Last term one of the students told me that he had seen a pipe gushing water out of the back of the college building and had run to the office to report the matter to those in charge. When he got there, the woman who offered to help him listened to his story and then said "I can`t do anything about that. I`m an academic." She then walked off and left him to it.
The vast majority of the students who come to my classes are adults who are there out of sheer enthusiasm, and these type of students are almost invariably very ecologically minded, even if sometimes unaware of what issues might be relevant to the current situation. This student was no exception, and after some chasing around managed to see to the matter.
But it raises a matter of much more interest to them, and that is the attitude of those persons who seem in some strange way to believe themselves to be superior to the rest of us by degrees in directly inverse proportion to their practical usefulness. That is, the less practical they are, the more important and pompous they are.
Now this doesn`t just apply in politics. In schools we see it regularly in the form of the headteacher assessed a pupils as being dimwits (probably and hopefully wrongly) sends them (usually boys) to do woodwork or engineering. The fact that the head has next to no knowledge of the subject (being an Intellectual) is not something that an intellectual could manage to recognise.
You may by now have realised that I have the usual technical college staff chip on my shoulder about this subject, and you will probably realise that those of us who do things like engineering, woodwork, and design are usually of a fairly modest frame of mind and therefore would not bother to blow our own trumpets, the proof of our great competence (as with intellectuals) being self-evident. It is, in fact, self-evident in this computer through which you are reading this article, or the print which was put on the page by a branch of this wide field.
But it irritates the students, and it irritates me. Some dimwit who none of us have the arrogance to judge overtly to be so is always in one way or another patronising us for being just woodworkers or engineers, not realising that we have created just about the whole 20th century environment (for which many of us now apologise) as part of our everyday run-of-the-mill activities. Well, of course, we must be pretty dim not to pump ourselves up like witchdoctors when we have the ability to apply logic to everyday situations - in some cases the power of life and death. Almost any intellectual would.
A student this week told me that when she persuaded her son to go the local comprehensive school it was because she thought it would enable her (she perceived as) very bright lad to expereince such exciting things as engineering, industrial design and woodwork, and was greatly taken aback when the school declared him so bright that he mustn`t be allowed to "waste his time" on these things! Clearly, the intention was that he shpould learn to be a clerk or an intellectual.
`But then`, she said, `it does help to keep us all in our places`.
It brought to mind certain experiences over the years in which I have felt myself to have been swindled or manipulated by unfair or illegal means that could not be proven, and I couldn`t help but give the question some thought. In Southwark, the answer may well be `quite a lot`, although it would never be possible to pin down if freemasons operate in the way that it is alleged they do.
As they are a society with secrets (I believe strictly speaking illegal in this country) and secret signs, there is no way of knowing for certain who is a freemason. What we all know is that they have a secret handshake, and if this is not for the purpose of obtaining `masonic favour` what the hell is it for?
I can tell you one other thing about them with a fair degree of certainty. I was asked to design and build a new library for the Rosicrucians, and whilst discussing the project I asked the man who had contacted me (and who had evidently got the impression I was a mason) what exactly Rosicrucians do.
`They`re just a study group,` he said. `We are allowed to study everything except politics. We`re not allowed to study politics because that`s what Freemasons do,` he said, giving me the expression of one who believes he has concisely and justly summarised the situation. After the survey we got on a train, and when it came to my station we shook hands. I, not being a freemason, didn`t realis what the funny handshake was. We shook with the right hand, and he pressed harder with his extended third finger than with the others. Quite subtle, and not possible to detect by anyone other than the recipient. I expect there will be a small decrease in the number of overt freemasons now that we have exchanged our government of terrible thieves for a government of unknown character, but I`m sure such people will always find a way of doing their thing in the end. I wouldn`t be at all surporised if I found that they were the backseat drivers of our nation. If Blair is really looking for a just society he surely has an uphill struggle.
An old lady I visit regularly and know quite well is quite irritated by my contempt for freemasons. Why, her husband was one, and for him it was only like a family when he didn`t have one. That I find highly commendable. She was,however, unable to tell me anything else about them. Her husband, being older than her, died some years ago, and the following may be of interest (I didn`t comment when it was told to me):
She worked in a large government organisation, along with her husband when he was alive. He died, and she continued to work. She neared retiring age, and expressed a small amount of anxiety about the size of her pension to the man who had engaged first him then her to work there. In due course, a bit of promotion became available, and althoughshe knew someone else was applying for the post who was much better suited, she thought she ought to apply. To her surprise, she got the post, and in a short time was offered early retirement with pension enhancement. Well, well, what a stroke of luck! Fortunately for her, there remained a certain amount of freelance work, and so she was then able to come in from time to time and pick a few bob extra. Add to that the fact that a freemason calls from time to time and asks if she needs any help now that her husband has gone and she is actually doing quite nicely. In fact, she spends a lot of her time consuming Saga Holidays allover the world. Perhaps I should join.......
Closer to home, I can tell you of a rent officer who made a most corrupt manoeuvre, apparently quite confident that if anyone did anything about it he could hide behind the borough solicitor, a judge who was so incensed that I enquired whether an action on the part of the county court had been made for masonic reasons that he forgot to pretend to be impartial and found all against me (thus telling me something at least about himself and the man who called himself clerk to the court), and if I dig a bit deeper into my memory I must have some more.