What's this blog about?

As a result of a combination of factors, culminating in the shameful UCU boycott-in-waiting of Israel, I've grown alienated & silenced, working here in one of the UK's finest universities all the while feeling like a Boycotted British Academic, alone in facing some dilemmas of the moment. In this generally chilling environment, it's hard to speak out and be heard, and hear others...and I find myself writing this blog.

What's it about? At present, it seems to me like a rather tortured articulation of the state of being silenced & mute, beyond words; struggling for the right even to use them, for a voice which can still be heard. When it started, all those successive boycott motions ago, I'd hoped it would function as a blog forum of support & solidarity amongst academics similarly-situated to BBA, to help us break through the boycott movement's silencing strategies. That hope remains notwithstanding this silence... Perhaps it lives in trying to articulate beyond the filter of these coping mechanisms of old (denial, avoidance, withdrawal); by way of this labour of finding the words, this voice...
[A forum of sorts has also arisen in the blog's comments, in which others have adopted the BBA moniker in case of need (e.g.
and here exposing the racist hate speech which masquerades as UCU solidarity activism).]

Monday, 26 May 2008

Beyond Words: Post Hydra

BBA has been having a hard time surviving by the swamp since the last post, way back, the upshot of which has been this silence which has prevailed in the ensuing - another spell for which I find myself apologizing to you, yet again... Thanks for your perseverance and understanding in keeping up with BBA through this ordeal, for staying with me in spite of my silence and even growing in number. That must defy some kind of blogging law, surely. Anyway, thank you...

Apparently, such spells have become a regular feature of my job these days - you'd have thought I would have become accustomed by now to the scene around here, to the point that I wouldn't descend into this state time and again. Yet descend I do, each time this beast resurfaces, for I am left incredulous by what I see, unable to make sense of the manifest travesty which is being made of our anti-racism commitments, as I observe those I might once most have expected to understand what's required to promote equality, in fact, massively falling foul of our anti-racism laws, and willingly, knowingly & obviously so - indeed, in some cases, wearing this breach as some kind of preposterous and deeply nauseating badge of honour!

From today's warped perspective, it's an honour not merely incontestably to reveal, beyond all doubt, how much dereliction of duty there is about here amongst critical actors in the fight against racism - our unions and our academics who ought to be showing the way in how the duty to promote equality is to be discharged. It's an honour flagrantly to flout laws aimed at achieving greater social equality and eliminating discrimination in society. It's an honour to expend precious resources and divert the whole academic corpus, away from the pressing core issues we face today, towards instigating, year upon year, the absolute antithesis of that to which this duty is meant to conduce.

I hope it's obvious wherein lies the cause for this silence even if it's presently apparently still too challenging & debilitating for more direct expression, such that, instead, in the interim, this blog has had to speak louder through silence, beyond words...

Just like Hercules, it took some friends to get there in the end, bringing fire to the labour. Here, virtually and anonymously, for this blog has attracted others to come on here to proffer an explanation or at least a clue for this silence, by giving testament when I have been left speechless all this time, flailing about close to the edge, having ventured too near the swamp and the horrors it conceals, then finding myself shocked & terrorized into silence by what I have seen, and by the stalker-bullying ways of this lot, lost in so many senses, not least, lost for a way to describe what the scene over here has been looking like since I was last in touch.


This clue can be found in some comments which have been left to my last post by this blog's erstwhile whistleblowers who heroically come on here to perform the necessary task of shedding some light on what has been going on behind closed academic doors around here, when I've manifestly been in no position to do so. If this blog does nothing else, at least that. Thank you!

A word of explanation about the comments: they are extracts from the discussion list hosted by UCU supposedly for its activists to further core union aims & objectives. As you'll see, in fact, what the list confirms and enacts is the exact opposite: a breach of the same. Readers may remember this list under the label it goes by on this blog and elsewhere: the Bigot's Playground. I recognize the text reproduced in these comments as I have had the great misfortune of having had to read these messages, and many others like them, in more or less real time, as they were sent, for I am registered as a subscriber to this list and now no longer have the luxury but to torture myself with it regularly, given developments (masochistically, I fear, for this act continues to be put to little tangible effect to date, as you may well imagine given my silence even on here - well, no effect beyond inducing and worsening this state of terror all this seems to put me in!).

For those with the incredible luck not to be in this 'privileged' position, I thought an explanation might be needed to clarify what is catalogued in these comments: the poster or posters who sent these messages (as 'anonymous') must either be UCU members themselves or people to whom list messages have been leaked (for, yes, even though it's a list whose secrecy is being policed to near-Stalinist extremes (about which, more in a forthcoming post), its contents are apparently all the while being liberally leaked, to the point of making this secrecy a frightening sham whose only objective can be to protect the racists!). The name which appears at the bottom of most of the comments on the hydra thread is the name of the UCU member who originally sent out the message in question to some 700-odd sorry subscribers to that list. Frighteningly, many of the original authors of these messages work as academics here in Boycotting Britannia, would you believe, a few even in top posts at well-regarded universities...


In case the language I have been using of late to describe this beast of a boycott strikes some as objectionable, just check out those comments. This is nothing if not terrifying and monstrous, and the comments give the measure of how toxic and poisonous a working environment I am having to face here as BBA in result. Given the nature of the 'argument' on display in these comments, it seems fitting that all this has been, as it were, dumped following the hydra post where I first called upon the myth to capture the scenario unfolding over here.

Since my last blog post, I've been trying to find what it takes to earn some distance from what I observe, sufficiently to react in time to set the context. It would probably have been clearer had our whistleblowers had a more up-to-date post on which to dump this stuff, giving an account of what's been going on in and around the bigot's playground of late, but that post's even more overdue than this one and is, I promise, imminently forthcoming. It's even worse, if you can believe, than that which can be seen through the window on all of this which the hydra comments furnish. Truly frightening happenings around here, over by the swamp...

It was Zkharya who first got me worrying about applying the myth to this context, in a comment over at Engage (a much belated thanks, as ever, for the great honour of the link...). Thinking through one of Zkharya's objections lead me to the realization that I was drawn to use the language of this myth not particularly because of our monster itself, although clearly the obvious parallels in its properties and nature first got me thinking along these lines: the fact that the monster keeps reappearing when it ought to have been put to rest long ago, many, MANY times over; its poisonous & nefarious effects on our campuses, our 'civil' society debates and our principles of equality and non-discrimination - all of which should have functioned by now to rid us of this particular beast when, in truth, the very opposite has transpired, allowing it to grow into such a monster as to defy all that which should so obviously have defeated it; and leaving BBA thereby more terrorized in the experience...

But what gave the myth its salience at the time lies more in the character of Hercules, the labour and not particularly the monster, as a way of representing my feelings about the nature of the role I seem to have landed myself in, merely by dint of having chosen to work in this profession, innocent (or, more accurately, in denial) of the fact that this would entail working in an environment where such beasts would be allowed to keep spewing out this sort of venom, for this long, with this frequency, this ferocity. It was the Herculean task I felt to be required of me in such circumstances which made it have resonance. So Herculean, in fact, that in the ensuing I felt defeatist again, without what it takes to survive in such an environment; and thus, silence once again took over.

My point was not particularly that the boycotters are beastly, although they clearly are, as the extracts which have been attached to the hydra post patently attest. The point, rather, was more to highlight the fight which is required of me, one I would need to feel like Hercules to fight. And since I am not Hercules, what did I do? Yes, BBA, through and through...

I'll even confess, just so that you get a fuller picture, pathetic as it is, that I had qualms about the naming & shaming I was acquiescing in by leaving the comments unmoderated and I even investigated how I might edit some of these hydra messages (there's no way which I discovered...). As you know, even if I try to conjure up an image of a monster in growing into this role I never conceived of having to take on, I have, in fact, been annoyingly decent & civil to these boycotter types: I've not named them or even reproduced their toxic filth on here but resorted, in my meekness, merely to reproducing the objection of anti-boycotters to the same. Oh so Herculean! So if I was bigging anyone up, I was in fact desperately trying to big myself up! And I apparently failed abysmally as things seem to have panned out...


Another poster on that Engage thread, YbA, suggests that perhaps a later labour in the myth would be suitable to describe the scene around here:

the Augean Stables (Herakles' 5th Labour) - the anti-boycotters need to divert the rivers of anti-racism and commonsense to wash away the filth

Which made me think of this site, of course, whose title is inspired by the 5th Labour but whose banner is illustrated with a picture of our labour of the swamps (I guess not too many paintings can exist of the 5th Labour for obvious reasons!).

YbA does well to bring up the image of large amounts of dung in describing the problem on our campuses these days - I used scatological references myself at the time the Walt & Mearsh show was playing on my campus, largely to let off steam during a rather nauseating moment which came to pass over here by the swamp. And it's dung - truck loads of it - which is poisoning debates amongst activists in my union and bringing my profession into disrepute.

What, this is solidarity?!


I think perhaps I might just possibly have worked myself to a position of greater robustness at present so, tentatively, I hereby pledge to blog more regularly. Thanks for all the links and the appreciation you've shown this blog. I will try to make your clicks more worthwhile from henceforth...

Let's just hope this spirit & pledge survive our imminent UCU Congress and that this swamp of swamps doesn't cause me to retreat into silence anew...

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