A history of violence. There’s progressively less, as the “better angels of our nature” increasingly bias humanity away from our natural inclination to kill one another. Just watch a toddler. And, to be brutally honest, by using the word nature twice in that sentence, I doubled the theological content in a supposed theological lecture. I don’t even disagree with the conclusion, rather the trite Americanised method of its presentation: Graph after graph after graph, all pro-porting to display the same conclusion, mesmerising its audience into a correlation, like a preacher conveying an incontestable truth.
Unsurprisingly, the Vice Chancellor bounced in gushing admiration of such a wholesome validation of his raison d’etre: The absence of hierarchy, anarchy – the most fundamental threat to the mere notion of university – had been proven to be a lynch-pin of violence. The analytical method and absolute clarity of language – the epitome of organisation of knowledge over freedom of thought – had left none in doubt. And to top it all off, delivered by a celebrity, someone able to appeal to modern society in a way most academics cannot. I swear I heard him say, “Listen kids,” – that’s PhD students – “this is how to do it, if this institution is going to survive.”
I don’t begrudge him this – quite the opposite – he’s doing his job exceptionally well. And a wry smile creeps over my face when I consider the progression of disciplines that have been appointed to his role – from clergy through scientists to modern psychologists – everything changes and everything stays the same. But he might be right.
I have thus already acquired the endless and untroubled income stream of an Australian mining magnate, and have procured a yacht. Not just any yacht. Size isn’t everything, since if it can’t dock at Monte Carlo, it doesn’t count. So I’ve opted for 99 metres of pure bling: A solid gold yacht. The Midas poses a challenge to naval engineering that I have overcome by employing top-class scientists, who have placed a large turtle under the yacht’s keel, thus keeping all the bling visible. Which is, after all, the most important thing. Upon the yacht there are no other people, merely anonymised objects, lest the fantasy complicate itself with actions beyond my control. And I should perhaps leave the rest to my imagination.
Yet this is wonderful. So simple. Such a relief. There I was, searching for a utopia, and it transpires that I was living around it all along! Of course I can’t open my eyes, and the bird song can be distracting, and those random pains in my stomach – I wonder if I can get a pill to fix that – but those are all practical objections: The principle is flawless. I have none of the pseudo-empathy that seems commonplace – either I am at one, or I am one, no half measures. As such I should be able to easily abstract myself into my world, a world in which everyone else is a mere object – a tool to first construct, then confer status upon, my golden yacht.
There’s just one problem. This requires belief in knowledge, since if one has the audacity to think, one undermines – well – one. I understand entirely why the finest minds are instructed to juggle numbered balls. And as much as I want to pity their blinkered-ness, their pragmatism at least confers their survival, which, entirely logically – being themselves, they rate highly. But they are still living much the same fantasy as I am on the Midas: Just as I must keep my eyes shut, they must close off some of their senses to live in their pragmatic world. The only difference is that they don’t know they’re doing it.
Fantasy. Right. Now, bring me that horizon!