05 February 2007

Doing the washing-up

(copy of a letter)

You commented on the fact that "Mary Poppins", as you called our incipient potential associate, did some washing-up before she went away.

This is indeed a loaded issue and I will try to explain our position a bit more, because I hope that you, like any other permanent contact that we acquire, may one day pass on some of the right ideas about us to somebody who might be interested enough to come and work here themselves, even if only part-time or temporarily. Although in fact we could easily make use of several full-time people and suffer badly from our shortage of manpower.

In exile from an academic career, I have had no option but to work towards setting up an institutional environment of my own, and the most essential part of a college or research department is the domestic and caretaking staff for keeping the environment going within which intellectual work may eventually become possible.

So we do express the hope that anyone who comes to visit in order to get to know the situation better will be prepared to lend a hand with whatever work may be going on, and this is likely to be domestic, as it is not possible for people who are new to the situation to contribute constructively to office work or word-processing associated with correspondence or books in preparation.

I spent a long time talking to the two people who came, as one has to do with potential associates, and I talked quite a lot about work we had done in the past and how it was only lack of funding that had prevented us from continuing to develop various things. Also we gave them a meal at the pub and paid for their taxi back, because I do not want potential associates to feel out of pocket after coming to spend time here.

But in fact the washing up was all either of them had done on two visits, the first one quite long, during which I had spent several hours giving them information which they seemed to want to have, mostly about areas of research which I do not like thinking about. I have no interest in empty speculation when the data cannot be increased by actual research. I mean, when I am not being able to do any research — although some fictitious theorising, and fraudulent or rubbishy ‘research’, may be being done by other people with academic status and salaries.

If I did not stipulate that visitors have to be prepared to do a modicum of whatever is necessary, our lives could be totally occupied with entertaining people who are prepared to waste our time. And don’t worry, I never get a good deal out of it, usually I get an even worse one, because most of those who come to visit take care not to stay long enough to do even that much work, or for me to start saying anything I want to say.

In case you think we have a lot of money to spend on garden plants, remember that we are outcast intellectuals, the true underclass of the egalitarian society. We cannot afford holidays, or only the shortest and cheapest, occasionally, so we think it best to make our gardens interesting so we will not suffer too much from staying at home throughout the year. Also this has the effect of enhancing the value of our houses when we come to sell them.

You know I would still be willing to lend you some money and help you make capital gains in a Pillings ISA, if you would ever like that. This is something I am prepared to do for any fairly permanent contact that we can manage to get.

It is very difficult to get people to realise that there could be any advantages in coming to work here because the modern world is anti-capitalist (as well as anti-ability).

In fact, since we are attempting to make academic careers without being able to derive any status or salary from society by giving tutorials and lectures or by doing research, we have to substitute investment for those things as a source of income, and it is a very stressful and time-consuming way of making a living. Also of course we have to pay for many facilities for ourselves which non-exiled academics are provided with. Oxbridge colleges still provide their resident academics with automatic dining hall (which implies washing up) facilities. In addition to which we have to pay for the publication of our own books. When I finished my D.Phil. philosophy thesis, Oxford University Press refused to publish it, which it would have been almost certain to do if I had been a Professor or even held any lesser appointment. My thesis was radically undermining of a large part of what is being produced worldwide by salaried academic philosophers – there are said to be 10,000 of them in America alone.

Therefore, although I got the D.Phil. for the thesis, it was largely ignored, except that its ideas were reproduced by some salaried philosophers, twisting them to produce a quite different conclusion.

Of course, you may say that the reason I do not have a Professorship, or any other statusful and salaried academic appointment, is that it was always clear that I was liable to write theses which would not be found congenial by a majority of modern philosophers.