11 November 2013

More about the sea change

Further to my post about the Hibbert Journal, one sign of the sea change that came over everybody’s outlook is provided by the fact that all the people who could be said to have supported me were at least about forty years older than I was. And all the expressions of recognition of my ability had an open-ended quality, implying that I was qualitatively different from other people in a way that suggested that I might do something a bit unprecedented, and that this made it appropriate to give me opportunity; whereas those who opposed me were generally characterised by sounding as if they had everything taped.

Nearly all of my supporters were men, and more or less upper-class. Unfortunately, not all of my acquaintances more than forty years older than me were supporters. For example, my worst anti-supporter was a woman, also upper-class and more than forty years older than me. She was not supposedly expert in any area and had no academic qualifications, but could infallibly influence those who had these things. None of the support which Rosalind Heywood got for various people other than me could be said to be motivated by interest in the area of work that was to be done. It was a case of her fishing around to find something that could be done by a statusful person, hence blocking any support for research that might otherwise have reached me. So you could say that the ‘interest’ that was being supported was an interest in blocking me from doing research.

Perhaps the support which I have sometimes got could be said to be motivated by the opposite; an interest in letting me do something which other people would not have thought of doing, and because I was exceptional. Cecil King more or less expressed this by saying to Sir George Joy that he ‘backed people, not projects’.

Seeing that interest in the work which is to be done is apparently irrelevant, and that preventing my doing anything is an effective motive, what motive would there, on the other hand, have to be for supporting my doing of anything? Apparently this would depend entirely on somebody being perceptive enough to see that I could do ground-breaking research which nobody else would think of doing. Such a person would have to be generous enough to wish to support my research, and to wish me to live in decent conditions while I was doing it.

In fact, some such motive was often implied by my supporters when I had any. I have already mentioned Cecil King. Another such person was the Reverend Mother of the convent school who said when I was thirteen that I was ‘more than merely talented: I was certain to contribute to the intellectual life of my time’. She tried to give me a chance by arranging to let me take the School Certificate exam when I was thirteen.

‘Celia Green is a person of exceptional gifts. She should be given the funding to work on the many topics she has been prevented for decades from developing. I make this appeal to all universities, corporations and individuals who consider themselves to be in a position to give support to exceptional individuals.’
Charles McCreery, DPhil