The slates are coming off the academic roof!

When I was young, my Nana used to tell me that if I had nothing nice or constructive to say, then it would be better not to say anything at all. There are times when I've wished, after the fact, that I had heeded this wise counsel. There are other times when I've bit my tongue when perhaps I should have let fly with invective. I must admit that I have never adhered rigidly to this rule, and you would have to ask the people who know me whether I am a better or worse person because of it. I must admit that I have very strong opinions on a whole range of matters (some of which I have actually thought about first), and, just occasionally, I have been known to speak without thinking (would you believe it?), or to spout forth about things that I really know very little about at all (see yesterday's pad). There are times when the red mist descends, and I adopt the attitude that I am the fount of all knowledge on all things, and for fear of being caught out, I am able to assume the appearance of gravitas that seems to undermine the confidence of my interlocutor - even to the extent of convincing them that they are wrong when in fact they are right. I have also been known to convince people that I had been agreeing with them all along, and that the appearance of any initial disagreement was down to their misunderstanding of my position. These are all skills that a career in academe - attending conferences and delivering papers - has given me. The golden rule appears to be (particularly in academe) that if you appear to know what you are talking about, and can waffle with extreme confidence, you can get away with all sorts of nonsense - for the simple reason that your academic peers will, 9 times out of 10, be reluctant to contradict you lest they appear stupid. It is a rule that has served me well these past years. Be confident, talk a good game, don't let on that you are winging it and if that fails, browbeat and confuse. As for today? Well, since I have nothing constructive or nice to say, I think I will follow my Nana's advice.


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