17 August 2010

My ineligibility for social security

It is important to emphasise that it was my ineligibility for so-called social security that placed me so much at the mercy of everyone’s hostility. I couldn’t pretend I was seeking a job because I wasn’t regarded as qualified for any of the many academic careers the requirements of which in reality I could have fulfilled. This certainly seemed to me very terrible. Going to the Society for Psychical Research made me aware that there were neglected areas of potential research, and I hoped to make use of them to work my way back into a university career. As a first step, I would set up a research institute to provide myself with the necessary conditions of a tolerable academic life.

The fact that I could never draw ‘social security’ (although it would have been pretty horrible to do so, even if I could have done) always made me vulnerable to the worst social pressure.

When I had resigned from the SPR, I did not have even a minimum of income to provide the barest physical survival, so I was forced to seek funding from the research committee of the SPR, and Rosalind Heywood used this situation to make me do the most pointless and tedious sort of ‘research’. If I had been able to draw ‘social security’ as an unemployed person, it is easy to imagine I might have preferred even going along to sign on once a week to undertaking the sort of ‘research’ that the SPR was prepared to pay me a pittance for doing.

The story that I had deliberately turned my back on a university career in order to do research which I found ‘interesting’ in poverty and social degradation became dominant and persists to the present day. I suppose that it was initiated by Rosalind and/or Somerville. It has a woman’s touch about it.

I remember a conversation I had with Salter before the plan for the research institute in a house provided by the Coombe-Tennants began to break down.

‘Would you have really wanted to have an academic career?’ he said.

‘Well, of course!’, I thought, but I said, ‘It was the research I really wanted to do anyway, so if this place gets set up it will be as good as I could have got out of a university career.’

‘But you wouldn’t really have wanted to teach, would you? A university career would mean you had to do teaching.’

‘I don’t mind about teaching, actually,’ I said, ‘although I would want to be doing research as predominantly as possible as soon as possible. But I have taught various people in Somerville unofficially in various subjects, and if that is what you have to do to get the academic lifestyle, its OK.’

‘But you were teaching people you chose to teach yourself, and if you had an appointment you would have to teach everybody,’ Salter insisted, as if he was proving that I really could not have wanted a normal academic career.

I wondered why he was making so analytical a distinction, which did not seem characteristic of the way his mind usually worked.

Of course, I had hoped to be able to start higher up the career ladder, and I should have been able to do so.

In retrospect, I could see that Salter, probably already under Rosalind’s influence, was working towards the idea that, since some of the things in an academic career did not appeal to me, I deliberately preferred ‘doing research’ in poverty and social degradation, which I suppose is the standard ‘drop-out’ position. And, of course, if I was doing exactly what I had freely chosen to do, everyone was let off the hook about thinking that I might need any help or support of any kind.