Posts Tagged ‘of the university’

“I have come out of the deeps beyond space and time to look again at this little planet I have visited since its beginning. I have seen life clambering out of drifting slime towards consciousness and will. I have watched the ascent of your species to the dawn of understanding and the beginnings of power. I care for you, and now I am impatient with you. For I see plainly that I overrated your intelligence, that you have blundered into knowledge and opportunity, and that you do not know how to grasp your knowledge nor how to realize your opportunities. Individually and incidentally you can be bright creatures but collectively you are a feeble folk. Time marches on and you trifle with your lives. You realize neither the dangers nor the possibilities of human life. You fail to organize, you fail to educate. Everywhere the world falls into disorder for the want of the mental leadership such people as you here, pretend to supply…

Time marches on. The ingenuity of your race, working without coordination or foresight, produces one disconnected invention after another, so that mechanical Power grows in your world like a cancer. In quite a little while now, in a few decades at most, it will be possible for any small body of desperate men to poison your whole atmosphere, sweep your world bare with infections or blow your planet to pieces. You here will do nothing to anticipate and prevent that. When the catastrophe comes maybe it will still find Camford dressed up in its gowns and its Gothic, performing its age-old function of keeping education within limits and obstructing the growth of any controlling intelligence in the world.

Why am I saying these things here to you in Camford? Because I have come to like this breed of mankind. Because you represent the limits of its education. Because you stand both at its head and in its way. You who are assembled here today constitute a typical centre of education. And deliberately you ignore the fact that human life is mental. The essential thing in human life is education, the growth of a common mind and will. If mankind fails it will be through the failure of its teachers, the weakness of its schools, the obstinacy, the wilful obstruction of its universities. Cannot you realize so plain a thing as that? It is appalling that you here are so central and so important to the human future, but you are. Outsiders cannot do anything if you resist. You are too well entrenched. You are feeble in innovation but invincible in resistance. Your littleness here has blocked the education of the English and blighted the educational development of the rest of the world through a century of opportunity, and still your predominance is unchallenged. You—and your sister imitations throughout the world—have monopolized the best of the youth of each generation, because there was nowhere else for it to go for instruction. Monopolized you have, and mistaught and marred. Maybe presently there will be mundane voices to echo mine, and maybe then you may change your note, but will you change your spirit? Can you change the spirit of this place? This old, this weakly lovely place? This dreadful place?

Surely even you for all your elaborately cultivated affectations and self-protections, must know—reluctantly and secretly indeed—but still you know it—that there can be no escape for your world, for all mankind, from the ages of tragic confusion ahead of you, except through so heroic an ordering of knowledge, so valiant a beating out of opinions, such a refreshment of teaching and such an organization of brains as will constitute a real and living world university, head, eyes and purpose for Man. That is the primary need of your species now. It is your world’s primary want. It must come now—if it ever is to come. Disintegration and decay wait for no one. They wait for nothing. Plainly before you now—I cannot believe you blind to it for all your refusal to see—is the ultimate frustration of the promise of mankind, defeat and an end. Have you no intimations of the enormity of your default here? Will you make no stir to save knowledge and thought before undisciplined ignorance destroys itself with its own machines? I who go to and fro outside space and time have seen and see. There is no salvation for races that will not save themselves. Half the stars in the sky are the burning rubbish of worlds that might have been.”

– H. G. Wells, The Camford Visitation. 1937. Chapter 6.

Read Full Post »