Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol 6, No. 5. May 5, 1943
Activities of the kind vulgarly known as cultural have never been general at Victoria College, and what there has been of them would suggest that this is not wholly a matter for regret. A long time ago there was a Literary Society, and more recently a Phoenix Society (never properly resurrected or even cremated) has made various singed flutterings.
That interest in these clubs was confined to a small proportion of students does not seem to us either surprising or regrettable. There is no obligation on anyone to be interested in culture and very good reasons why one who isn't shouldn't pretend to be. Both as a subject for conversation and as a means of attaining notoriety it is inferior to other pursuits more popular at this College.
Less satisfactory has been the attitude of those who supported these clubs. It always seemed that their æinterests were decorative additions to their lives rather than the sincere expressions of personal problems and conflicts—that the pleasures they found in poetry were not very different from those offered by crossword puzzles.
There have always been a number of mildly intellectual and pleasantly cultural people at Victoria College, but too many of these have never failed to show how unreal æsthetic values are to them when weighed against personal vanity and political ideologies. "When one sees the horrible little demagogues who foam on our debating platforms and the solemn writers of incredibly bombastic and meaningless editorials posing as champions of culture one does not wonder that the attitude of many students of this college is not without its resemblance to that of the Nazi who remarked. "When I hear the word culture I release the safety-catch of my revolver." The words and systems of thought which possess these "friends of culture" quite effectively safeguard them against most kinds of experience, certainly against that known as æsthetic. Everything that cannot be fitted into a formula or cliche is excluded from their lives. Consequently their ideas do not bear any very real relation to their desires—and cannot be accepted as sincere.
To close this gap between students thought as students of Victoria College and their lives as New Zealanders, is the object of the Victoria College Society for Closer Cultural Relations with New Zealand, of which the affiliation to the Students' Association is pending.
To attain this purpose the society will do what little can be done through lectures and more or less intimate discussions which, for obvious reasons, will be concerned with literature rather than music or the visual arts. At these meetings we shall discuss any original verse or prose that members of the society may care to submit, the writings of other New Zealanders and of foreign writers who may have something to offer this country. It is easy enough to produce works which are ostensibly a reaction to the particular conditions of New Zealand life, but a national culture is not possible until this is done with a greater degree of spontaneity and integrity than is usual at present. The society, therefore, will have a negative function—to point out, where necessary, the absence of these qualities—and a positive one, to encourage the activities of those students whose æsthetic interests are not purely verbal.