Now that this blog has been rejuvenated I keep coming up with things to write about, and I start sketching posts but I forget to write them down and even if I do, I don’t seem to have time to write because it actually takes quite a while; I always forget how much time it takes to write these things out even if they’re not that great. It’s not that long but the point is that it’s a sufficient amount of time that I sort of have to plan for it, and can’t just sit down and do it during lunch.

Some Oxford thoughts then. Last week was 0th week so everyone has exams and vac work and they haven’t done enough for either. I was in a similar position, but with two differences: I’ve worked very hard, so it’s through prioritising other aspects of work that I was behind, not through negligence; secondly, my attitude of not caring about collections has basically reached completeness. I actually don’t care about the outcome at all. This has been something that I have been developing ever since I came here, starting out from the fact that I don’t think exams are important unless they’re a stepping stone to something important (which these aren’t) and then more recently with my tutors admission that they don’t matter. A lot of tutors put a lot of emphasis on collections, but Maths tutors don’t, probably because we all routinely screw them up. I have only ever had one philosophy collection—I do not count logic in this—so all that I say applies only to Maths. I feel the need to emphasise just now perfect my dismissal now is, and how weird this is considering how much I care about my studies. Balliol welfare tells me to take advantage of this even though I wasn’t to quote whomever said that to me.

Now, here is the juxtaposition: the excitement of being back in Balliol is for most overruled by the concern for exams and work, but this isn’t the case for me, and I positively relish it. It is fantastic to see hordes of people streaming towards Hall at either 9:30 or 2 for their collections, to see the whole College coming together, to see people you haven’t seen for ages who you know and also who you don’t know but are familiar and welcoming aspects of the library scenery. So I’m standing there grinning and this annoys my friends, who tell me to be quiet and more sombre at their approaching doom, though not quite in those words. One actually told me to ‘shush’. This can be a little difficult to deal with as I am happy and can’t find anyone to share it with.

The most people had their collections on was of course the day of the royal wedding, and while Balliol didn’t make any arrangements (terms are short so Oxford ignores all bank holidays for students and academic staff, though of course others have them off) I am told that some colleges actually moved collections so that their students could watch the royal wedding live. Balliol might have had a Union Jack up, but that was about it and my hope was that there would have been a massive uproar if there’d been attempts at anything else; as one politics grad said to me, “if it’s reached Balliol JCR then there’s no hope”. However I was shocked to find this was far from true. The TV room was packed but that’s okay because so many were watching it for the spectacle and just disagree with my disinterest as well as my opposition to there being any genuine interest. However the conversations in the adjacent JCR proper for a half hour slot we had between our exam and a meeting with tutors to arrange the term (just two days before it began, as usual) I was shocked to find so little opposition to what was going on. People were waving flags and one Math/Phil living in a house this year was looking forward to a street party on his road. A certain amount of this is people not caring and waving flags to annoy me, which is all well and good but it doesn’t stop my surprise at there being so few against the whole thing.

To give a few thoughts on why I stand so firmly against this stuff: while I may be against a hereditary head of state I’m not a massive fan of parliamentary democracy either, so it’s not so much a political question. The issue is that loyalty to your country of birth in the form of nationalism, patriotism or jingoism and this is something that really should be dead by now; you have no reason to be loyal to something you had no choice about, that you do not seriously contribute to and that really isn’t that great in so many ways. It is wrong to suggest that you can always find another country and the fact that you haven’t shows loyalty: the vast majority of us cannot realistically uproot our lives for our friends and family and careers are here. I can forgive the middle aged and middle minded from drawing something out of an old tradition but why the heck are we allowing schools to have their pupils make wedding cards, and why do intellectual teenagers care one jot?

This is not very clearly set out, because I didn’t think anyone cared about the royal family so I haven’t considered this issue very carefully; I saw them as just being on the way out. How naïve it seems I was.

Something else for this mixed bag of a post. I am doing the Ethics paper this term which is great, but since I haven’t done degree-level ethics since I am on a course that doesn’t generally choose to do Ethics, I’m attending the first year moral philosophy classes that the PPE students have. These are a lot of fun because I know plenty of the first years and unlike my own year across all philosophy courses they are very enthusiastic and interested. The class was admittedly a bit of a waste of time up until the end because it was just messing about with an ethical thought experiment; fun, but not with much philosophical interest that I could identify. The thought experiment was Nozick’s Experience Machine, and one girl got very upset about how many of us put our hands up as choosing to enter it for life or even for a few hours per day; she made a list of those of us who did. Genuine engagement with the issues! So much more worthwhile than my cold first year logic classes. Here I identify a phenomenon of the “Balliol first year philosophy class”. Of course given my usual temperament this leaves me jealous, but there’s no need for that; I am looking forward to this opportunity to share their classes. A few of them are extremely well-read and I should treat this as an inspiration.