SO, THE MOUNTAINS of the Resolution Foundation groaned for two years and gave birth to…well, the usual farrago of nonsense and madcap propositions that think tanks are prone to. In this case it’s all about the “intergenerational contract” between the Boomers and the Millennials, how it’s being broken and what “we” should do to put it right.
This low-level conflict has been rumbling on for a few years now and really kicked off with a book by David Willetts, The Pinch: How the Baby Boomers Took Their Children’s Future – And Why They Should Give It Back (2010). Willetts is a former Tory minister and now runs the Resolution Foundation. “Former Tory” is what I nearly left it at, since his pronouncements these days have been most definitely un-Tory-like, favouring the kind of statist interference beloved of the left.
It’s not as bad as this in the UK but it’s getting that way. Nothing will change until students themselves start to complain.
This is an excerpt from an exam I took in my first year at Leeds University in 1974. I have to say that I think most of my own students (and probably those at other institutions) would have great difficulty coping with these questions.
FIRST YEAR ENGLISH LITERATURE, Paper II: Renaissance Drama, Leeds University 1974.
Time allowed: 3 hours. (Three questions, one hour per question).
3. Either: (a) The idea of time seems to be very important in Shakespeare’s last plays. Describe the presentation of this idea, and indicate the nature and effect of its operation. You may, if you wish, restrict your answer to any one play.
Or: (b) ‘Her [Nature’s] World is brazen, the poets only deliver a golden.’ (SIR PHILIP SIDNEY). In what ways might this comment be applied to the works of the English Renaissance dramatists? Discuss at least two dramatists.
Or: (c) Outline the features which, in your view, are characteristic of Shakespeare’s ‘Romances’.
4. Either: (a) ‘The progress of the minds of the central figures towards deeper and deeper self-knowledge, the approach to the impenetrable mystery of fate perceived in the moments of intensest suffering and action, which are also the moments of clearest insight.’ (ELLIS-FERMOR). Illustrate and discuss this aspect of The Duchess of Malfi.
Or: (b) Examine, with reference to Hamlet or to The Revenger’s Tragedy, the ways in which imagery and symbolism are used to create, and sustain, a particular tragic mood.
Or: (c) What are the features which commonly distinguish the Tragedy from the Revenge Play?
“SERIOUSNESS,” SAID LEONARD COHEN in a TV interview, “is profoundly satisfying to the human soul.” The truth of that statement is borne out by the popularity of Dr Jordan Peterson, who has emerged as the most unlikely intellectual celebrity of our day. Just watch a couple of his videos – either his university lectures or his talks and interviews, it doesn’t matter – and you’ll see what I mean. This man is serious. He talks about serious things: life is painful and tragic; the monsters of malevolence and totalitarianism are not only found outside of ourselves but inside our own psyches; happiness is a worthless goal whereas meaning is supremely important; people should stop whingeing they’re victims and take responsibility for their own lives before trying to change the world.
Telling lies to the young is wrong.
Proving to them that lies are true is wrong.
Telling them that God’s in his heaven
and all’s well with the world is wrong.
the young know what you mean. The young are people.
Tell them the difficulties can’t be counted,
and let them see not only what will be
but see with clarity these present times.
Say obstacles exist they must encounter,
sorrow happens, hardship happens.
The hell with it. Who never knew
the price of happiness will not be happy.
Forgive no error you recognize,
it will repeat itself, increase,
and afterwards our pupils
will not forgive in us what we forgave.
“Lies” by Yevgeny Yevtushenko, translated by Robin Milner-Gulland and Peter Levi. From the Selected Poems in the Penguin Modern Poets series, 1968.
AROUND THE INSTITUTION posters have gone up exhorting the young folk to become global activists. “Change Your World,” says one of them. “You must be the change you want to see in the world,” says another (good old Gandhi). “Let us pick up our books and our pens, they are the most powerful weapons,” comes the voice of Malala Yousafzi. In the communal dining area the words of Saint Mandela are printed on the wall up high: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
As a now aged man who has seen and endured the results of people wanting to change the damn world — purportedly for the better and with our interests at heart, of course — I wholeheartedly disagree with this advice.