29 September 2011

No better way of saying it

Someone recently wrote the following to me:

I guess the fact that you insist that you should have a different social position than the one you actually have makes people more negative towards you. As you have written many times, insisting on this is taboo since it is supposed that society is fair and puts everyone in their appropriate place. Perhaps you could do better if you communicated the issue differently. Of course, this is a tricky question, since it might involve some degree of dishonesty, which is inherently undesirable.

This was my reply:

How to express the discrepancy between my actual and my natural social position is not merely a tricky question but has always been an unavoidable and insoluble one. It is omnipresent so I may as well write more about it, not that this will lead to any acceptance of the realities of my position.

I am afraid that whether or not I make it explicit, hostility is automatically aroused by the discrepancy between my outcast position and the position I need to be in and should be in.

At least, one supposes that it is the violation of the taboo by my being as I am (whether or not I mention it explicitly) that arouses the hostility, since the hostility takes the form – among other things – of actively imposing misinterpretations upon me according to which I am in a suitable and tolerable position and do not need any help in working my way back towards one which is more appropriate and less intolerable.

It may be supposed that my alienated position in society arose in the first place as a result of the more fundamental hostility to my being precocious and likely to break new ground in any area in which I got the opportunity to do anything.

In fact, I was seen as a threat, but I was not aware of it. I did not at that stage have a view of myself as being more likely than other people to question the unexamined assumptions which usually dominate the way everyone thinks.

However, for whatever reason, my education was mismanaged – or from other people’s point of view, very well managed – so as to drive me inexorably to the disaster of exile. Confronting the horrors of life outside of a high-flying university career, I found that no one would even consider letting me remedy my position by taking degrees in other subjects as rapidly as possible and at my own expense so as to have a qualification that might be usable for entering a suitable career. If I had been permitted to do this I would not have been totally ineligible for income support when deprived of an income. If I had had a First in physics or chemistry, or even in a language, I could have been eligible for support as someone applying for university lectureships.

But having achieved their objective of throwing me out with a second-class degree in maths (a subject which I would never myself have considered, although there were many in which I would have considered taking degrees and making university careers) the powers that be were not going to allow me to escape from disaster at one bound.

And no doubt they were horrified that I did find a way of getting a postgraduate grant from Trinity College, Cambridge, although that did not, in itself, make me eligible for university appointments in any subject.

When my way was again blocked at the end of the Trinity College studentship, I was back in the position of ineligibility for support of the most minimal kind from the Welfare State, since I was not (without support from my college or supervisor) qualified for the kinds of jobs I would have been able to do.

I could only have been eligible for unemployment benefit by being dishonest enough to pretend I was applying for jobs as a schoolteacher, as my college wished me to do. No doubt there are many drawing the dole who have no intention of taking up the jobs for which they apply, but I was sure that, however many people do this without comment, I would be likely to be found out and persecuted, and anyway I set too much store by keeping my mind clear of social dishonesties.

You suggest that communicating the difficulties of my position differently might be better. But actually there could be nothing to communicate if I suppressed my need for a university career, since I have no interest in any field of research except for its potentialities for career advancement.

There is no point in saying that there are great potentialities for the advancement of science in a certain area if one cannot actually do anything in that area on account of poverty and social degradation.

There are a few people around who claim to find some aspect of parapsychology ‘interesting’ without doing anything about it, and maybe come up with vague ‘theories’, such as that ESP has been influential in evolution, but I do not understand people who think like that.