2005 04 02
Architecture and Utopia - Part 4
It can't be surprising that academics blocked progress, since so many of them see that as part of their job description.
In his satire of academic politics, Microcosmographia Academica, published almost a century ago, the classicist Francis Cornford noticed the obvious fact that most reasons given in academic debate are not for doing something but for not doing anything.
These include The Principle of the Wedge, which says you should not act justly now for fear of raising expectations that you will act still more justly in future; The Principle of the Dangerous Precedent, by which it is decreed that no thing shall ever be done for the first time; The Principleof the Fair Trial, which argues that the current system, whatever it is, has not been given a chance; and The Principle of Unripe Time, which states that "people should not do at the present moment what they think right at that moment, because the moment at which they think it right has not yet arrived."
Time, Cornford adds, "is like the medlar; it has a trick of going rotten before it is ripe."
We sometimes forget that Toronto is, among its other identities, very much an academic city. Not as obviously so as Cambridge, Cornford's home town, but sufficiently to give the political discourse of this city a distinct overtone of academic wintryness. Reasons given are most often for not doing things, not for doing them. Blockage is progress; resistance is self-evident; ambition is suspect. The old thin-lipped Puritan disapproval of ostentation has merged smoothly with the grievance politics of the multicultural moment, forging an alliance of surprising resilience.
The time is not ripe; the time is rotten. The stadium site is an empty lot of snow and discarded equipment, a mise en scene of misery. Thus do we claim victory!
[email this story] Posted by Mark Kingwell on 04/02 at 08:24 AM
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