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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 3, No. 1. 1940



The vast majority of freshers, having been born and bred in middle class families, are unable, owing to the influence of their environment, to think in terms of any concepts other than those stated above, every one of which is erroneous and designed, consciously or unconsciously, to secure a non-revolutionary, humble acquiescence in the status quo on the part of the proletariat.

This, then is the position. The transition of these freshers to a little city where some students actually think for themselves, where exisiting institutions are constantly attacked by intelligent people who have made a thorough and sincere study of the questions of the day, where some students consider they have discovered a way to bring about a rational world, is bound to be a little painful at first, How is the fresher to adapt himself to this new, strange environment?

Firstly, by taking heed of a famous dictum of Cromwell's: "By the bowels of Christ, gentlemen, consider it possible that you may be wrong." It may just be possible that the principles you have been working on may be entirely false. If you are honest, you will immediately take a thorough mental stock-taking. Perhaps, after all, Communists are not "agents of a foreign power" sporting bombs and red ties. Perhaps, after all, we are not fighting the German people for (a)spiritual reasons (b) to put down Fascism (c) to give independence to subject nations, and (c) to make a land fit for heroes to live in.

You freshers have come up here equipped with a sound knowledge of reading and writing, a little mathematics, a dead language or two, and an ability to recite selected Shakespearian passages by heart. This is known as education. You also probably have a firmly-rooted idea that radical social change can take place by constitutional action, and that those who are in Parliament are the rulers of the land. This is known as Political Science.

Those of you who do not just creep into College for lectures and then creep out again, will want to get as much of value as possible out of your university education. You will realise that your degree or diploma is subordinate to your general mental development. If you merely pass your exams, and your mental state remains chaotic, you might just as well spent those three or four years as a wharf labourer or a sanitary inspector. This article is written for the purpose of assisting those neo-adolescents who, like W.H. Auden, have "lost their taste in sweets, Discovered sunsets, passion, God and Keats", to page break get the richest value from their few years of "academic isolation".

First, hold the mental stock-taking referred to above. Go over the list of fundamental principles of thought, and find out how many of them you believe in. Try to discover the grounds upon which you believe them - are they principles you have elucidated by your own reasoning, or did your godfathers and godmothers then them for you? If a shadow of doubt remains as to the strict veracity of these principles, and the strict falsity of their opposites, read on. If not, lapse into armchair idealism and a comfortable academic eclecticism. It's eminently satisfying, and it pays.

Then try to gather as many facts as possible about these fundamental principles. Listen to the common-room debates, use the Library (which is on the left at the top of the stairs), read beyond the subjects you are taking, and above all, support every one of the intellectual societies at College. Join in discussion, ask questions, speak in debates. Don't make your mind up on anything until you've thoroughly sifted all aspects of it. Don't become a socialist because it's "the thing"; don't oppose the socialists because the majority do so.

And, as you gather knowledge, try to seek some principle which will co-ordinate all you know - that will integrate your knowledge with society and form a compact, beautiful unity, in which all explicable things are fully explained, the mask falls from the age-old problems of right and wrong, the forces of history are made crystal-clear, and the individual's duty is made plain. I think that the fundamental philosophy of Marxism is the only such principle. But I may be wrong.

And So To Bed

Anyway, I suppose that as soon as you're getting along really well, and you've read "Breakdown" and "Anti-Duhring" and Jackson's "Dialectics" and the last chapter of "Ulysses", you'll fall in love. It always happens. We're all just economic products.