The problem with Oxford University is that it is “male, pale and stale”. That, at least, is the opinion of the National Union of Students’ president elect, Malia Bouattia. This champion of the ‘Rhodes Must Fall’ campaign is a voice that is much in tune with the spirit of the age around university campuses.
Unsurprisingly, supine university and college authorities are nervous and finding it difficult to cope. They just about held the line over the statue of Rhodes when faced with considerable financial sanctions from benefactors. It was clear to the university administrators, however, that reparation would have to be made for the offence caused to the brigades of politically correct zealots stalking the city of dreaming spires.
The terms of surrender are based on an acceptance of the activists’ mantra that the future is ours, that that the future belongs to us. It is the same mantra that is sweeping though the campaign that wishes to re-enslave us as members of the European Union.
What right does an older generation have to interfere with our demands? There is an emotional, even poetic, allurement in all of this, of course. Its sinister and beguiling attraction was beautifully expressed in the “Cabaret” song, “Tomorrow belongs to me” –
“The babe in his cradle is closing his eyes
The blossom embraces the bee
But soon says the whisper, arise, arise
Tomorrow belongs to me
Tomorrow belongs to me”
It is worth listening to.
Much the same cry, if to a somewhat less melodic tune, was heard during China’s Cultural Revolution. Mao’s Red Book addressed the young and was unequivocal as to their ownership of the future:
“The world is yours, as well as ours, but in the last analysis, it is yours. You young people, full of vigor and vitality, are in the bloom of life, like the sun at eight or nine in the morning. Our hope is placed on you … The world belongs to you.”
Placing ownership of the future in the hands of the younger generation has a seductive but very flawed logic. Being readily open to manipulation it is, also, extremely dangerous.
Such ownership should always be shared and cross generational. The older generation’s duty to the young should never be benign acquiescence. Indeed, many young people, but not all, understand and expect direction and leadership from those who have seen and experienced rather more of the world.
Sadly, our schools have achieved a brilliant success in terms of convincing too many young people that a knowledge-lite education is no impediment to thought or opinion. Indeed, the ability to build ideas and ideologies on limited knowledge is a crowning achievement of educational reform over the past 30 years.
Universities have lots of very bright and brilliant students but they have not always been immune to the politically correct dogma that has been pumped into them, for years. The iconoclastic fury directed at the statue of Cecil Rhodes was based, at best, on highly selective evidence. Unlike Mary Seacole, who shared some of his racist and imperialistic views but is, nevertheless, a politically correct icon, he fitted the despised ‘male, pale and stale’ category. Now, Oxford University has moved on to replacing portraits of famous male alumni with pictures of those who are considered to be acceptable – female, gay or from an ethnic minority. This is unlikely, however, to include any honouring of the first female prime minister who, in her lifetime, was turned down for an honorary degree
The criterion for selection is the need to redefine the world in the image and likeness of those young fascist liberals, who are so dominating college politics. The history of the university must be changed and will be changed because the future belongs to them.
(Image: Anders Sandberg)