Nothing is Sacred: Except for the old pillar that holds the building
(A response to Dr. Peter Rowley)
Dear Dr. Rowley, I am but a humble student of Classics far removed from the location in which this debate is taking place. I have only my voice, and no pull amongst students or faculty anywhere. Furthermore, I am writing this response in lieu to the behest of my own person, not the backing of any group, not even the one pertaining to the saving of Classics are Royal Holloway. Allow me to say, in addition, that before this group came about, I had neither the slightest clue nor cared to know of any universities like the afore-mentioned. Why do these trivial facts matter to you? It matters because one cannot effectively counter a man he does not know; and now that we are acquainted (for I have read about you indeed), I will resume my apology (in the Greek sense, of course) to your post.
First and foremost, you are absolutely right; about everything. Integration does not mean disappearance of the department, men not of Classics are just as smart, or even more so than those within it. We classicists (forgive the title, I am a mere student, but this is more a point than a show of hubris) are more romantic than most, love good rhetoric and look down on other departments for their highly constituted courses that teach job-specific skills. Yes, Dr. Rowley, we can craft a lovely sentence, appreciate the boring phrasing of the Republic and form the backbone of a department in decline not only at Holloway, but around the world. That said, are you not doing the same thing by writing that our department is not worth keeping intact? Would you not defend your department if it were to be integrated with a related science? You would indeed, and reckon your grammatical composition would indeed increase if you thought that with your next letter there was not only an appeal for justice, but hope for the future success of your petition. I hope you will approve of the epitome I made of your arguments, and understand that I have read them carefully,considering their ponderous words you place forth. I hope that you can grant me the courtesy of listening to my own words.
Classics is important because we have been studying it since man was man; we look to Rome, it looked to Greece, and it looked to Persia, which undoubtedly looked further back into the unknown reaches of unrecorded history. But what is important about Classics is not History, we have a department for that. What is important is that there are men who learn from the wisdom of others;that there is a need to understand ourselves as human beings, and that the classicist addresses that problem. Yes, Dr., Philosophers do that; but the men whom I study as a classicist are those who begun the study of philosophy, not only that, but of biology, astrology, mathematics, physics, chemistry, etc. There is no science or art (you may argue all you want but dig deep enough, and you will find the connection) that does not derive from the mind of the wondering man, these original thinkers embodied in the likes of Pythagoras, Lysis, Socrates or Plato. These studies, Dr., highly romanticized indeed, provided the basis of our modern world; yet we humans, encased in the hubris of our limited professions, pretend to know that which we don't know. Indeed, we think that now we have no need for the original thinkers;for we have men who specialize in all fields they of old had to research on their own; and thanks to that we are much more advanced that we have ever been. I would argue, Dr., that we are in a state of scientific advance far beyond our wildest imagination, and yet we suffer a retardation of the mind that inhibits our ability to be people; to care for our constituents, and promote freedom and justice in the world.
Classics has never been the main pathos of any modern man of science, but it has been the basis for 99.9% of them. Forgive my seemingly random number, but I borrowed it from your analysis; for the student who does not study classics directly is indirectly learning it every day. Your yourself are learned in Plato, you know of Spartans and Athenians, of philosophers and stoics, of the Gorgon and Hercules. Yes Dr., any child will more than likely learn mythology before anything else, whether the ones provided by the ancients or a modernized version in the form of religion, state politics or local culture. Do you assume that this knowledge can be researched and understood with the destruction of the Classics as an institution? I would argue in the negative. Men have twisted history enough, by taking a department away you are not simply downsizing; you are destroying our capability to remain uncorrupted by the generalities of standard history.
Furthermore, I will tell you that cutting Classics at Royal Holloway will do nothing to the profession overall, indeed you may vote to destroy it completely, carry out the deed yourself and drag its limp body behind your chariot. You may order the Classics to commit suicide by drinking the hemlock-like cup of budget cuts until those that come out of Holloway's halls are neither educated nor prepared for a world that expects them to know of these romantic and ancient facts for daily use. I can tell you that the decision will be soon resented and the department will live on in other institution, perhaps to the point that Royal Holloway will find the necessity to restore it in the future. But rather, despite the arguments that can be made about world culture, this is a contest that must be won on one concept alone: principle.
Yes Dr., the principle that tells us no man should be told what to do in life; a concept of freedom which ties back to the very men that created it, and which those in the department of Classics study and try to understand, a department for which you are proposing budget cuts. Democracy, freedom and justice are unequivocally Greek, and only the Classicist will understand the moral principle of it, read the words in their original form, spend countless hours doing thankless work interpreting the meaning of ideas written long ago and that will help us carve a better world into stone. Once more, we are not physicists, mathematicians, philosophers, biologists or the like. We are thinkers, Dr. Rowley, taught to do all of the above by rational methodology. We dive into the minds of ancient men to find the answers that our generation seeks so desperately today, transferring the knowledge and hoping that in the emptiness of our halls we can find the ear that will listen, the leader that will care, the curious who will apply. Romanticized indeed, wouldn't you say? ºA load of bollocksª as you so wrote it; but let me say this: smart men can be very dumb; and human beings who understand all about the dangers of fire constantly burn themselves in the flames of misunderstanding and ignorance. I would like to see smart men become wise men, a much more complicated process, and one to which your 99.9% of university graduates do not adhere.
Thus, the reason to oppose Royal Holloway's integration of the History and Classics departments is this: let one men die, and when the culprits hear no voice of lament, they will think it no problem to kill. If I, so far removed from England and so unimportant, allow the Classics at Royal Holloway to fail, what I am saying is that it is no problem to cut these departments elsewhere. My silent lamentation is equal to condemnation for the department I love so much, regardless of location. Royal Holloway's leadership must know that they cannot destroy their Classics section without the lamentation of those who oppose it, thus we send a message to other universities that may be thinking about the same cuts, and make them understand that we will not go silently into the night. You will find that this is a much more powerful reason than the easily countered budget cuts, people's apathy, students' want of money and their pursuit of the careers that will easily provide it, etc. Yes Dr. it is all about money in the end, and Royal Holloway will do what it must, but I will not add my silence to those of others who think it unimportant. Classics gave me a fine writing education, along with rhetoric and love for the ancients, I might as well put it to use.
Finally, your defense of unbiased discourse is ridiculous. What you are is an Earth Sciences Researcher at Royal Holloway; nothing wrong with that. What is wrong is your inability to show yourself as just that, an unapologetic man that seeks the benefit of your employer, as I seek the benefit of mine. I like to dig holes in my spare time, my children do rather enjoy it, that doesn't make me an Earth Sciences expert, or does it? I am ¼ North American and ¾ Castilian Spanish, give me Gibraltar back, or I will tell President Obama to cut trade with England. Please Dr., do not mock your own understanding with such useless words as you concluded with. Let us cast aside the masks of our personalities, for if nothing good comes of this debate, you will not lose and neither will I; the world will lose and that, Dr. Rowley, is what is intolerable about the ºbollocksª of integrating Classics into History.
Juan A. Caballero Prieto
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