Spluttering on my fair trade coffee last week I was astonished to discover that I inhabit a perilous ‘liberal bubble’ which is slowly lulling me into a false sense of security, numbing all my conceptions about the ‘real world’- a world out there, somewhere. This revelation was forced upon me by Tom Gockelen-Kozlowski’s ‘instructional’ comment piece ‘Toffs: back in fashion’.
Tom, with a sweep of the keyboard, brushed aside feminism, Marxism and post-colonialism as theories that portray a world ‘a lot more pleasant than it really is’. And so, with an air of superiority he derided schools of thought which boast thousands of publications by academics all over the world. The fact that feminism deals with the perpetually unequal relationship between the sexes and post-colonialism with the disempowering effects of colonial legacy on subordinated people worldwide must have silently passed him by.
Vacuous remarks about the closed-mindedness of Sussex University to the ‘real world’ (as opposed to the fake world we occupy here I guess) neglect the fact that one day students may take the optimistic, critical or alternative approaches to the subject that they have studied and try to apply them in their own lives. If you see a ‘liberal’ approach as dangerous or empty-headed Sussex is probably not the place for you. But it is for its critical attitude that Sussex is so renowned among universities, not only in Britain but abroad too.
Straining then to interpret the point of his article through the stereotyping of the ‘liberal comrades’ of Sussex and the ambiguous boundaries of his definition of ‘alternative’ (apparently anything that is not the Daily Mail) I soon came to understand that there was little in the way of explanation or purpose and rather too much in the way of instruction. That the Conservative party in Britain is, for some, a convincing opposition to Labour is no epiphany – a foreign policy linked to America’s imperial ambitions and the worst recession in more than seventy years will have ensured this in the very least. Conservatives have been the only majority opposition to Labour in Parliament since the 1920s and, with British politics converging in the centre of the political spectrum, many are disillusioned with the incumbent government.
The article was certainly a lesson in what not to do: if you are trying to convince someone of something, do not be condescending; if you are trying to be funny, avoid old and worn out stereotypes; if you are trying to interest your readers, say something new; and above all if you are trying to make a point, get your facts straight.