Getting stupider has been a recurring theme this year. We had the sombrero ban at a fresher’s week, we’ve had students saying that if you’re occidental and eat sushi it’s ‘cultural appropriation.’ What are they going on about? Sushi is rice! It’s like saying if you’re not Italian you can’t eat pizza. Serve sushi rice with raw fish and people eat it, I think this might just lead to more understanding of the Japanese culture. Appropriation my arse.
Now two pieces of stupidity more immense than even CallMeDave and his rich toff cronies managed this year, and that’s a high bar to get over. First we need to understand how people are stupid, and fortunately a group of Hungarian scientists has bothered to look at this.
Firstly there’s confident ignorance. This is when somebody believes they can understand or do something they palpably cannot. This is the basis for many a spirited argument in the pub.
Then we have lack of control, also a cause of a good many ruckuses in a pub.
Finally, lack of practicality, not understanding how something works. This can be a source of paradoxical pride in some people. How many people do you know who boastfully claim not to be able to change a tyre or assemble IKEA flatpacks?
Now we can tackle the nitty-gritty of stupid behaviour. There’s been a furore about the ‘Get rid of Rhodes’ movement in Oxford, where some 2300 signatories have sent a petition demanding the removal of a statue of Cecil Rhodes. Now, we all know he was a racist white supremacist, who made his money using slave labour in his diamond and gold mines, and pretty much established the foundations for apartheid. He was a nasty piece of work, no argument.
The problem here is you can’t rewrite history, and the statue is no worse or better than a portrait hanging in a gallery. There’s been a serious proposal that the statue could remain if a notice is posted saying that the college doesn’t condone his activities, but as I have pointed out you cannot apologise retrospectively for something you took no part in. And it’s bloody obvious nobody in their right minds condones what he did. Simply trying to wipe out what he did by rewriting the history books won’t make a shred of difference. There’s also a school of thought that says, ‘Expunge this man from history and we’ll make the same mistakes again.’
I might also add that if the statue does get taken down, they’ll need to take down about half of Oriel’s college buildings since they were paid for with his ill-gotten gains. Oh, and ask the 8,000 or so Rhodes scholars to pay back the scholarships he funded. You can’t have your cake and eat it, can you?
Let’s now cross the Atlantic. At Oberlin College in Ohio, black students are demanding racially segregated areas to allow them to have ‘safe spaces.’ I think the students should get to grips with the idea that many many years of the civil rights movement resulted in them being able to go to college at all. They can get on a bus these days too, and use the same toilets.
I like to think the shade of Rosa Parks will return to lay about her with a stout brolly, yelling, ‘Don’t be so dumb all your life! I stuck my neck on the block for you, you morons!’
You may have noticed I have a fairly vivid imagination. Even my imagination cannot visualise the sheer opprobrium that would have resulted had white students demanded segregation so they could have ‘safe spaces.’ It would not have been pretty though. I do know that.
I’ve touched on this ridiculous infantilisation of university life before.
As a student, you’re supposed to be challenged, have to listen to things that may offend you. Just because those things may differ from your view, there’s no excuse for sticking your fingers in your ears and singing ‘Tralalalalala, not listening.’
Want to start some useful action? Get on Donald Trump’s odious case. Lobby about the pointless bombing of Syria. Give the government a bloody hard time about the flooding in north Wales and various bits of northern England when CallMeDave and his mates have cut £282M off the flood defence budget since the election in May. Do something worthwhile.