I have written previously on this blog on my resistance to the idea that scholars – or luvvys and boffins to borrow the phrase used by Eric Schmidt, Chairman of Google speaking in Edinburgh last week at the annual MacTaggart lecture on the state of higher education in the UK – should be seen as living a life apart.
Yes, I have been in revolt against the idea of the celebrated ivory tower – both a cradle and a grave if ever there was one – for several years. And yet, oddly enough, I was indeed ensconced in a small room in a large building working on ideas – which is to say I was marking my students’ essays- when I first understood the scale of what had happened in the country.
My brother called me to ask if I was alright and told me what was happening in London. Miles away in Leicester, I thought of areas I had lived in or spent happy evenings out in, now open to attack: Walthamstow, Camden, Hackney, Oxford Street.
Because of the things I learned in that city, wherever else I go in the world, I will always consider myself – amongst other things – a Londoner.
Why did it happen?
I don’t want to add to the analyses contributed by politicians and journalists.
I simply ask – what goes on in the mind of a child or an adult who feels so utterly disconnected from everyone around her/him that turning on a neighbour is no step at all?
My life has always been about education – it formed my mind and now I am helping to form the minds of others.
How do we draw on education to speak beyond ourselves? To those who have gone so far beyond the bounds of civil behavior that they seem to have given up on words – violence was the language of the rioters.
How do we not let silence win?