Monday, 12 March 2007

A matter of consequence

Considerable space has been devoted to the ‘Griffith affair’, here and on the Otoom website. Bad assessments happened before so why bother, especially after all these years?

One could express this slightly differently. With all the cynicism about the so-called ‘pillars of society’, what does another well-deserved dose matter anymore?

From politicians to business, from academics to the judiciary, the effects of cluster building in a complex society and the associated blindness to conditions elsewhere have spared no-one. Still, academia is different.

Politicians may have their agendas, business its greed, and the judiciary bows to the ruling regime; yet all those players, at some point in their performance, act in line with the information available to them. That information is ultimately supplied by the universities from where it filters, ever so gradually, into the wider forum.

Curtail that flow and facts become brittle, spectres rule, and human life diminishes. But poison it at the spring and even the most elementary nourishment is a threat.

A life of plenty makes it difficult to imagine absence. Our achievements have engendered a false sense of security where trivialities are paramount, danger becomes entertainment, and warnings are the target of scorn.

What could be more devastating than dying of thirst? How many suburbanites know what it is like to have their tongue swell inside their mouths, to have the body suddenly experience hot as cold, and to watch as your mind wilts away?

Right now the region of south-east Queensland is going to run out of water within the next two years. At that point there won’t be any sand dunes covering the CBD but all the dams which have supplied the area with water over the past decades will be below five percent capacity. The remaining sludge will barely be useable and that includes drinking, and the power stations will be shut down.

To be sure, major construction programs are under way and if all goes well the work will be finished almost literally the very week the water runs out. Who knows what the restriction levels will be then, and what kind of hardships a million people will be subjected to.

So what’s my point? The water crisis is only one of several which have been documented over the past few years (health, education, security, have been others) and they all reflect the general character of this state’s demographic. A lack of respect for education, a close horizon, religious intensity, and moralistic fears in a population determine how reality is being responded to. The very features mentioned in my honours thesis and deemed worthy of special mention by both examiners to underline their disapproval.

Forget about artificial neural networks, contextual layers and double-linked lists. When well-paid, respected, yet ultimately decadent intellectuals feels secure enough to indulge their fantasies with no regard to the society behind them, when there is an institution that actually houses them and even derives a source of pride from such inanity, then it becomes a matter of interest as to the surrounding perception.

I wonder then how other staff at Griffith see all this. For that matter, how do others outside Griffith relate to it? It would be worthwhile finding out. There are consequences.

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