2. "I want to be read"
I keep being unwell, so I made another translation of one of the columns I published in Duch 21 years ago. The former three were ME + me : Real science & real psychology = joy, "Mandarins with an IQ of 115", and Yahooism & democracy.
And I do not have the health on the moment to supply background remarks, though I do intend to supply them eventually. The following was published in Dutch in April 1989:
"I want to be read"
Multatuli wrote, and I write the same, for it is time to make up an intermediate reckoning: This is the last Spiegeloog of this academic year. Why do I want to be read, at least as far as my columns in Spiegeloog are involved? In the first place, because I want to confront you with a number of my ideas, about which I think that they are, in case I am approximately correct, both in your interests and truly socially relevant. Some of these ideas are:
- that the education you receive at the UvA is exceptionally bad, both compared to what is usual at good foreign universities, as when measured in terms of sensible intellectual norms
- that this robs all intelligent students, without exception, of their fundamental human right of receiving an education that is fit for their talents
- that the civilization in which we live is slowly corrupting and moronifying: Where education is bad, culture turns cancerous.
- that having to pay money back for one's study loans for what is on offer at the UvA is plain fraudulent theft
- the primary responsibility for the above, ever since the Mammoetwet of 1963 and the WUB of 1970, and for all levels of education from toddlers to the universities is that of the professors and lecturers in the universities: They get paid for it; they know most of it (or at least should); they should be best able to see the importance of good education and real science for the maintenance and improvement of human civilizaton and culture; and they have, with very few exceptions since these laws were accepted, year after year done nothing at all to stop the many moronifications introduced in Dutch education, and have kept silent about all the many worsenings of education, and said nothing at all about the flood of stupifications that have been or still are being introduced:
- shortening of the time to study
- worsening of the system for study grants
- stupification of courses required for entrance of university
- stupification of courses required for university degrees
Who has ever heard of a demonstration of professors and lecturers (in their own student days extremist radicals, often) against this? Where are the thousands of angry letters of professors and lecturers and schoolteachers? Did anyone ever see any interest in anything on their parts but
1. their salaries
2. their salaries
3. their salaries, and
4. idiocies and cant about the great importance
of science and education like
"studying one does in a town"?
- that the reason your university teachers do not exercise their responsilities is not so much that they don't want to as that they are grossly incompetent: The great majority of your university teachers is not really interested in science or education; can't teach; doesn't do any scientific work of any importance whatsoever; and keeps "working" in the UvA because there they will get 3 times as much as elsewhere for at most 1/10th of the effort they would have to make in a normal commercial firm.
In the columns I have written this year in Spiegeloog I have spoken of all these issues, often in a satirical or indignant mood, with the result that the pieces I published since April 1988 contain the sharpest and most satirical criticism of the UvA that has ever been published, to the best of my knowledge. (Thanks to the editor! This takes courage!)
I have displayed your teaches as whores of reason; I have said that the majority are parasites and impostors, because they are incompetent and lazy; I have asserted that most are hypocrites and not really interested in science; I have insisted that the consequence of these stupefied schools and universities will be a cultural and civic moronification, that is politically very dangerous - but the ladies and gentlemen who are professors and lecturers do not even answer me.
What might be, do you suppose, the reason that your professors and lecturers do not answer me, even while I asserted in almost every column I wrote that these highly educated supposedly highly intelligent and - in any case - extremely wellpaid ladies and gentlemen are lazy and incompetent? These all are, I'd say, provable defamation if I lie, or a reason for them to disappear from tyhe UvA if I speak the truth? Would it be that they are each and all too afraid to loose a public debate with me?
In any case, who remains silent consents (Qui tacet consentit): Your teachers allow that their reputations have been muddied for a year now, and the reason is that they know there is little to save for them: Most know very well that they don't have any scientific reputation themselves, while most have a reputation for teaching awfully bad courses.
Apart from that: I'm not quite the only one to speak as I do. Similar if not the same things have been said by others: By Willem Frederik Hermans about the Dutch universities; by Alan Bloom about the American universities ("The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today's Students"); by Alain Finkelkraut about France (known to me only from interviews); and by Alexander Zinoviev about Russia ("Yawning Heights" - an excellent satire of a vert brilliant logician and philosopher of science).
But what is the point of my verbal violence? Why do I confront you with such ideas and criticisms as I did - which is never popular, since it damages too mant illusions and breaks down too many pretensions? Why don't I do like almost everyone does - a friendly compliment here; some sweetness there; some flattery spiced with invisible irony over there and, provided you don't differ overly much from the dominant fashions in ideas, behaviour and personality, and your career takes off?
In the end the reason I don't do so is that I believe that the humane world gets destroyed by moral donothings and spineless serving of "the bitch goddess Success" - and apart from that I am just too much horrified by the stupidity, the parasitism, the fraudulence and the impostures that I had to witness in the UvA to make my contempt invisible: I do not have much of a talent for tact, by which those who are higher gifted in this one respect than I am are able to treat prominent dumb parasites as if they are welldoers and scientist of rank, so as to become part of their cliques.
For behold: In most respects of importance we live in a barbaric century: 100 million deaths by 2 world wars; at least 250 million continuously starving human beings; in more than half of all countries torture is "a matter of course" when interrogated by police; human rights are not fully maintained in any country for all citizens and are in most countries systematically raped as concerns most citizens. And next to this, mankind has two fundamental problems there never were before: Nature is being poisoned at high speed by economical greed and political incompetence; and a handful of professional politicians and dictators, none of whom is known for being anything special in terms of intellect or morality, is capable of blowing up the world.
What can be done against this? In the short run very little, but in the longer run (if that is given to us) the only way to change the sketched situation in a rational and reasonable way is to use existing science in a better way and to make better use the scientific methods of rational reasoning; by giving the greatest possible number the best possible education; by keeping the centers of science and culture, and especially the universities, as autonomous and scientific as possible instead of making them subservient to the state's bureaucracues or to popular political madness; and by striving for a political order in which the major social and governmental priorities are these:
· 1. To provide all human beings with an income that is sufficient to supply their needs as regards food, housing, clothing, health and education.
· 2. To provide all human beings with equal chances for an education that is appropriate for such talents as they have, and to decide what they want to do with their own lives themselves
· 3. To provide all human beings with the rights to free speech, free thought and free action, in so far as they do not hinder others from the same, and to organize themselves into groups to further their own interests and to reach their own ends.
· 4. To provide all human beings with equal protections by laws that give to all the same rights and duties (apart from lacking the capacities therefore)
· 5. To have as main social and political ends
o the protection and maintenance of human life and of nature;
o to further science and art; and
o to realize social ends by means of free cooperation, mutual tolerance, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and on the basis of relevant scientific knowledge
My "program" (if this crude sketch deserves that name) is, in short, completely in the tradition of the Enlighenment and Greek philosophy - as old as the heathens, and never realized even in approximation in any society of more than a few tenthousands of human beings.
What I see in The Netherlands, and what happened to me in the UvA, is for a great part in total contradiction with this. In The Netherlands and in the UvA the tendency is precisely the other way:
All education has been simplified; there hardly is any scientific education in most faculties in the university; all of Dutch scientific education is governed by political pressure groups and professional political careerists without any scientific competence or interest, whereas the decisions about Dutch education are mostly taken on the basis of political delusions; and the universities almost completely lost the autonomy they used to have.
And while The Netherlands, from a historical point of view, at present is one of the least unpleasant places to survive, none of the above five points hold here:
Children of poor parents since Minister Deetman can no longer be rationally expected to be able to study; seen historically, the chances in Holland are more equal than they were and then they are elsewhere, but in practice "equality" turns out to mean more and more "socially adjusted to the average", instead of equal chances to develop individual talents; the freedoms of speech, person and association exist in Holland, and are very important, but the social usage they are put to are mostly very poor: Irrational fashions in opinions, clothing and behaviour determine for most what they will think, wear, do and dare, and the main result are impostures and cultural poverty; equal rights and equal duties exist as little in Holland as elsewhere, although indeed the inequalities tend to be larger elsewhere; and the most important social and political ends practised and touted in The Netherlands are economical - not cultural, not scientific, and not moral either.
In my eyes, Holland moronifies, and not only Holland. I do not know the Dutch numbers, but they will differ little from the following - and please note these show that this is not a "scientific" age (but a barbarian and moronic one):
"The scientific world view is very rare. My guess is that at least 99% of all currently living human adults have a non-scientific world view and way of thinking. Most people probably base their lives on religion and/or magic. (..) let me amuse the reader by mentioning some results a Gallup investigation conducted in the U.S. in 1978 produced. According to it, 57% of all Americans believe in ufos, 54% in angels, 51% in ESP, 39% in devils, 37% in precognition, 29% in astrology, 24% in clairvoyance, and (only!) 11% in ghosts." (pag. 226 van R. Tuomela, "Science, Action, and Reality", D. Reidel Pub. Comp. 1985, ISBN 90-277-2098-3.)
This frightens me: Humankind evolves by means of science and moral action - the greatest enermies of humanity are human stupidy and human egoism: "Stupidity and egoism are the roots of all vice" (Buddha)
I believe that the coming 25 years will be decisive years for the continuance of humankind, and I believe that the only realistic chance it will lies in a radical change in the ideas about and the usage of science and education. I do not expect you to agree with me - I write to make you think. What moves me (in part) can be put in the following terms:
What is the explanation that Athens and Florence, each with at most 100.000 inhabitants, in a few generations could produce a culture with hundreds of geniuses in most fields of science and art... whereas in a country like The Netherlands, with 14 million inhabitants, who per person per days produce a 100 or a 1000 times more (joules, not culture) than the Athenians and Florentians, so that the past 50 years for the generation that come after us will be mostly important only because of the gigantic amounts of poisons, pesticides, and plastics this generation will have left behind, without compensating it by any truly excellent science, literature, cultural creation or architecture?
My answer: It is implausible to suppose less talent gets born - ergo, the system of education and the ways in which individual scientific and artistic talents are treated fail, if a civilization produces little of value.
What we need is a new Enlightenment, a new Age of Reason - a renaissance of an integrated scientific and ethical vision, as sought by such different thinkers who were united in this respect like Aristotle, Lucretius, Voltaire, Diderot, Multatuli and, in this age, Bertrand Russell en Mario Bunge: That is the way to provide the best chances for the classical ideas of rationality and reason - where I, briefly and approximately, mean by "rational": using and looking for ideas that can be founded on logical argument, empirical testing, and that are empirically or mathematically based, and mean by "reasonable": acting according to ideals that are ethical, practisable, liveable (*) and tolerant.
The degree in which human beings think and act rationally and reasonably is proportional to their level of civilization. And that is my central concern.
P.S. As I said, I don't have the energy to provide elucidatory notes, though foreigners probably will need them.
If you want to know more about Holland, heaven for drugsmafiosi and morons, check out The Undutchables - which is not my work at all: I only owe a copy of an English third printing, but that is written by two foreigners who lived together 22 years in the Netherlands before they fled back, and who know and understand Holland and Dutchmen (and women) quite well, and write humorously about their subject. They're currently in their sixth printing, so they must have got something well.
Interestingly the first edition (I didn't know) is from the year this essay was written in: 1989.
For more on the joys and beauties of Holland see Laudatio Neerlandica, and the links there.
P.P.S. It may be I have to stop Nederlog for a while. The reason is that I am physically not well at all. I don't know yet, but if there is no Nederlog, now you know the reason.