Wednesday, 2 July 2014
I know nothing. Absolutely nothing, it seems. At the end of a long and ceaseless day at work I passed a pleasantry with a colleague whereupon he launched into a tirade against the agents of HIS long and ceaseless day. Now maybe it’s because I was tired but for a few moments I felt I had slipped into a parallel universe; one in which everything I thought I knew about my subject of modest expertise turned out to be upside down. There are only two explanations: A) I actually HAD worm-holed my way into another dimension, or B) He was wrong.
Being openly wrong is so much easier than being right though. Say you’re mistaken and the argument goes away. Admit fallibility and people pat you on the head and say “there, there” and smile. Wear ignorance on your sleeve and you can almost become a stuttering, stumbling ‘I, CLAVDIVS’ figure, invisible and threatless, free to wander about apparently aimlessly without anybody questioning your moves. I have encountered people whose entire working life has consisted of playing dumb and keeping schtum. (And most married men seem meekly content to let their other halves always be right… at least in public.)
But it’s generally not my style. After years of acting with deference towards my superiors, working hard to catch up with the game I now know too much. And this is a challenge. I’ve never claimed to be a cerebral super being but I have read widely, studied deep and broad and in some small areas I know exactly what I’m talking about. But once you are at the top of your small tree there is always a pretender trying to knock you off; always somebody armed with hearsay learning ready to dismiss your profound utterings.
So today, instead of trying to correct the errant colleague I listened, outer ear cocked, inner ear filtering out the crap, and politely smiled. Stopping short of patting him on the shoulder I tssked and tutted and said, “well I never” and thus survived the encounter calm and intact without ever having to proffer a correction. Why bother? It wasn’t my students he was infecting with his inaccurate and unnecessary hobby horses. This was ingrained, intransigent stuff, the sort of deep-seated ignorance that is the background to scientific, social and political discourse the world over.
Rolf Harris, Jimmy Savile, Stuart Hall… who knew? The economy, climatology, employment, education, immigration, integration, multiculturalisationism. Same thing; seriously, nobody actually knows or admits to knowing anything any more. So much bullshit, so little brain. But even we plebs who know we know nothing can see that continued political involvement in the EU will only ever lead to loss of national identity; why would even more Europe somehow reverse the inexorable uni-direction of the last forty years?
All of which means our supposed leaders are either genuinely ignorant or wilfully blasé about the whole thing. The trouble is they all seem so passionate about it, which means that either they are just flat-out lying or else they actually believe the partisan rhetoric of their Euromasters. Either way the danger is they just don’t care what we think one little bit. I don’t want clever politicians. I don’t want Miliband’s intellectual confidence. I don’t want false, pompous posturing over dodgy, done deals like Martin Schulz’s re-appointment either. I want our politicians to be honest that they, too, know fuck-all about fuck-all. Then and only then, we may be in with a chance.