Thursday, 3 January 2008

Shadows of a gloomy future for the elite caste

The Minister of State for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education, Bill Rammell, 27th November 2007 has given a speech on Academic Freedom and extremism in British Higher Education.

Since then he is looking for allies; for people who want to reinterpret freedoms "in the context of the new challenges and threats that face our society". In reality, with just this sentence he narrows down the scope for debate, framing it as a mere reinterpretation of the word freedom in the context of external threats and imagined dangers from an hypothetical external environment. And he has no fear to talk about it. In fact it sounds more like a declaration of war, instead of a relaxed speech about freedom and civil liberties.

Reflecting the uphill battle that the protection of civil liberties represents for neoliberal, New Labour Britain, Rammell is out to enlarge the corps of troops he hopes to lead into his war. It is here that the rhetoric of his speech comes into act. He calls for a reinterpretation of freedom by announcing the warnings and ideas of eminent individuals: most notably, the PM’s worries about the state of liberty in UK and the MI5 warning of a real and sustained threat from terrorism and bold statement that "Britain as a nation tends instinctively towards liberty, and historically has led the world in espousing its virtues".

But Rammell forgets that Britain has not yet been able to democratically elect a head of state; that Britain still refers to ex-colonies with contempt (economic and political); that Britain has waged war on countries for unjust causes ( Iraq); that Britain has traded in slaves; that Britain has the highest amount of people spying on each other like sexual perverts who have nothing better to do with their lives; that Britain has a series of secret agents paying neighbours to spy on each other (source: Guardian) whilst politicians are never intercepted in their corrupt dealings and collusions; that Britain has hit the bottom of league tables in Europe for privacy and academic freedom and that Britain will possibly overtake china with respect to abuse of human rights. Britain has espoused the neo-conservative Anglo-American ideals of masculinity and imperialism in universities. Not then to mention problems of bullying in schools, universities and the workplace more widely (to emphasise how widespread the plague has become, one needs only to notice that Britain now has to devote national days to ‘anti-bullying’). I would like to ask how many people silently suffer mental illness and are silently killed for this. Does it really matter that waging war on a country (Iraq) has become a shame worst than Rwanda?

These are the real problems that kill people. These are the places where postmodern urban terrorists hide behind the press, the headlines and the online forums to spy on and plot against the next victims.

Possibly our Minister Rammell is avoiding tackling the root of such problems, knowing that New Labour has been at the epicentre of their growth, following a narcissistic man thirsty for power and money. Likely our Minister knows that New Labour is still at the centre and must solve the problems. The impotency for doing so has already been demonstrated amply.

The words of rhetoric embody the thinking of neo-conservativism in Britain: that everything can be said and denied at the same time on the guarantee that the people will follow the politician to maintain a sense of safety, because otherwise they will be lost.

Rammell lays-out his true agenda without appeal to half terms. He intends to root-out extremism from the communities, in order to resist extremist influences and eradicate terrorism. Apparently this should be seen in light of a new freedom in universities, designed to refute violent extremist views on campus. His words are sharp and leave no space for interpretation or misunderstanding. The link is straightforward and the "proof" is provided by MI5.

But up to now I am not aware of any extremism published or any incitement to violence exercised through the academy, academic journals, classrooms and, importantly, conferences and speeches. I am not aware of students arrested whilst inciting violence or terrorism with extremist academic views.

I am instead aware of a plague spreading in British Universities; of research misconduct; of misrepresentation of research results; of setting international conferences and symposiums to access European or EPRSC funding; of professor suicides for research misconduct and apparent suicides for work-pressures by esteemed British university professors; and of illegal blacklisting of academics, to mention just a few of the symptoms of a sick system.

This is a fall-out for academic freedom, but surely not a comfortable subject of discussion by Rammell. The British University has learnt that she has to silence the free voices of uncomfortable academics in order for unions like UCU (ex Nathfe and AUT) to survive.

Ah well, Sally Hunt has already trained the dogs to salivate for the next statement on the educational press.

The elite caste has noticed that all this must also be made with the agreement of various politicians of the countries from which such academics come. It is a dirty battle for the survival of the Anglo-American corporate dominative-imperialistic thinking in Universities and from there to the rest of the population. Some have already noticed all this and find it impossible to believe that there is no agenda behind it: the Anglo-American deleterious capitalist evil of neo‑conservativism is trying to penetrate foreign markets and territories with a thinking that stifles local cultures and traditions.

Rammell plays with captivating words of rhetoric and sophism. The minister depicts the British university as a place where administrators, students and academics must keep an eye on each other, to mistrust and always put ideas under suspicion. At the same time, the vagueness of a term like extremism is not defined because Rammell cannot. Indeed, it is not possible to define such a term without coming down to observe the current world order, without speaking of masonry, of the secret services and of international politics. In reality, extremism is a term which can only be defined in a vocabulary that is in continuous redefinition. We must however observe that the dictionary is not universal and has not and will not be written by transnational agreements.

The British neo-liberal, even neo-conservative politics of New Labour, cannot be trusted for the simple reason that each action of this government has been part of a design for domination of values which alienate populations and cultures. They rely on values which trade freedom to the auto-determination of nations and tribes, promising vacuously, misleadingly, to bring stability and prosperity.

The same rhetoric is present in the speeches of union leaders and in the planning of union meetings, which makes me think that there is more than a simple coincidence to all this. The latest resolution to be adopted by UCU with regard to academic freedom comes, predictably, soon after Rammells’s speech. What can we expect from it? Surely, shamefully, we can expect that UCU will continue to recruit and indoctrinate to the effectiveness of the “third way” of agreements and peace and then purge the individuals who really care and work in a manner disinterested from government ambitions and grand master plans for world domination.

Many foreigners I have met in this country appear to have been transformed into 007s for the British establishment; post-modern subjects indoctrinated to deny their origins and accept the British superiority and the life-style with all the values that come with it. And it is for this reason that many institutions in the UK can not and will not ever be seen as institutions where cultures can be exchanged. Instead they will always be seen as institutions greedy for economic interests.

The likelihood that the UK will see a progressive decline of foreign students from Europe is tangible. A further progressive decline of support from the middle-east towards the British neo‑conservative elite caste is also probable, as the realisation of how the promised help to both factions could only be detrimental to the progressive developments of local populations, making the prospect of a common future ever more uncertain, as come.

It is interesting to note how UCU and increasing numbers of union activists are keen and ready to put their nose into foreign matters and foreign politics, when time and money should be spent on the interests of workers in Britain. The recent Israel boycott scandal is a disturbing example of the intensive interests that UCU has with regard to foreign politics. This perhaps gives some indication as to why there has always been a very strong resistance to opening up a dialogue for the reform of the unions in the UK, considering the ineptitude that such elite caste has created at the base.

We should at this point see the words of Rammell and the instructions by Sally Hunt as a sort of undivided region for the sharing of international affairs. And all this would not be nonsense considering that British universities suffer for the instability of some regions in the world, having taken foreign students as real and proper targets for the accumulation of foreign capital.

The neo-liberal British university system can only profit from frictionless and stable politics in foreign countries. As such, it should be within the intentions of such foreign governments to bring stability for coalitions which can disturb the normal flow of students towards the UK or can undermine the consolidation of ideas and doctrines exported through transnational agreements between universities in the UK and commercial partners representing them in foreign countries.

In this context, UCU seems to be perversely interested in highlighting the efficiencies of the British system, becoming an ambassador of an open mentality abroad: a role in which they are consistently supported by the workings of the Times Higher Educational Supplement, disguised as a newspaper, but in reality more like the official marketing brochure for the effectiveness of government actions in HE.

All this make me think that, although no grand plan is either written or accessible to the base, everybody knows what they must do in order to achieve it. In other words: ‘keep an eye on all the individuals from which the neo-conservative British system cannot profit’.

The so called extremism as such becomes a priority for the government. In concomitance to UCU and various academics who have professed that Britain was ready to embrace the role of peacekeeper in the middle-east, they have conceived the most opprobrious subject of post‑modern history: war-mongers can reinvent themselves as peace-keepers. It is not that Britain could not take a peacekeeping role in the world, but rather that it could be possible only after seeing Tony Blair on the bench of the Hague Tribunal. Tony has instead been left free to reinterpret his latest career move as a sort of crusade, by asking for absolution to the Pope before Christmas 2007.

The situation is evidently complex, and complexity is a feature of post-modernism. We should perhaps be wary of people who, for apparent no reason, like to introduce complexity; as a sort of discovery where ambiguity or complexity can really erase and redefine history, from which nothing can be learned.

Even UCU, who might be expected to seek a deconstruction, a delayering of such complexity, has instead embraced the idea that it is needed within this new system of contradictions and that new vocabularies, new ambassadors, new students and a new world order must be sought.

The news circular UCU/60, issued soon after Rammel’s speech, reports in the opening paragraphs these very objectives of Sally Hunt:

“At UCU Congress, and the Higher Education Sector Conference, two motions were passed on the issue of academic freedom and freedom of expression in the UK. The first one, from Leeds University, outlines the rights and responsibilities of academic and related staff in further and higher education, particularly in the context of the Frank Ellis case:

“UCU Congress resolves that all academic and academic related staff be free to criticise and publish without fear for their jobs; nevertheless with this freedom comes the responsibility to respect the democratic rights and freedoms of others.”

The second one from Queen’s University Belfast focuses on the freedom to conduct one’s own research, particularly as a result of pressures resulting from the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) in higher education. This motion calls for “the executive to embark on a campaign to defend academic freedom by all appropriate means.”

These two motions highlight the complex, multi-layered nature of academic freedom and freedom of expression.1 The purpose of the following UCU discussion paper is to encourage a debate amongst members about these important issues.”

In my opinion, this kind of further debate can only take UCU further away. In fact it is the direction that the elite caste has determined for its members. Instead of embarking on a work of deconstruction in order to unveil the hidden workings of power up to now, the leadership has decided to add layers and layers of meanings. Such meanings full of ambiguity can only assist layers and layers of bureaucrats in making sure that such a right (Academic Freedom) justifies their actions, guaranteeing enforceable connotations to the transactions happening under the eyes of union reps in the universities.

It is unlikely that a new meaning for “Academic Freedom” in the vocabulary of freedoms can be understood by any but its writers. Aside from the rhetoric, UCU knows very well that impartiality must survive contradiction and complexity as features of the places in which such terms will be used.

“Academic Freedom” is a pleonasm which the UCU leadership knows very well. We would not need to discuss about freedoms for the work of academics if we would seek truth or knowledge for knowledge’s sake.

The ‘academic’ in Academic Freedom has, however, ceased to be representative of academic environments, while freedoms have simultaneously ceased to be guaranteed by the judicial system. The reinterpretation of the power relationships between the elite caste and the newcomers has taken over.

The call, through Rammell’s speech, is evidently for a new order of freedoms and seats in the unions, by the way of a simple but determinant subject: what should the research and teaching of the British neo-liberal system be, in order to gather further consent in foreign regions and territories? This is intentionally coupled to the open request to the various forces to search for allies who are ready to embrace the new anti-terrorist values backed by the government and the unions. This appears to be a real and proper utopia, although very useful and comfortable now for governmental initiatives.

The underlying objective is to launch an attack all over the world for the commodification of British education and exportation of such values through areas of political opposition. It is a vulgar double-meaning of “education” in the name of Anglo-American conservativism.

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