Dear Colleagues and Students,
Please ignore the ridiculous email sent to you my colleague, former friend, and now Head of Department Alex Witherspoon. He has no moral backbone. If you do think that Philosophy is about preparation for work then go and study PPE at Oxford. This ‘illustrious’ degree prepares you for power. Former graduates include David Cameron, Anne Widdecombe, Danny Alexander, Chris Huhne, the Millibands, David Willetts, Ed Balls, Elizabeth Truss…you get the idea. They all graduated with a sense of entitlement, with the armour coated certainty of their ability and their right to rule. Unfortunately they learnt nothing about philosophy. Alex Witherspoon, your future Head of Department, knows nothing about philosophy. His promotion was the result of corruption, of bad sex in empty lecture rooms, and because he embraced the free market with priapic ardour. The graduates of PPE at Oxford, and their haughty predecessors, privatised Britain. Now their acolytes continue this process at Weeengland. Dear undergraduate I do not wish to give you nightmares but you are entering a war zone. As a Professor of Moral Philosophy it is my duty to warn you: sometimes philosophy is war by other means. If you know the stakes then you can take sides. If you do not, well you know what they say about crossfire. In fact ask our Vice Chancellor who goes to bed with Armscorp rifles up his arse every night.
What is at stake? It is simple: the University, once a public good, has been redesigned as an asset, with cash value; the student once a learner is refashioned as a consumer, a worker and a debtor; knowledge, once a virtue in itself, is now a commodity controlled through intellectual property rights. In this world you have choices and you can act, but none of your acts will be ethical. Those who claim to act ethically are corrupt liars whom you must never trust. Consider the options and consider their shortcomings:
- You can sell out. Alex Witherspoon has sold his life, sold his ideals, sold his friends and sold his colleagues. Remind him of this when he introduces you to Business Ethics. The sell out lives a life of custom, a life attuned to the dominant ethos. He will tell you that if the majority are Nazis then it is immoral to oppose them. The sell out lives the life of a pig in shit, eats the shit and then spews it out as if it were gospel truth. Pigs know better.
- You can compromise and agree to exploit yourself because you need to live. Self exploitation, voluntarily entered into, is your second choice. The self exploiter is like the masochist. Unfortunately there is no sexual pleasure to be had from this exploitation. At least the masochist enjoys her pain – you will not. The self exploiter make pain into an end in itself, becomes bitter and twisted, blames everyone but themselves for the mess they are in.
- You could become an exploiter. The exploiter is more honest than the sell out.The exploiter does not hide behind PPE type moral arguments approved by Oxford dons plc. The exploiter admits what he does, takes pleasure in what he does, might invoke Bentham’s pleasure calculus, Marx’s defence of the revolutionary bourgeois or Kant’s demand to obey…but in the end the exploiter simply says ‘that’s just how it is.’ Suck it or …
- You could retreat into the pleasure of sex, alcohol and drugs. This might seem like revolution, but it is a disguised form of onanism. You might fuck wildly like the Vice Chancellor of this institution; you might dance for days on end or fuel your fantasies with illegal and legal drugs. Your hedonism will feed the market, feed the system of debt, feed the alcohol industry. You will find yourself stranded on the isle of Aeaea, enchanted, bemused, an animal.
- The sell out, the self exploiter, the exploiter and the pleasure seeker are our enemies. I am at war with them. If you recognise yourself in one of these caricatures then stop reading now, load up your guns. I will meet you on the battlefield. You could resist. But to resist is to make a choice which will alienate you from everyone you know, everyone you hold dear. Tread carefully down this bramble strewn path.
- Resistance begins simply. Your first step is to learn, to read. Learning has as its counterpoint the destruction of power point. Power point is an enemy of learning, it is the bite sized unit of knowledge easy to sell =, easy to consume. If a lecturer uses power point she is the enemy. Toward the user of power point you have no moral obligations but you do have a duty: corrupt their computer with a virus. Power point man is everywhere. Beware.
- After learning you have two alternative forms of resistance: retreat or resist. Retreat is my favoured option and the resister hates me more than anyone else. The resister insists that I get out there and set fire to the barricades. I am pessimistic. I have seen too many barricades, been on too many marches, thrown too many missiles at Nazis in uniform. Resistance has to make sense in this world, and in this world keeping thought alive, avoiding inclusion, guarding against corruption….this is a virtue in itself, a compromised virtue, one which will leave you smelling of shit. At least you will not, like our dear Head of Department Alex Witherspoon, be eating the shit.
- You could, and probably should, resist. Occupy the lecture theatres now; burn down the VCs office; challenge the ivory tower intellectuals like me; set up alternative communes where in self-help groups you can work through your psychological oppression, overcome your hetero-normativity, explore the parts of your self destroyed through repressive desublimation…but if you do remember that you are walking down a road which many followed in the 60s, the 70s, the 80s, the 90s….and they now shop at the Body shop. Your resistance must last. It cannot be a badge of honour you wear for these few year at University…
- You could just withdraw from University and close down this bastion of oppressive compliance. Withdraw from the system of debt, withdraw from lectures on the ethics of business, refuse to take those loans from the bank, make choices now before the fangs of the system engorge themselves on your flesh. That is what I would do. The choice is yours dear student. I may be fired for sending you this email, but what joys await me if I manage to escape this slumber party of idiots with whom I work on a daily basis.
Yours, Professor of Moral Philosophy, Josie Wiles