Letters & Essays
The Establishment and I
I recently read a definition of Establishment as 'a group of people who hold power in a society and dominate its institutions' (Daily Mail, 10 September 2008, article entitled 'An Establishment Paedophile' by Charlotte Metcalf.) That has been my problem all my life, that the Establishment has opposed me, taking it in the extended sense of including 'those who have power in the local community'.
Sir George Joy was Establishment, and the fact that he had been thrown out at the end to fend for himself with a miserable pittance of a pension and ruined health did not, apparently, weaken his allegiance to the Establishment per se. The Establishment was against me, so he was not for me. He was Establishment, Mary Adams (Head of BBC Talks) was Establishment, and that is strong bonding. 'Oh, he had a reputation once,' Mrs Adams said, sounding impressed, the first time I mentioned him to her.
Of course, all the information Sir George had given me about hallucinatory phenomena, ESP and PK, and even letting me interview the subjects in the office, although potentially useful, could be regarded as encouraging me in a compensatory 'interest', which was an entirely different matter from helping me get financial support to make use of the extensive information I now had to make progress in actual research, with a view to establishing a claim on re-entry to a university career.
All members of the Establishment stick together. The Principal of Somerville could have given me moral, if not financial, support for my plans to stay on in Oxford after my maths degree while working quickly to get a meaningful qualification. She had even mentioned - tantalised me with - some grant which the College could have given me. But she had chosen not to give me support of any kind, and to try to drive me away from Oxford instead. She was Establishment, so Mary Adams and Sir George wanted her to have her way.
Sir George would not move to Oxford to be our resident senior supporter in 1962, which would have made a lot of difference to our position as an independent academic institution. He had originally agreed to come, and even driven round Oxford with his son looking at places he might live, but then changed his mind. There is no knowing who may have influenced him; at this time all the support that had previously seemed to be available was breaking down.
Indeed, even Sir George's pension, paltry though it was for an ex-Colonial Governor, would have made quite a difference to my position. As it was, I had only the equivalent of a research grant for one person, covenanted for seven years by Admiral Strutt, and no prospects at all beyond that. Well, I am back in Oxford now. As near to the centre as I want to be, in view of the pollution, and we are quite near enough for people with university appointments to come and work also for this independent university with much higher standards. I know they won't, because they are Establishment and we are not, but it is not in reality impossible.