Arguments in philosophy, politics and religion have prevailed throughout the ages. If there was any comfort for the antagonists it consisted in the mutual recognition that ultimately no-one really knew how an idea, any idea, was constructed by the mind. Therefore whatever one's position, in that fundamental sense one opinion was as good as any other.
But suppose now one can analyse a belief not only for its content but observes its cognitive structure, so what emerges is the reason why something is a belief in the first place - suddenly all antagonists will be arraigned against the examiner.
The animosity towards anything that challenges an ideological stance is nothing new. Unfortunately, even academic institutions are not necessarily exempt. It is time to set things straight. During my time at Griffith University in the years 1997-1999 I encountered it a couple of times, one more important than the other (when an evaluation of an assignment or a thesis features utterly ludicrous criticisms, either the examiner is dysfunctional or there is a higher agenda - I have assumed the latter given my critical attitude on a couple of occasions). Unfortunately such matters can have a profound influence on one's progress through life, not to mention the effect on wider society when scientific sharpness gives way to contemporary fudge, with punishments waiting for those who refuse to join. This kind of behaviour compromises the very foundation of universities in the European culture and its Age of Reason. The inability or unwillingness by certain staff to prevent such un-academic behaviour shows how little they care about their intellectual heritage. When even vice-chancellors succumb to this weakness it does nothing for the rest who still respect their standards.
In my first year of study I expressed myself critically towards the ideological side of feminism in a second assignment dealing with work-related issues. The first two works were marked higher than average, but the final assignment (the most important one in terms of marks) was judged a failure because I allegedly did not relate to the topics set by the tutor, Jenny Gasston. However, a reading of the text would have made it abundantly clear that the topics were in fact addressed, I merely changed the headings to accommodate a particular thread I used. Appealing to the lecturer my grade was changed from an overall Pass to a Credit.
Sections of the Honours thesis touch on certain mental dynamics that are the precursors to prejudice, ideology, and violence at any scale. When dealing with the human mind these perspectives should not be overlooked. In some of their comments the examiners' reports demonstrated a profoundly religious leaning and the inability to objectively identify the underlying causes of societal disharmony. My comments were belittled, used as reasons to possibly fail the thesis, and their wide-spanning sources decried as a priori sentiments without sense or structure. Religious leanings and subjectivity are linked, and when they occur in a certain demographic its members are often least likely to recognise their own disposition.
The examiners' attitude caused them to misunderstand what I was talking about, make references to things I had not said, and they neglected entire passages that did exist which in turn enabled them to claim the document lacked the necessary references. It took nearly twelve pages in my appeal against the examiners' decision to list the mistakes in their two reports totaling approximately three pages. As one example, it was stated by the examiners as well as by the person who wrote a third assessment in response to the appeal that they could not activate the response field in the accompanying computer program because I did not explain how this was to be accomplished - yet in section 2.7.2 The User Interface the reader will find, "The session starts with the INPUT area highlighted to receive text from the user. The 'Esc' key closes the input and transfers control to the OUTPUT section, where the computer takes over for as long as is needed to formulate a response". Did anyone actually read the thing??
On another occasion I was attacked for appending a list of events referenced from a Brisbane metropolitan newspaper as markers for defining the overall character of the Queensland demographic. A culture of religiosity, parochialism, and the fear of objective criticism can be gleaned from instances representative of the resultant behaviour. In the summary my statement, "Certain conclusions can be drawn from such a profile, [such as] A society is only as good as the sum total of its citizens", was even quoted by one examiner to highlight my supposedly wayward approach. Yet six years later the people of Queensland are faced with the open disclosure of systemic problems in public health and general infrastructure, to the point where patients have died needlessly and the greater metropolitan region of Brisbane is literally running out of water. Some individuals who attempted to alert their authorities have been hounded out of their jobs for being too outspoken. As I write this [Sep 2006] an early state election has been called on those very issues.
I have not done a survey on the average length and complexity of assignments and/or theses by students. Nevertheless, I would say that a document spanning over 150 pages, a computer program over 19,000 lines, functions that feature multi-dimensional double-linked lists, and an algorithm which for the first time sets up an artificial neural network automatically according to the size of input should count for something (programmers will know what I am talking about). Judging by the tone of the assessments, none of this was acknowledged let alone understood.
The then Vice-Chancellor of Griffith University, Professor Roy Webb, saw fit to disregard the points raised in the appeal, namely the insufficient lack of understanding demonstrated by the assessors. Nor did the present Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ian O'Connor, find it necessary to address these points on a later occasion. It should be pointed out that the Honours thesis did not constitute a preliminary version of what was to follow; it was not a 'small Otoom'.
A culture cannot survive without support from its leaders. I am not the first who expresses concern at the current trend to have universities headed by individuals who treat their institutions like any other business and who seem to show a scant familiarity with academic tradition. How for example, at a time of ever tightening finances, will the establishment of an Interfaith Centre enhance the world of science? Or, how is the quality of, say, the computer lab improved by providing special ablution facilities for Muslim students? Such initiatives are more suited for commercial enterprises like airports or cinema complexes, and even there one could wonder at a certain genuflecting attitude. As it is, they smack of political correctness. More and more often our so-called pillars of society turn into sycophants to ideology.
It becomes difficult not to discern shadows when contact is made and there is not even the pretense of civility. For instance, what is one to make of the refusal by the Institute for Ethics, Governance and Law to even consider one's work? The IEGL was launched at the end of 2004 and represents a joint exercise between Griffith University and the United Nations University in Tokyo. Its stated aim is "to be a globally networked resource for the development of governance through research". Here is an entity specifically designed to investigate significant interactions with society and yet is not interested in how the underlying system works. It's like somebody coming to fit electrical wiring in your home but doesn't want to know about electricity!
This is not the first time a university has run foul of its proclaimed standards. A previous book of mine, "Logic and Order in Society", was placed on the required reading list for the Political Science course at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. It was subsequently taken off again without informing me. No-one at this establishment was willing to explain in whatever simple or straight-forward terms why this decision was taken. Eventually in 1992 a meeting with the then Vice-Chancellor, Professor John Niland, was requested but not even a person of his standing was able to communicate about the state of affairs. In fact, rather than talking to me he ducked in and out of his office through a side entrance and in the evening the police was called to have me arrested. In October that year at the Local Court the magistrate dismissed the charges because he did not perceive a court to be the appropriate forum for such matters.
As far as the contents of "Logic and Order.." are concerned, a document similar to the Parallels for Otoom exists - events that after the publication of the book demonstrate its validity.
A university like Griffith can retort by bad marks. A government uses its police force. When a copy of "On the origin of Mind" was submitted to the federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock for perusal in July 2004 it was forwarded to the Australian Federal Police for examination (possibly instigated by Senator Chris Ellison judging by the correspondence that followed). My 'offence'? The covering letter questioned the actual reasons behind the national paedophile register, an issue making its way through the press at that time and preserving as it does a comprehensive set of personal details of only one particular type of offender even after they had been released from jail. The cultural dynamics underpinning this initiative are comparable to those prevailing at the time of the Inquisition when heretics were made to wear thesanbenitos, penitential garments designed to alert all and sundry to the victims' deviant nature. In both scenarios the driving factor is a religiosity obsessed with moralisms regardless of the damage done to society. It is worth mentioning that such blanket restrictions are opposed by Terry O'Gorman, president of the National Council for Civil Liberties.
Just what kind of damage this can be becomes evident on some occasions. On the 19 Oct 2004 Australia's SBS-TV screened a program under its Insight label, "Suffer the Children". Representatives from interest groups and members of the public are brought together for 45 minutes to describe their views on whatever subject, and in this case the topic was child pornography and the measures taken against it. A delegate from a local police force and her counterpart from the UK told of the hundreds of prosecutions initiated in Australia and the thousands in Britain. The consensus was this represented the "tip of the iceberg" with legal actions continuing. Colloquialisms do stand for something, and to expect thousands of Australians to be caught in the dragnet eventually and tens of thousands of British citizens is reasonable. Now consider: here is a situation in which it is quite acceptable to remove up to tens of thousands of people (not to mention the additional disturbances among their relationships), with no thought given about the underlying reasons for such fury and the wider effects on society. Only an intense ideology can perform in such a manner. Who in their right mind would excise such large proportions from a nation, particularly at a time when that same society faces profound challenges across so many areas? An investigation into the psychopathology of individuals who are disturbed by the human eros would be good place to start.
The present hysteria is only the latest manifestation of fervour. It boiled over before, and the Crusades, the Inquisition, the persecutions of so-called deviants and followers of science, they all are the most brutal chapters in the history of Europe as the culture continues to act out its own version of Middle Eastern dogma. Induced by a skewed perception born out of a pathological hatred towards human sexuality and progress, not only were hundreds of thousands of individuals subjected to the most vicious treatments, even entire governments were held to ransom when Christian morality was applied to some of its members.
Another result is the Christian obsession with the Middle East. Observable throughout the centuries it had plunged Europe and now the West into one adventure after another. Presently it has reached a particularly critical dimension, with ramifications for the entire world.
They all represent the large-scale manifestations of individual acts, the day-by-day million-fold weavings of ideology over the ages, spun prisons in the minds of their children from which only a few could escape.
In any case, my letter presented two images from the internet, both found within a few minutes' search. One shows a naked girl in a joking pose, the other the face of a woman bloodied in a vicious attack. The first is subject to criminal proceedings, the other freely accessible to anyone. The issue can be described in terms of Otoom, as conceptual clusters based on ungrounded abstracts produce responses affecting acts situated in reality. Its contentious nature is noteworthy in itself and reveals the religious and feminist influences Western society is subjected to. Even spilling semen would be better than spilling blood, but in this type of setting gore is the preferred alternative. By the way, the AFP cleared the book. Whether the work itself remains on the Index I don't know.
These cases should be seen against the background of heightening religious intensity within the West, an ongoing physical and mental degeneration among a large percentage of its population groomed into submission to idiosyncrasy, and the appeasement towards the ideological threats coming from the outside. They are symptomatic of decay. What's more, they demonstrate to the world the West is a pushover - a sentiment which is acted upon already.
...and I haven't even mentioned such things as climate change and peak oil yet. I doubt whether anyone without a comprehensive understanding of societal dynamics will be able to appreciate their overall impact on a culture weakened from within.
The sleep of reason