Coventry University Music: A Victim of Vandals in Suits

In the late autumn of 2015 a rumour was circulating that Coventry University was axing its Music Degree programmes. The University was tight lipped about it but confirmation was provided by the fact that all reference to the programmes were removed from the University website and they were no longer recruiting for 2016/17. To my knowledge the University shamefully delayed announcing the move to their then current student cohort. Here is a copy of the comment I have made on the protest petition.  Note that I no longer had any association at this point and so had no vested interest in the outcome.

Put simply, it is an act of cultural vandalism. We are familiar with the media stereotype of a vandal as a teenager in a hoodie. But in reality they come in all forms. In this case the vandals wear suits, ties and possess Doctorates. I studied Music at Coventry University a few years ago as a mature student and have since been occasionally employed as an Hourly Paid Lecturer. The courses at Coventry have a distinctive character which emphasise creative exploration and collaboration, stretching the student and engendering a tolerance of diverse musical forms. Moreover it results in graduates who are more flexible and able to cope with the ever changing demands of a fast changing musical environment. For me it meant a transformation in my view of music, arts and even social issues. It eventually led me to discover the solutions to political problems which had troubled me for, literally, decades,

It is ironic that this is happening at just the moment when we learned of the sad passing of David Bowie. There is a broad hope amongst many artists that the consequent rediscovery of his music will inspire a new generation to adventurous artistic exploration. This will NOT now happen at Coventry. Ironic, also, when the city itself is prominent in the bidding for City of Culture in 2021. The council and local MPs need to know that their efforts are being undermined

We are continually told that organisations need to pay senior officers vast amounts of money to attract the right calibre of people. In 2014 the Vice Chancellor was reported as receiving a salary of about £250,000 It is difficult to see just how this salary is justified while simply axing valued assets. Sadly I do not think that Coventry will be the last to kill artistic programmes. Universities have now become part of the Corporate world where those very wealthy senior individuals are effectively lackeys to a philistine government intent on forcing through a doubtful ideological programme.

Isaac Newton, The Enlightenment and Republicanism

Christmas Day 1642 saw the birth of a baby who would grow up to affect our world in ways unimaginable even to himself.  His name was Isaac (subsequently Sir Isaac) Newton. Why does this interest me as a republican? Because as a giant of the Age of Enlightenment his achievement symbolises a way of thinking which was becoming universal. His birth date was, to some extent, ironic.  For most of his life Newton was a mystic interested in alchemy and the goal of spiritual purification it represented.  Such was the astonishing success of his Theory of Universal Gravitation, however, that by the time of his death in 1726, there are indications that Newton himself had started to consider that a purely mechanical explanation of the Universe was possible.

So what were these new ways of thinking which caused a profound change? The Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th Centuries in Europe entailed the view that an understanding of the world could come from human reason.  Enlightenment thinking influenced almost all areas of human intellectual activity including the emerging sciences, art, philosophy and politics. Vital to the movement was an eagerness to question assumptions, to accept no authority as sacrosanct. As JGA Pocock put it:

 …the Enlightenment generally [was] based on a complete rejection of prophecy, revelation and the Hebrew mode of thought at large.

 J.G.A Pocock:   The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition

What form did this new thinking take in the political arena? Before the Enlightenment, monarchs were considered to be the representation of the eternal truth of god which lay beyond time itself. From this we get the idea of a Divine Right of Kings. The notion of a time-bound head of state was literally inconceivable throughout much of Europe following the fall of the Roman Republic and the rise in dominance of Judeo-Christian orthodoxy. The century before the Enlightenment, however, saw rapid developments in political philosophy by a group of thinkers in Florence, Italy and, to a lesser extent, the ‘Serene Republic of Venice’. This explosion of thought in the late 15th and early 16th Centuries, (of which the most famous contributor today is Niccolo Machiavelli) slowly spread through Europe, fostering the idea that a nation could persist without its head of state being linked to an eternal god. Closely associated was a humanist concept which led to a concern during the Enlightenment with  ending the abuses of church and state.  From now on, liberty, progress and tolerance were to be underpinned by reason. But the move to a separation of Church and State was also attractive to many religious communities. It was all very well the monarch being a representative of god, but what happens if is is not your god? In England this all led to the effective ending of the concept of Divine Right in 1688-9 with the Glorious Revolution and the English Bill of Rights which I have blogged about here. This was only one year after the first publication of Newton’s theory in his Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica.

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Two January 4ths, one decade and the world changes for ever

On January 4th 1642 an event happened which, more than any other, propelled England to Civil War. On that day King Charles I entered the Chamber of the House of Commons with an armed guard to arrest five Members of Parliament accused of high treason. They wre forewarned and escaped. Although tensions between Parliament and monarch over finance and religion had been building since the days of Charles father, James I, this event was significant.  From this point forward both sides start preparing for conflict.  The event is commemorated today  during the ceremony of the Opening of Parliament each year. As the monarch is not allowed in the Commons, the queen summons MPs to the Lords chamber. As he approaches the Commons chamber, the queen’s messenger, Black Rod has the door slammed firmly in his face. Sadly history provides numerous occasions since 1642 when the monarch has continued to interfere with parliament.

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