The Blog

Pretty Vacant

For those of us who work in universities, the year has again rolled round to graduation day. As Alfred J. Prufrock counted his life in coffee spoons, we tend to count ours in graduations, every year the same, the hope for a sunny day, the speeches, the hot gowns and hats that smell of dry cleaning, the proud parents, but most of all the bright young faces and the excited chatter of the young birds flying the final nest.

In this sense, it is a wonderful job for experiencing what Erik Erikson called 'generativity'; helping young people to craft their wings and then launching them on their journey. And despite how much we complain about our students during the process, and they about us, we are always genuinely delighted in their achievements; it is a relationship underpinned by what the Ancient Greeks called agape, embracing humanity and the continuance of its achievements; in this sense, our students become our children.

Except... this year feels a bit different; a large dark cloud has obscured the sun. Despite all our efforts to do our best for our young people, other people of our generation have carelessly played a self-serving, dangerous political game with their lives. Mrs Gove jokes that the 'Leave' campaign 'only meant to blow the bloody doors off'. Well this is what she and her associates have most definitely done- blown the doors off of these young lives, which we have so carefully nurtured.

And what is the plan for what happens to these young people now? In Mrs Gove's mind, it seems that they are not even conscious collateral, what dominates is her ambition for her husband: 'You MUST have SPECIFIC assurances from Boris, OTHERWISE you cannot guarantee your support'. In other words, never mind the people whose lives now hang on this momentous event, make sure that you have what you want, or let others deal with the wreckage of the explosion you created, following in the footsteps of your referendum opponent David Cameron whose first response was to walk away, commenting 'why should I deal with all the hard shit?'

In the meantime what was once the Labour Party is in the process of meltdown, fracturing along its already deep ideological fault line with their sights turned to in-fighting rather than attempting to come together for the sake of the nation and its citizens. Indeed, Mrs Gove's principal concern expressed in her 'leaked' email focuses intently upon potential responses from the couple's past and present bosses, Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre and media overlord Rupert Murdoch. Presumably their subsequent comments have informed Gove's surprise leadership bid.

And so, such people have made hostages to fortune of the bright young people that we have so carefully nurtured, and moreover, see such their own reflections in the mirror of such fortune, not those of our children and their futures. I begin to understand a just a little of how my grandmother must have felt, following the last monumental failure of Europe, seeing her seventeen year old son off on his first voyage on the deadly 'Atlantic Run'. Of course our children will not be in physical danger. But whatever happens now, their future is not the one that we had hoped for, in a slowly internationalising world in which they could build upon a solid, cooperative legacy left to them by parents and grandparents; and it is this disappointment that will be laced through the graduation smiles for me this year.

It would be easy to joke about the moronic, self-serving bungling of the political echelons. The sound track that plays in my mind belongs to my youth, Johnny Rotten screaming 'There's no point in asking, you'll get no reply... you'll always find us out to lunch... we're so pretty... pretty vacant... and we don't care'. The album in question: 'Never Mind the Bollocks'. But the problem is, as Eliot says 'I grow old... I grow old.' I will soon, with the rest of my generation, be aimlessly seeking Ego Integrity within the wreckage of a society dominated by those of our age group who have just blown the doors off for our children. Consequently, in this stage of my life, I am beginning to realise that I do mind the bollocks, and I really do care.