[guest post by JVW]
[EDIT: Well, how gauche of me. His name is spelt — another Britishism there — “Whyman” not “Wyman.” Corrections added. My bad. – JVW]
In the continuing coverage of the aftermath of last week’s Brexit vote, the redoutable Aussie wag Tim Blair calls attention to one Tom Whyman, a 27-year-old lecturer in philosophy at Britain’s University of Essex who was given space in last Sunday’s New York Times to — to — well, I’m not exactly sure what point Tom Whyman, PhD, is actually trying to get across.
His main complaint seems to be that the renumeration for his academic position doesn’t allow him the luxury of living on his own year-round in Colchester, the town in which his job is located, let alone afford him the glamorous life of a man-about-town in London (a mere 107 kilometer daily commute away), which should be the reward bestowed upon him commensurate with his lofty credential. Dr. Whyman thus finds himself forced to live once again with his parents in Arlesford during the summer breaks, directionally opposite from London to Colchester, a troubling 210 km journey to the warm embrace of the faculty lounge. And it’s not just his forced existence in his home town that has the young academic all in a bother, it’s the face that Alseford represents his “personal hell.” Let’s let Tim Blair fisk Tom Whyman’s musings which he does so magnificently, focusing intently on the good doctor’s apparent dependence upon public transportation:
[Whyman] We are not used to thinking that a place like this — a pleasant town with a pretty center — might actually be hell. There is almost no poverty and only the occasional act of violence. There are good schools, a range of shops, a heritage railway. In fact, it’s somewhere that a lot of people, apparently, actively want to live …
But dig below the surface, and you will find the demons crawling.
[Blair] Sure you’re not thinking of Rotherham, mate?
[. . . ]
[Whyman] Poor public transportation makes leaving impossible in a practical, everyday sense – at least if you can’t drive.
[Blair] Learn how to drive, then. Problem solved.
[Whyman] The town thwarts any ambitions that stretch beyond its borders. From what I can tell, a young person from Alresford, forced to move back in with his parents after college, will typically find himself unable to get work that is not based in Alresford.
[Blair] That whole “learning how to drive” thing can be extremely helpful.
[Whyman] And it is impossible to leave Alresford, because Alresford is not just a place: It is an ideology that infects your very soul. Let’s call it “Alresfordism.” It is an ideology of smallness, of contraction, of wanting to curl up in our own personal, financially secure hole and will everything amusing or interesting or exciting in the world away.
[Blair] For the love of God, is there nobody in Britain who can teach this idiot how to operate a steering wheel and a couple of pedals?
Young Dr. Whyman ties this into the pro-Brexit vote being the manifestation of this “ideology of smallness” that sought to clip the wings of the more cosmopolitan — dare we say it, progressive? — urbanites who have the proper mindset to understand how empty and pointless are such things as a tradition of home and hearth. Do read the rest of Blair’s take-down of this poor, callow kid who is way in over his head on, it would seem, just about everything. And if that wasn’t fun enough, our own estimable wit from flyover country, David Burge (who blogs, though not so much anymore, as Iowahawk) set his many fans loose on Twitter to provide their reactions:
"is there nobody in Britain who can teach this idiot how to operate a steering wheel and a couple of pedals?"https://t.co/wYowQ2HfJ8
— David Burge (@iowahawkblog) June 28, 2016
Here are a couple of the best responses from some wry wit going by the Twitter name “Mr. Whiskers”:
— Mr. Whiskers (@mherlhy0816) June 28, 2016
— Mr. Whiskers (@mherlhy0816) June 28, 2016
It’s instructive, yet not surprising, to see the United Kingdom with the same problem of over-credentialed yet under-employed millennials that we face in this country. No doubt Tom Whyman was convinced at some point that pursuing a PhD in philosophy (I always liked the idea of a Doctor of Philosophy of Philosophy, or in the more elegant Latin, Philosophiae Doctor Philosophiae) would lead to a nice tenure-track position at a reputable university, and that once he received tenure it would be a safe sinecure from which he could hector us dull vulgarians on the virtues of his academic Marxism and cultural cosmopolitanism. I always wonder at what point during their studies as they are memorizing for rote recitation the tortured logic of Foucault and Marcuse it dawns upon these budding intellectuals that there are a whole lot more people pursuing the credential than there are jobs requiring that credential. One obvious remedy to this would be if the U.K. simply stopped encouraging or even allowing so many students to study for advanced degrees, but it seems that the academic establishment in Britain is every bit as entrenched in its rent-seeking as their colleagues here in the United States.
I wish Dr. Whyman well, but he might at the very least want to consider learning how to drive.