished by his uncertainty of the real state of affairs.
This is the fundamental strategy of the modern religion of collectivism.
We may note also the theme of class warfare; one is supposed to sympathise with the ‘ordinary’ Michael Caine as against the ‘superior’, snobbish and elitist Laurence Olivier, who complains of the damage done to the lives of people like him by the modern world.
Conclusion? The objective of modern society is to make everyone decentralised, especially those who formerly had some vestige of centralisation.
07 May 2007
Letter to a philosophy professor
From what I have told you by now about how I found myself at the Society for Psychical Research when I was thrown out into the wilderness, you may be able to see that no belief system entered into it. I went there purely for money, as I remember saying to an undergraduate two or three years later, when I had returned to Oxford to do my would-be D.Phil which turned into a B.Litt (on account of the hostility, actually, because it would have been quite easy to work out what would have constituted an acceptable D.Phil thesis — if anyone had wanted my thesis to be accepted).
The undergraduate to whom I was talking had asked why I had gone to the SPR, and I said, truthfully, ‘Only for money.’ Like many other people in the modern world, he prided himself on never doing anything that was not ‘interesting’ or pretentious, and he said, a bit shocked and contemptuous, ‘I hope I shall never do a job that I am only doing for money.’ Nevertheless, he also prided himself on the money which he expected soon to be paid for doing something pretentious, saying (when I lent him some money, which I never got back, to ease his financial problems) that his problems would soon be over, and in a year’s time he expected to have a four-figure bank balance (which would be the equivalent of a five or six-figure one nowadays).
However, money was my only motive when I went to the SPR, and as I came to know about them, I considered the potential fields of research which might be subsumed under the heading of psychical research in exactly the same way as any other potential field of scientific research. Provided it had any realistic content it would be as good as any other field of science for making a return to an academic career, social status and the circumstances of an adequate life.
It was, however, extremely underdeveloped and would require large scale work with several streams of information coming in from the work of at least one research department before I could hope to establish any intellectual structures that could lead to real progress.
This fitted quite well with the fact that I needed a full-scale academic institution anyway, large and complex enough to incorporate a residential college with full hotel facilities. The best Oxbridge colleges still have these facilities, although the benefit of them is reduced by their residents being more burdened than they used to be with administrative chores and the need to keep producing publishable ‘research’ which sounds as if it is based on, and takes seriously, other ‘research’ which has been published by socially appointed ‘academics’.
When I first went to the SPR I did at first find some motivation to support me on the part of a few people, so I planned to set up a research institute with the all-important associated residential (hotel) college.
However, the hostility that had gone into depriving me of opportunity throughout my supervised ‘education’ soon re-asserted itself. Thereafter I was slandered for decades as a person who was so extremely enthusiastic about this particular field of research that I had freely chosen to ‘do’ it — although I was doing it only in whatever sense it was possible to do anything at all, living in extreme poverty and social degradation.
04 May 2007
Thank you for your telephone enquiry.
In the information pack which I have already sent you, there is included a copy of a letter to an educational expert. He was one of two, of the sort who pontificate on television, whom I met by being invited as one of the speakers at an undergraduate society meeting about free market education. (He is a proponent of market-based education; I was going to advocate the complete abolition of state education.)
Over dinner with them, I anecdotalised about my education in order to pick up their reactions, which were very interesting. They were soon begging not to hear any more of my stories, became fairly insulting, and left without their puddings. They said to the host as they left that they couldn’t take any more (out of my hearing, but he told me).
I had a friend with me who was a relatively disinterested observer of my interactions with them and found their unveiled hostility surprising. She described them as reacting as if they had had their bluff called. I felt that, in their place, whatever my real feelings, I would have put on a better act of professional interest.
The conversation was mostly about the education of gifted children. I know one is never supposed to believe there is a conspiracy, and in a way I don’t, because I don’t think they had ever conferred together and agreed that such and such a policy would be very good at ruining the life of a precocious child. But asking myself whether they would have reacted any differently if there had been a consciously worked out agreement to damage the chances of precocious children by adopting certain policies and attitudes, I could not think of any difference that I would have expected.
They reminded me of one thing: there is a principle that you never blame schools or local authorities for any harm they have done, or expect them to make any effort to repair the damage to a victim’s life. It is certainly a case of power without responsibility. The educational experts were eager to blame me for my ruined education, or my parents, but showed not the slightest inclination to sound critical of a school or local authority, whatever I told them.
Of recent years some people have got the idea of suing their schools for loss of earnings caused by inadequate reading skills or exam results. Actually it would be very useful to me if I could sue the educational system for a suitable sum (someone at Mensa suggested £500,000 for loss of my own and my father’s earnings, plus something for emotional distress, but I think £1,000,000 would be more nearly adequate, and a more useful sum for setting up a Research Fellowship at a college which, it could be specified, I would hold for life in the first instance, thus overcoming the retirement rule.)
It should be recognised that a second class degree is no degree at all if what you need is to make a career in the academic world, and a person with an IQ of over 180 may actually need what is tendentiously called an 'accelerated' education. Some responsibility should be felt for providing such a person with an education sufficiently suited to his ability to leave him qualified at the end to enter the sort of career to which he is suited.
As my state school headmistress said to me, 'not everyone can take exams young, so it is an unfair advantage if someone is allowed to.' As I did not say to my headmistress, but thought afterwards, 'if you can take exams young, and are not allowed to, that may be a unfair disadvantage.'
03 May 2007
But really all personnel, however junior, should be able to live in a hotel/residential-college/stately-home environment so as to apply its energies as efficiently as possible to the work of the organisation.
I should like to correct what I said before. If we started with one research department, say theoretical physics or neurophysiology, and then added another, we would need to add to or enlarge the residential facilities, fully to cover the needs of all personal.
02 May 2007
They say you can’t put a price on true friendship. But that hasn’t stopped economists having a go. And after all their additions and subtractions, they have calculated exactly how valuable friends and family can be. Seeing them every day is worth the equivalent of an £85,000 pay rise, they say. Even chatting to neighbours frequently makes us as happy as if we had been handed a £37,000 increase. And getting married is the same as an extra £50,000 in the pay packet (and that’s after the cost of the wedding). ... The study took information from 8,000 households across Britain. Those surveyed were asked to rate the level of happiness certain changes in their life would bring, ranging from pay increases to face to face time with friends and loved ones.
‘An increase in the level of social involvements is often worth many tens of thousands of pounds a year extra in terms of life satisfaction,’ said Dr Nattavudh Powdthavee, from the University of London’s Institute of Education, which carried out the research. ‘Actual changes in income, on the other hand, buy very little happiness. One potential explanation is that social activities tend to require our attention while they are being experienced, so that the joy derived from them lasts longer in our memory. ‘Income, on the other hand, is mostly in the background. We don’t normally have to pay so much attention to the fact that we’ll be getting a pay packet at the end of the week or month, so the joy derived from income doesn’t last as long.’ On average, a person earning £10,000 a year who has face to face time with friends and loved ones every day was as happy as one earning £95,000 a year who hardly ever saw their friends and relatives. (‘Why true friendship is as good as an £85,000 rise’, Daily Mail, 1 May 2007.)
This ‘research’ is said to have been carried out by an Institute of the University of London, so it may be presumed that it, and all concerned in it, were supported by money (freedom) confiscated from taxpayers (individuals).
How meaningful is this ‘research’? The measure of ‘happiness’ used is how individuals would rate their ‘happiness’ when asked about it, knowing what the prevailing social views on ‘happiness’ are and what they ought to say. And, even then, it is only statistical. Who but a collective body, or someone with a vested interest in promoting collectivist ideology, would have had enough interest in obtaining this dubious information to pay for it to be done?
These days statistical ‘research’ is taken to justify universal prescriptions, leaving out any possibility of individual differences (or at least, any possibility of respect for individual differences.) ‘Friends’ are supposed to be people who make you feel reconciled to your frustrated position in life, not those who help you in your efforts to improve it.
01 May 2007
Middle-class mothers ... are likely to raise their children in self-created ghettos of rarefied so-called excellence. (Sunday Times, 29 April 2007, p. 15.)
Maybe she is aware of my usage of the word ‘ghetto’ in calling us ‘the high IQ ghetto’. However I do not mean by that an enclave within which we can use our abilities in highly specialised or very suitable ways. The usage is as in ‘Jewish ghetto’, a place where very able people can struggle for the merest physical survival, surrounded by a hostile society which aims to cut off supplies and support.
We also attempt to work laboriously and tediously towards creating , in the first instance, a more tolerable and adequate environment within which at least a very small use of our abilities may be made.
Knight seems to be among those who are encouraging society to become ever more hostile to the able by instilling guilt in those middle-class mothers (probably themselves with above average IQs) who provide their children with opportunities which are more likely to be needed or enjoyed by those with above-average IQs.
She supports the fallacy that there is an either/or involved. ‘Stimulation’ versus ‘social skills’, as if above average achievement necessarily implied detracting from time spent on social interaction, and with no reference to the possibility of individual differences in IQ or other aptitudes.
When I was five I had already read as much as a fairly bright child might have been expected to get through in the course of its primary education. By ‘fairly bright’ I mean ‘potential university graduate later on’, and at that time that would imply a higher IQ than it does now.
People often suggest that I must have gone short of playing with other children, but in fact I did not. My mother, who was a very experienced teacher, saw to it that I had playmates who were a match for my mental, rather than chronological, age and I have photographs of myself playing with children at the seaside who may have been twice my age and were certainly twice my size.
There was no sense in which I cut down on interactive activities in order to devote myself to my reading matter, but I am sure that I made full use of unoccupied intervals of time. When I was four, I was told, I once travelled from London to Wiltshire on a crowded evacuee train, sitting on a suitcase in the guard’s van with my head in a book the whole way. (My parents were, of course, guilty of having provided me with a ‘stimulating’ book.)