29 December 2013

A cruel pretence

There is a cruel pretence that the outcast professor (me) is not suffering from being deprived of an institutional (i.e. hotel) environment and social recognition as a leading intellectual, that is to say as a person with a salaried and prestigious professorship.

When I was thrown out fifty years ago I accepted that there was a brick wall in front of me and that all I could do was scrape at it, trying to make a tunnel through it. Everyone promoted the fiction that I was being ‘free to follow my interests’. This was the worst possible slander of someone in my terrible position, because it represented me as not needing help in the form of money and people, or needing support for my attempts to get such help.

How do you suppose it feels, after fifty years of totally unrewarding toil in bad circumstances, trying to work towards an institutional (hotel) environment and an Oxbridge professorship, to be told by a philosopher at Somerville College that, if I got back onto a salaried career track which could lead to a professorship, I would be ‘less free’! It feels like the most violent possible rejection of all that constitutes one’s individuality. The worst insult possible, to add to grievous injury. And she (the philosopher), and many others at Somerville, have slandered and even libelled me in this terrible way.

There should be recognition of this as a criminal act with a legal penalty. Suitable redress would be that she should be condemned to come and work in my incipient and downtrodden independent university, doing whatever she can most usefully do, probably helping with the domestic and menial necessities which arise from the lack of staff from which I am always suffering grievously. Also she should forfeit her assets to contribute towards the funding that I need to build up the capital endowment of my university, which is still too painfully squeezed for me to be able to make use of my ability to do anything.

In fact, of course, the negative consequences to her and the other dons at Somerville from slandering and libelling me in this way are nil. Instead, they are able to go on enjoying their advantages, and no doubt talk about helping the ‘underprivileged’ – while doing nothing to alleviate the bad condition of someone for whose downfall they were in part responsible.

This is an edited version of the text of a letter to an academic, first posted in 2007.

’People of any age are invited to come to Cuddesdon, near Oxford, initially as voluntary workers. They are expected to have enough money of their own to pay for accommodation near here, but would be able to use our canteen facilities. While here, they could gain information about topics and points of view suppressed in the modern world, as well as giving badly needed help to our organisation. From this initial association a permanent, full- or part-time career could develop.’ Celia Green, DPhil

‘We hereby apply for financial support on a scale at least adequate for one active and fully financed research department. We make this appeal to all universities, corporations and individuals who consider themselves to be in a position to give support to socially recognised academic establishments.’ Charles McCreery, DPhil