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Salient: Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Vol. 32, No. 13. 1969.

Opinion — Ethos and Kudos


Ethos and Kudos

So Its fable time. Once upon a bunch of select finks there was imposed a university to fashion their selectivity and foster their superiority complexes. The social by-products of this reverent enterprise were gathered up by any number of Beautiful Socially Minded People over many honourable generations, gathered up and labelled and subsumed into one glorious Students' Association. And this lovely association operated for years and years, counterpointing the representative delusions of a larger "democratic" society without losing its comfortable sense of identity. It became subtle, it became sublime, it found a niche for every megalomaniac, conformist, anarchist, Beautiful Person, politician and lover of poetry. Well almost. Then it died.

That was the fable. There may be another reality. Everybody figures that every other select fink doesn't give a stuff about Stud. Ass.: it is the political baby of a few political people; they can have it, kudos and all.

Well how select are we "educable" people? Very roughly, take an average student I.Q. at 85th centile; 29,000 students in the country. Given the limitations of I.Q. tests, there are about 375,000 men, women and children around with the same potential. Not so special after all.

Why should any student body differ from the huge, apathetic, bureaucratic institutions which characterize "democratic society"?

Because we are in a position to pool our ideas, to experiment with social models and to explore new modes of communication.

Or are we?

Just what sort of social being is Everybody in this place? For twenty years of our lives we have been conditioned to listen passively, absorb uncritically and express ourselves in socially familiar ways. So a student is supposed to chuck all this. How? Why?

Yet some of us, some of the time, think there's enough wrong with the larger scheme of things to ask the question. Increasingly we feel alienated from the monolithic impact of organizations. So you bash skulls until you become king of your own organization, even Stud. Ass., or you sink into an apathetic stupor.

I thing this adumbrates a social nightmare. Maybe its my twisted outlook. I can't posit real answers: is there a known way of reorienting grown people after 20 year of passivity conditioning? Many people are reduced to protoplasmic jelly on a public forum (I am). But, curiously enough, nearly everyone wants to communicate about something, and pretty often. So that's what friends are for, that's how any sense of social identity arises.

Ah, another fable (?). Once upon a time there was a Stud. Ass., and it had a sort of utopian ethos; it set out to extend the social identity of every one of its members. Nobody in Stud. Ass. was sure how to go about this, though they knew that it meant Participation by Everybody. Somebody invented a Senate of 65 (=3/250th E'body) but that bit of Everybody came reluctantly and was silent. Then Somebody noticed that Everybody was an institutional fiction anyway.

Suppose we start to talk about people, who also like to talk when they know who they're talking to. That may mean to 20 other people, probably less. Some of 'em like to eat sensations like raw oystes out of a rusty jam tin, some want to dissect sheep brains, some want to hang up Joanna Porrit.

They all extend their "social identity", more or less, sooner or later, but not nealy as much as they ought because

they don't know how

or through whom

or where

or when

and its a hell of a drag anyway.

Sans fable.