Sunday, 7 February 2010

Britain's got 'talent'

If you were wondering who was responsible for the worst economic crisis since the war, I can now reveal that it wasn’t those evil bankers after all, or indeed the sleepwalking politicians in hock to market fundamentalism who let them get away with it. No – and bear with me on this one because it’s a bit counter-intuitive – it turns out it was university lecturers. Which is presumably why we are the first (although we certainly won’t be the last) to be punished with budget cuts aimed at plugging the financial hole left by the billions used to rescue the banks eighteen months ago. Fortunately there won’t be much of a public fuss about it because, as any fule kno, university lecturers aren’t heroic, underpaid martyrs (cf nurses, teachers) but malingerers and charlatans with long holidays.

This means that over the next few years academics will be like the Kurdish teachers in Samira Makmalbaf’s film Blackboards, lugging blackboards on their backs through the rocky wastelands of Iran looking for illiterates to educate. Only now we will be roaming the land with our powerpoint lectures on memory sticks, in search of potential students with trust funds who can afford fees of £50k per annum.

It’s a funny thing, money. As an academic you get used to the people who run universities moaning all the time about rising staff costs, so you internalise this and essentially learn to think of yourself as a drain on resources. The implication is that universities would run much more smoothly if it wasn’t for the academics, who generally clutter up the place and haemorrhage money with their ever-rising salaries, which of course they will only spend on fripperies such as mortgages and food.

Oddly enough, they have exactly the opposite attitude to salaries in banking, where packages have to be ‘competitive’ and bonuses must be paid to keep hold of the best ‘talent’. The promiscuous use of the word ‘talent’ is one of the strangest verbal slippages of our times. I know little and care less about money and wouldn’t mind being paid in supermarket tokens, Amazon vouchers and some loose change for the chocolate machine. So I am quite happy for the greedy chancers who rule our lives to have as much money as they like – on one condition. They stop going on about their exceptional, risk-taking, wealth-creating ‘talent’.

On a more positive note, sod off day has arrived (see post for 20 May 2009), so if I still have a job in 2013 and haven’t had to reskill as a personal trainer or beauty therapist, I will be ‘REF-compliant’. Sod off, REF!

Mundane quote for the day: ‘The summit of the hierarchy is lost in the dark skies of finance capital. The high-ups have withdrawn so far that they are no longer touched by life down below and can make their decisions purely on the basis of economic considerations.’ – Siegfried Kracauer


  1. thought provoking as always
    thanks for sharing

  2. Thanks Martine - and thanks for following.