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What will it take to civilise us?

A four-part tongue-in-cheek attempt to ferret out the distinctive features that validate an educated person

Part I

NB AT the onset that I treat the two terms ‘educated’ and ‘civilised’ as one and the same.  Still, it must be said, as a PS of sorts to that intro, that neither is civilised contingent on wealth, nor educated gauged by degrees.  IE: one need not be rich to be refined, or a graduate to be genteel.

And now that the mist over the semantics has been cleared, lets get straight to the heart of the matter.

Close (to civilised/educated) but no cigar

SO, WHAT then sets apart from the rest of the herd an educated man?  And I use that last term in its broad (pardon the pun) sense; woman is on my mind as well, as Freud might have said.  To be sure, and to stress the point, it’s not so much to do with the years spent in a place of learning.  For that would imply that the more one has learnt, the more civilised one is likely to be.

It may go against the grain, and buck conventional wisdom, but I must beg to differ with that widely held point of view; there has to be more to being educated than mere erudition.  After all, isn’t that why modern education strives to be wholesome and well rounded, and not, as in bygone days, bookish and exam-based?

I can think off the top of my head and so can you, I’m sure, of any number of teachers, readers, profs, deans and the rest of that scholastic tribe, who one would balk at to call civil, as they could be ever so proud, rude, callous and unkind – not to speak of the slobs in their midst.

In a lighter vein, bear in mind too that Professor Moriarty was the most villainous of Sherlock Holmes’s adversaries.

To my mind, bottom line, there is so much more to this lofty state of refinement than the mere accumulation of academic merits.

Then, on whether wealth is a must-have in a like cause, the less said the better.  In the pursuit of money, morals do tend to take a backseat.  The in-your-face conduct of the rich and famous, plus those in power, (with their innate sense of superiority, and outer accouterments of airs and entitlements), bears loud witness to how the tag ‘culture’ sits uncomfortably next to the prefix ‘VIP’.

No, none of the above can lay automatic claim to that exalted ‘civilised’ label.  That epithet is neither a birthright nor a perk; it’s not to be had, per se, between the soft or hard covers of books either.

In the course of this essay, I shall try to pick out the virtues that make civil a man; I will point out as well the vices that do just the reverse.

 

Doctors within borders – Purloiners of an appellation

BUT FIRST, permit me – a postgrad dropout – my rant against the eggheads, who sit atop the heap in the groves of academe.  These so-called ‘doctors in parentheses’ – [Dr] like so – are those dogged knowledge gatherers, who have reached the pinnacle of scholarliness, at the fag end of at least a seven-year long paper chase post high school.

The highbrows, I speak of, have a Ph.D., which, in case you didn’t know, is short for ‘Piled High and Deep’.

Just kidding, of course – I heard that gag from the late (and much lamented) Subarna Lama.

No, a Ph.D., or D.Phil. as it is also known, stands for a doctor of philosophy degree.  This is a qualification that’s conferred on one, who has done independent research in their field of study (unkindly called ‘old wine in new bottles’) for a minimum of two years after one’s masters.

Now this accolade who can grudge these good old boys?  And they’re mostly men for some reason; maybe the maternal instinct makes women drop out of this academic equivalent to a marathon.  God knows the ones, who press on, work long and hard to make the grade.

No, what gets my goat is their dubious claim to be addressed as ‘doctor’.

I mean we’re not called upon, by the same token, to dub a B.Sc., say, ‘bachelor’ or the more cosy ‘Bach’; or for that matter to call an M.A. not mister but master!

Now, in my book, a doctor is a healer, a member of that other noble profession, one who has taken the Hippocratic oath and is bound (long nights, little leave) to the cure of disease and the surcease of pain.

So it seems to me – with nothing personal against them, I assure you – that these PhD fellas are sort of like usurpers of a medical preserve.  It would appear that all their toils in the educational field were aimed, at heart, from start to end, solely and wholly, to wear that sham handle before their names.

Kinda reminds me of all those nameplates I used to see as a kid back in Cal – that’s –cutta not –ifornia – where the moniker on a brass plaque was proudly trailed, like a peacock’s tail, by an alphabet soup of abbreviated degrees.  As, for instance, Mr So-&-So, M.B.B.S., M.D., D.Sc., F.R.C.S. & etc.!

This above vent of mine should make it abundantly clear that I do not hold these worthies to be any more or less civilised than your typical shmuck on the street.  For when it comes to that special status, I can tell you, all those fancy letters don’t count one bit.

To be continued 

Next Week – Culture vultures – The ones who act civilised but aren’t necessarily so

Contributed by 

John Michael Chiramal

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