Notebook (learning)

June 16, 2013 § 1 Comment

Students have occupied the Council Chambers at Warwick, intending to create a space against the privatisation of the university. I wanted to publicly state my solidarity with them & their objectives, wh/ have the advantage of being both concrete & connected to the wider circumstances of the university under neoliberalism – its embroilment in high finance, outsourcing, the breakdown of labour conditions, the instrumentalisation of student ‘investment’ in education, where students become simultaneously atomic parts of the aggregate income of the university & drains on resources whose sole purpose is seemingly to fill the pockets of the managerial layer (most notably Vice-Chancellor Nigel Thrift, whose £42000 pay rise this year, for a job wh/ seems to consist of sitting in an office &/or going to dinner w/ captains of industry, is probably equal to my old department’s entire budget for casualised teaching). Importantly I feel the need to avoid imposing my own, desultory experience of ‘student politics’, if it can be called that, at Warwick, without entirely erasing it. In particular, of the last days of June, six months after Day X. UCU were involved in the scheduled action for J30, despite the fact that most students & many lecturers would be gone by then. I’d had my positive final results. Months earlier I collaged quotes on Egypt & Libya into poems I submitted for my dissertation; in both countries the situation was now going down the drain. In memory they are days of becalmed sun lived with a stomach-aching sense of despair & dread. I remember barely speaking to anyone; the situation was that which often appears in the shortened perspective engendered by intense misery, where other people just seem to be elsewhere, unfindable. Reading, wh/ I could usually trust as a default occupation to distract me from whatever bothered me, was close to impossible. Almost the only thing of wh/ this wasn’t true were memoirs: the salty melancholy of Frank Kermode’s, the afterimages of Benjamin’s ‘Berlin Chronicle’. In the last week, when the student arts festival had me going back & forth from campus, my parents collected most of my belongings, so that I slept on the floor & the world simply seemed, day by day, more & more depleted. I hoovered & stuffed food into rubbish bags. I read about police attacks on flying pickets, teargas & riots in Athens. Clouds & humidity gathered. Dripping w/ sweat & w/ everything I owned in two bags, I got a train, for what should have been another life, that came into Bournemouth under cover of night. The sense of pain at what I took to be my failures of the past three years (professional, social, personal, intimate) seemed bound in some obscure sense w/ the collapse of the potential of the student movement, of the power, in Deleuze’s sense, of the university to open up life as a lived & public process, under the force of repression & the hard-set commitment of management to privatisation. Certainly they seemed bound up w/ the bleakness of my posited future (a bleakness that, as a lived texture, seems to have been at least slightly exaggerated by imagination). Of course, a lot of this was merely personal, a way of somehow placing my violent resentment of the way things had turned out – of the promise of self-transformation, of friendship, of richer life being met w/ the hardness of a totality of loneliness, misery, social exclusion & downward social mobility – outside myself. But this intuition is, I think now, not entirely wrong. That others who didn’t, & won’t, fail as I did, are committed to the same promise is heartening: memory not as the fossilisation of image but a vector of transformation.

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