IF Capital, part 7: NOT meeting David Lodge — 𝗗𝗔𝗥𝗞 𝗠𝗔𝗥𝗫𝗜𝗦𝗠

Where were we? 

We were in the 1990s, in Birmingham, the second biggest city in the UK, with a try-hard but failing vibe captured by The Fall’s satirical and sarcastic, “Birmingham School of Business School

Birmingham School of Business School
Laughing-stock of European
Olympic bidding again and again
“Exciting developments”

Birmingham was the civic equivalent of an aging TV star signing autographs for 5 quid a pop at a poorly attended fan convention. Its glory days, to be frank, were not that glorious, and very much behind it. The pretensions of the civic leaders, often bolstered by romantic tales of the city’s proud working class history, and the hopes of local business leaders, who dreamt of silicon valleys beyond their reach and imagination, couldn’t assail the imperial power of the great capital, London, nor come close to emulating the success of the shining entrepreneurial cathedrals across the Atlantic. Birmingham is doomed to forever strive for greatness but equally doomed to never achieve it.

Much the same could be said of Birmingham’s institutions of higher education.

It would be too cynical, and quite wrong, to be entirely sarcastic about any effort to educate, enlighten and uplift. I was luckily ensconced in a PhD program, entirely paid for by the University, trying earnestly to apply the scientific method to human emotions. Not, of course, by engaging or understanding my own — for that would have required a level of emotional intelligence far beyond my powers. No, I aimed to understand our intimate feelings of subjectivity by writing code, that is building computational theories, and then writing papers and attending conferences etc. Exciting developments indeed.

And so it came to pass that an academic conference on “Understanding Emotions” materialized in the red-brick campus of Birmingham University, probably sometime around 1997, a campus originally built in the 1900s with funding from Andrew Carnegie (the Scottish-American robber-baron) and “Sir” John Holcroft (infamous for funding private militias to violently attack striking workers). Such luminaries decorated the campus with the clock tower, “Old Joe”, a knock-off of the Torre del Mangia in Siena. According to local legend Old Joe is the tallest free-standing clock tower in the world. This is almost certainly false, a typical overcompensatory boast by civic leaders highly conscious of Birmingham’s second, and perhaps third rate, status. 

IF Capital, part 7: NOT meeting David Lodge — 𝗗𝗔𝗥𝗞 𝗠𝗔𝗥𝗫𝗜𝗦𝗠


Categories: Philosophy

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