Anyone who has worked with young children will know that some, having committed a transgression, will deny everything, even when an adult has observed them directly. Such evasions become more complex as the child grows older. Dishonesty, not quite so bare-faced, becomes more like a conjuring trick that doesn’t work, a pretence that fools no one, except perhaps the one who is lying. Gunter Grass, the German writer who died this week, referred to this when interviewed about his time in the Hitler Youth: “Believing: it means believing in your own lies.” He was grateful that he “got this lesson very early.”
Many never get this lesson at all, those who, according to another 20th century writer, Cyril Connolly, live in a state of “permanent adolescence”. This would appear to be the case with Kingston’s management, the blatant flaws in their running of the University obvious to nearly everyone — and made clear in the staff survey for those slow on the uptake — although not, apparently, to them. Like disagreeable teenagers they sullenly ignore their own bad behaviour and retreat to their offices, convinced of their rectitude, of the rightness of their neoliberalism. Unlike teens, however, they are in a position to do far more damage and are too old to grow out of it.
All this may remind us of another Connolly insight: “In spite of the slow conversion of progressive ideas into the fact of history, the Dark Ages have a way of coming back.”