Friday, 26 September 2008

The first thing we do...

"The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers" - Act IV, Scene II, Henry VI, William Shakespeare.

And the saga continues.

To recap: after a grotesque evaluation of an honours thesis in which portions of text had been invented by the examiners while at the same time turning a blind eye to entire tracts, the effects were felt over the years. A stand-offish attitude which prevented a proper analysis of the issue built a wall around the culprits and the kept the accuser - myself - firmly on the outside. When some form of communication was attempted earlier this year, Griffith University's vice chancellor Ian O'Connor had the police take me away from his campus.

Getting bundled into a police van is one thing, but such action as an eventual result of academic achievement is quite another (by the way, no complaint against the attending officers - their manners were far superior to those of this vice chancellor).

Then there is the case of the destroyed records. A request under the freedom of Information Act to learn the names of the three examiners yielded one; and he died last year. The other two, still alive and well, have been erased from history. Interesting. Good work, Mr. O'Connor.

The university's law firm is Minter Ellison which, so their website tells us, has a "a pre-eminent reputation" in Queensland. It must have taken some effort to get there; no doubt choosing your clients carefully along the way as their interests - whatever they may be - are vigorously defended would be one factor.

A query to that citadel of cooperation referred to what kind of action would lead to being taken to court for defamation. Not being the sort of customer who could mark their glory book I was not deemed worthy of a reply. Instead a note from Griffith's pro vice chancellor told me to engage my own legal advisor to answer that question. Clearly, Minter Ellison know how to write letters, they're just being selective about whom they send them to.

Phantasising about a thesis, using Queensland Police to whisk away some pesky ex-student and destroying evidence along the way paints the kind of ethics forming Minter Ellison's definition of a 'good client'.

Shady characters huddling together for their own criminal ends and using the trappings of success thus gained to bludgeon critics is nothing new here. Our honourable system of the law drapes them in gilded ermine where the cloak itself becomes a signal for the rest to stay well away. Being rather immune to the heavy symbolism of rich wigs - perhaps put it down to my republican heritage - I tend to see past the curly hair, however flea-ridden it may be; there is enough vermin to contend with.

One does not have to be a Jack Cade nor one of his cronies to get the itch from their bites.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Griffithgate: let's ask the experts

Astute readers of this blog may recall the outcome from my application under the Freedom of Information Act to know the names of the three examiners responsible for the bizarre marks of my honours thesis (see Griffithgate: One dead, two to go).

Not only were the results ambiguous, they further hinted at attempts by Griffith University to throw a veil over the affair. Since it is not within my nature to block the traffic protesting nor aim a blow to the vice-chancellor's head (I leave that to my more hot-blooded compatriots) one looks for other avenues.

Some time ago I was threatened with possible court action for defamation and bullying which did not eventuate. Nor was there such a response when I repeated what led to the threat in the first place (see An update... and then there was silence).

Being a mere layman as far as the law is concerned (my sense of ethics may allow me to comment on what is just, but the law and justice are like sports and fitness - the relation does not necessarily work both ways) I thought it would be a good idea to engage the experts.

Minter Ellison is a prominent law firm with offices in Brisbane. Griffith University happens to be one their clients. In a letter I briefly described the situation and asked whether under the conditions something like defamation was indeed inapplicable. Three weeks have passed and no response.

One would imagine given its association with the university the law firm would have something to say on the topic. Yet either my letter invited no consideration whatsoever or some communication did indeed eventuate between the two. In the latter case the advice, it is reasonable to assume, would fall on the side of the client.

Associations are a tricky business. They can be of mutual benefit but can also turn into a noose around both necks if one of them should be strung up. Lawyers may not always see it that way, but public life offers us certain examples in which erstwhile marriages dissolve into a form of amnesia with the previous link erased from the memory banks of one party should the other enter a state of opprobrium (and of course the media have a field day).

How far Minter Ellison would be prepared to go is anyone's guess, but comparing the status of Griffith with that of myself is not an altogether irrelevant exercise. While a few things come to mind via the keywords 'Griffith', 'vice-chancellor' and 'criminal' it is too early for the group with 'Minter Ellison' added to it. Then again, perhaps not.

In the same context letters were sent to Anna Bligh, state premier of Queensland, and Julia Gillard, federal minister for education, informing them about my ride in a police van from Griffith campus and the destruction of the two examiners' records. While the matter has been referred to the state's education minister, his federal counterpart has remained silent so far. Naturally it is not for me to prescribe the scope of a politician's interest.

In the meantime the general public is fed sweet bread in the form of ads run by Griffith [1] self-applauding its academic rigour on one hand and of the grand vision as presented by the state government - "strong, green, smart, healthy and fair" [2] on the other.

Further references:

1. Courier Mail, "The Griffith Honours College...", 30 Aug 08.

2. Courier Mail, "The ringmaster reflects", 13 Sep 08.

Monday, 1 September 2008

The fate of society

What determines the path of a society can be analysed under the auspices of a general formality. It starts with a prerequisite: being able to sustain one's presence.

The effort required to pursue the challenges of the moment needs a commensurate supply of resources. That can be transferred from one scale to another, provided we keep referring to principles.

For example, if a society decides to go urban the inherent activities must produce a sufficient amount of skills, materials and finance to support cities. Moving to the lower end of the scale, the cognitive dynamics can be analysed in a similar light.

The mental picture that represents an urban lifestyle requires a level of comprehension sufficient to address the administrative and organisational issues that relate to a relatively complex environment - and that includes an adequate degree of foresight.

Since most societies are hardly an island, interactions with the outside generates a flow of information whose contents are not necessarily in synch with the recipient. How the differences are dealt with depends on the overall quality of understanding on either side. The result becomes a function of the interacting dynamics at whatever level of efficacy.

That brief summary already hints at the contingencies needed for a well-functioning human activity system at any scale. On an individual level ideas make for potential options but need their host's situatedness in the real to turn them into effective outcomes. Groups may have ideals too, but unless the former are able to organise themselves so they will shape their environment in a realisable manner, those ideals will come to nothing. Worse still, they force their bearers into scenarios that are not sustainable and may well prove the group's downfall.

Societies at large follow the calls of their culture, but somewhere along the way their environment (geography, resources and other humans) needs to come to the party.

No path through history is ever a smooth one. Discrepancies between the inner imagery and the real impose qualifications often diametrically opposite to an intent. What overcomes such adversities is the vigour of a people and the ability to adjust one's imagination to what is.

The vigour comes from the will to look, and the readiness to adjust comes from the capacity to see.

Even a cursory glance around the world will show the extent to which either is manifest.

Ideology, that mental straightjacket par excellence, projects its own chimera onto the psyche of a people. Sometimes the spectres happen to be in line with reality, often they interfere with its dynamics. Submission to ideology's tenets impoverishes the will and makes for brittle sycophancy.

But reality, reality could not care less.