Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Letter from Oxford -- Paul Craig Roberts



Letter from Oxford
Paul Craig Roberts

The letter below came to me from Oxford University where I was a post-graduate.

I do not think it conceivable that the letter was actually written by Oriel College, or any authority at Oxford. This letter was written in exasperation by someone who feels that the civilized world has collapsed around him. This is a letter that the author of the letter wishes had been written.

By presenting the letter, I am not endorsing a make-believe letter or its point of view. My point is different. The world’s most famous university lacks the confidence to defend itself from from unreasonable demands made by students from its former colonies who desire to remove the association of Oriel College with its benefactor, Cecil Rhodes.

Yet, despite insuficient confidence to stand up to foreign students, England has mustered the confidence to align with Washington against the Muslim World and Russia. How do we explain this?

If the British still had enough confidence for an Oxford College to have penned such a letter, the British would not have forsaken their sovereignty and joined the European Union. What saved Cecil Rhodes stature at Oriel College was not Oxford but alumni who said they would cancel bequests of 100 million British pounds if the university succumbed to erasing its history in order to appease foreigners who claim to be offended by it. If they are offended, say the alumni, let them go elsewhere.

The future independence of universities is in doubt, especially those dependent on alumni support. Old grads are turned off by the erasure of what they remember. Recent grads are not experiencing the same success. A university degree no longer brings the same economic success that it did in the 20th century. A financialized and offshored capitalism has heavily redistributed income and wealth to the One Percent. One consequence is that the alumni donor base will shrink.

Moreover, the older generation of graduates, who made their money in the past, is constantly reminded by fund-raising materials that the college or university that they attended has been replaced by something else. What they experienced is gone. Oxford colleges were segregated by gender and attended mainly by British. Today they are gender-integrated and multi-cultural. Judging from photos in fund-raising materials, at Oxford the British appear to be a minority.

Instead of warm and fuzzy feelings, old grads feel dispossessed. The psychological effect on those who experienced a different Oxford environment is similar to returning to the site of your grandparents farm and finding a subdivision, a bedroom community for a once distant city. The creek you explored is now inside a pipe buried under back yards, and the trees you climbed are cut down. You feel a loss. This is what many alumni feel when they experience the transformation of their educational institution. They experience a loss of association, which is not a racist or sexist response.

As survivors of an era in which economic success was more broadly based pass away, colleges and universities will turn increasingly to corporations and the One Percent for funds. These donors will extract a price. Colleges and universities will be suborned, as the media and politicians are today, to serve the powerful interests on which they are dependent.

We might think that this is what the Oxford alumni are doing when they threatened to withhold bequests, but it is not. The alumni are not saying what is to be taught and not taught or how things are to be explained. The alumni are saying that it is impermissible to destroy history by throwing it into Orwell’s memory hole. Oxford alumni have had to accept so much change and now the physical image itself, the historial landmarks, are to be thrown away. The result is that nothing any longer corresponds to their memories. Their association with their college and the university becomes severed.

There is no doubt that the British and US governments have ground under their feet many peoples. But history is history. We have to live with it and try to make the future better. We cannot substitute for history our view of what should have happened.

Here is the letter that indicates more British confidence than actually exists:

This letter is a response from Oxford to Black Students, some of whom are
attending as Rhodes Scholars, who are demanding the removal
of the statue of their and Oxford’s benefactor, Cecil Rhode
s.

Subject: OXFORD – THE FIGHT BACK HAS BEGUN
Interestingly, Chris Patten (Lord Patten of Barnes), The Chancellor of Oxford University, was on the Today Programme on BBC Radio 4 yesterday on precisely the same topic. The
Daily Telegraph headline yesterday was “Oxford will not rewrite history”.

Patten commented ““Education is not indoctrination. Our history is not a blank page on which we can write our own version of what it should have been according to our
contemporary views and prejudice.”

Rhodes Must Fall

“Dear Scrotty Students,

“Cecil Rhodes’s generous bequest has contributed greatly to the comfort and well being of many generations of Oxford students – a good many of them, dare we say it, better,
brighter and more deserving than you.

“This does not necessarily mean we approve of everything Rhodes did in his lifetime – but then we don’t have to.

Cecil Rhodes died over a century ago. Autres temps, autres moeurs. If you don’t understand what this means – and it would not remotely surprise us if that were the case – then we really think you should ask yourself the question:

‘Why am I at Oxford?’

“Oxford, let us remind you, is the world’s second oldest extant university. Scholars have been studying here since at least the 11th century. We’ve played a major part in the invention of Western civilisation, from the 12th century intellectual renaissance through the Enlightenment and beyond. 
Our alumni include
William of Ockham, Roger Bacon,William Tyndale, John Donne, Sir Walter Raleigh, Erasmus, Sir Christopher Wren, William Penn, Samuel Johnson, Robert Hooke, William Morris, Oscar Wilde, Emily Davison, and Cardinal Newman. 
We’re a big deal. And most of the people privileged to come and study here are conscious of what a big deal we are. Oxford is their alma mater – their dear mother – and they respect and revere her accordingly.

“And what were your ancestors doing in that period? Living in mud huts, mainly. Sure we’ll concede you the short-lived Southern African civilisation of Great Zimbabwe. But let’s be brutally honest here. The contribution of the Bantu tribes to modern civilisation has been as near as damn it to zilch.

“You’ll probably say that’s ‘racist.’ But it’s what we here at Oxford prefer to call ‘true.’ Perhaps the rules are different at other universities. In fact, we know things are different at other universities. We’ve watched with horror at what has been happening across the pond from the University of Missouri to the University of Virginia and even to revered institutions like Harvard and Yale: the ‘safe spaces;’ the blacklivesmatter; the creeping cultural relativism; the stifling political correctness; what Allan Bloom rightly called ‘the closing of the American mind.’ 

At Oxford however, we will always prefer facts and free, open debate to petty grievance-mongering, identity politics and empty sloganeering. The day we cease to do so is the day we lose the right to call ourselves the world’s greatest university.

“Of course, you are perfectly within your rights to squander your time at Oxford on silly, vexatious, single-issue political campaigns. (Though it does make us wonder how stringent the vetting procedure is these days for Rhodes scholarships and even more so, for Mandela Rhodes scholarships.) We are well used to seeing undergraduates – or, in your case – postgraduates, making idiots of themselves. Just don’t expect us to indulge your idiocy, let alone genuflect before it. You may be black – “BME” as the grisly modern terminology has it – but we are colour blind. We have been educating gifted undergraduates from our former colonies, our Empire, our Commonwealth and beyond for many generations. We do not discriminate over sex, race, colour or creed. We do, however, discriminate according to intellect.

“That means, inter alia, that when our undergrads or post grads come up with fatuous ideas, we don’t pat them on the back, give them a red rosette and say: “Ooh, you’re black and you come from South Africa. What a clever chap you are!”  No. We prefer to see the quality of those ideas tested in the crucible of public debate. That’s another key part of the Oxford intellectual tradition you see: you can argue any damn thing you like but you need to
be able to justify it with facts and logic – otherwise your idea is worthless.

“This ludicrous notion you have that a bronze statue of Cecil Rhodes should be removed from Oriel College, because it’s symbolic of ‘institutional racism’ and ‘white slavery’ — well even if it is – which we dispute – so bloody what? Any undergraduate so feeble-minded that they can’t pass a bronze statue without having their ‘safe space’ violated really does not deserve to be here. And besides, if we were to remove Rhodes’s statue on the premise that his life wasn’t blemish-free, where would we stop? As one of our alumni, Dan Hannan, has pointed out, Oriel’s other benefactors include two kings so awful – Edward II and Charles I – that their subjects had them killed. The college opposite – Christ Church – was built by a murderous, thieving bully who bumped off two of his wives. Thomas Jefferson kept slaves: does that invalidate the US Constitution? Winston Churchill had unenlightened views about Muslims and India: was he then the wrong man to lead Britain in the war?

“Actually, we’ll go further than that. Your Rhodes MustFall campaign is not merely fatuous but ugly, vandalistic and dangerous. We agree with Oxford historian R.W. Johnson that what you are trying to do here is no different fromn what ISIS and the Al-Qaeda have been doing to artefacts in places like Mali and Syria. You are murdering history.

“And who are you, anyway, to be lecturing Oxford University on how it should order its affairs? Your rhodesmustfall campaign, we understand, originates in South Africa and was
initiated by a black activist who said in one of his lecturers ‘whites have to be killed.’ One of you – Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh – is the privileged son of a rich politician and a member of a party whose slogan is ‘Kill the Boer, Kill the Farmer.’ Another of you, Ntokozo Qwabe, who is only in Oxford as a beneficiary of a Rhodes scholarship, has boasted about the need for ‘socially conscious black students’ to ‘dominate white universities, and do so
ruthlessly and decisively.’

“Great. That’s just what Oxford University needs. Some cultural enrichment from the land of Winnie Mandela, burning tyre necklaces, an AIDS epidemic almost entirely the result of government indifference and ignorance, one of the world’s highest per capita murder rates, institutionalised corruption, tribal politics, anti-white racism and a collapsing economy. Please name which of the above items you think will enhance the lives of the 22,000 students studying here at Oxford.

“And then please explain what it is that makes your attention grabbing campaign to remove a listed statue from an Oxford college more urgent, more deserving than the desire of probably at least 20,000 of those 22,000 students to enjoy their time here unencumbered by the irritation of spoilt, ungrateful little tossers on scholarships they clearly don’t merit using racial politics and cheap guilt-tripping to ruin the life and fabric of our beloved university.

“Understand us and understand this clearly: you have everything to learn from us; we have nothing to learn from you.”

Yours,

Oriel College, Oxford





Dr. Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following. Roberts' latest books are The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the WestHow America Was Lost, and The Neoconservative Threat to World Order.

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