And Miles to Go Before I Sleep

In C. S. Lewis’ children’s adventure The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the young Narnia explorers sail into a black and evil-looking cloud. They enter into it and find their way by lamp-light and regular depth-soundings. It is not merely a matter of sailing in the gloom. It is blacker than black. Soon the water gets shallower – there is nothing to be seen and the darkness appears to be capable of swallowing the light.

Lewis’ talent is evident when we readers shudder in anticipation as we read that a piercing cry breaks the silence and a fanatical wide-eyed human wreck is dragged on board.

“Take me away, take me away!” he shrieks, “Before it is too late get yourselves out of here. The darkness will get you and you will succumb. Do you not know what this is? This is the land where all your dreams come true!”

     Remember that their dreams include some truly unmentionable nightmares they retreat just as fast as they can, keeping just a hair’s breadth ahead of the ghoulish memories of terror which come flooding back. The terror is overwhelming because it grows from within-inside the person and even when the black cloud is left behind the Dawn Treader ploughs on into the light with a deeply relieved and very sober crew.

The proposed amalgamation of Chisholm IT with Monash University is the black cloud. The writer of this epistle is the crazed maniac. The optimists are telling us that this will be the fulfilment of all of our dreams and so we should by all means keep going. And so I am suggesting they may be right!

After all, after these massive nation-wide amalgamations known as the “Dawkins reforms”, will we not all be in sub-departments of an overarching Business School? We may not all play at being “Dean”, but after the Dawkins reform will there be any room left for genuinely university education?

Why do I ask this? Well, each university faculty and each of its departments will be part of the “university enterprise” and overall policy will ensure that universities run, more or less, as “for profit” educational institutions. The nightmares we have had about our culture’s slide into a materialistic and nihilistic phantasy world will be given free reign. They have begun already to overtake us.

There are even blacker depths to this merger business than we have experienced thus far in 1989. What about the murky depths of academic conscience? Now Monash academics will have their own institutional history to content with, but I suggest that we at Chisholm will be in no position to offer viable assistance if we simply sail along into the merger as we have been doing. “How is your conscience?” I ask my fellow academics. Are you truly convinced that you should become part of what is now, for all intents and purposes, a corporation which, in one of its sectors, is committed to making money out of the destruction of human life?

The programme for experimentation on human embryos has been revealed as a naked attempt to make money and professional reputations, and as a side effect, make humans and maybe help infertile women become mothers.

If this was not the motive why would the doctors have resigned when the Government showed itself as unwilling to bow immediately to the recommendations of the Waller committee?

Something very sinister is at work here and we neglect the long-term and painstaking theoretical reflection and discussion of this matter at our peril. I therefore call on Chisholm Council to call a halt! We do not know what we are getting ourselves into. Our consciences are not at ease, and it is simply a matter of adventuresome foolhardiness to keep sailing into the dark when matters such as there, of life and death, are at stake.

Will our academic community be in any position to pass judgement on previous attempts to subject human peoples to scientific and laboratory experimentation (the work done under Hitler needs no elaboration), if we at Chisholm now fail to raise our conscientious inquiries, if not our outright objections? Will not our silence become consent?

Do not matters such as these need our communal and open discussion before getting down to organisational and other matters. The fact that we, and those we ask to manage us, have not been convening meetings to discuss matters such as these in philosophical and theoretical ways, casts a very bad light upon our performance as managers of an academic community. Have we not succumbed to the darkness? Are we not being told to have “pleasant dreams”?

Are we not forgetting the nightmares that bedevil our recent past?
Are we serious about the scholarly vocation or not? 
Or is it simply a matter of money? 
If so, then let the mammonists have the guts to say so.

Are we not in the dark because we have snuffed out the light given to us? Is it yet possible to act with integrity in the fields of scholarship and science?

Or did King David sing in vain?

Fulfilled is that person
who strides out not in the way of those intent on evil,
Nor postures himself in the way of the evil-doers
not takes his seat among the habitual mockers.
But his own happiness is with the Law of the Lord,
and on this law he gives his utmost,
his diligent attention night and day.
He is like the tree
planted by streams of water,
It yields its fruit in due season,
And its leaf does not wither nor curl.
In all that he does he prospers.
The evil-doers are not at all like that,
they are like chaff driven away
to who-knows-where by the wind.
Therefore the wicked will not stand straight on judgement day.
And sinners cannot find a place to posture themselves
among the gathering of the righteous.
But God comprehensively knows the way of those with right-standing.
But the way of the wicked is a path headed for destruction.

Bruce C Wearne 31 May 1989

Naked Wasp 12:6, June 1989

Retrospective Comment 5.10.16
Having published what was something of public statement about my view of the merger, “John Calvin against John Dawkins” the issue of Monash University’s medical research that involved experimentation using human embryos that has been collected from IVF research now became moot as we at Chisholm considered the proposed merger.
What were we to say when academics involved in human fertility research demanded a change to the law in order to engage in what they said was necessary for their scientific research: experimentation on human embryos. How were we to understand the threat, which was given prominence in the media that, should the Government be unwilling to legislate according to the “demands of current front-line research” then certain leading researchers would resign and go overseas to continue their research. The issue was raised at a meeting of Chisholm Institute of Technology academic staff, that had been convened by the Director to discuss the proposed merger with Monash University. I stood and put a suggestion to the Director that Chisholm staff needed to know more about what was being done about this matter by the Monash academic community before we could continue to consider any proposal to support a merger with that institution. (I am a Monash graduate). The Director did not wish to have the matter discussed. Presumably, it was something Chisholm staff did not need to know about. It may well be that his dismissal of any need to discuss the question of “conscientious dissent” was in good faith. Since he was in a position of public trust he seems to have suggested that we could implicitly trust him. But it was this “trust me” attitude, that was also the attitude taken by other senior academics and the Monash Vice-Chancellor at the time, that fed into my second article for the Naked Wasp.
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