If I were Vice Chancellor for a day…I’d make Oxford a flower city

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Stress, pressure, frenzy – who needs them? It’s time that Oxford entered the hippy-happy chillout zone…man. So grow out your beard, put on your ‘righteous rags’, hop on your Harley D and follow me. For too long in Oxford the words ‘exams’, ‘collections’, and even that most bloodcurdling of ‘f’ words, ‘finals’ have loomed large and terrifying in our vocabulary. Silent libraries, wrinkle-inducing pages of unread books, and the books themselves, sadistically smirking up at you in the darkness, have all played their part in producing the Climate of Terror. Bring on the revolution. If Oxford entered ‘The Zone’, there could be an end to all this, as ‘chillaxation’ would become the guiding principle of a Bohemian Renaissance. Herbal tea would be handed out on Cornmarket and Broad Street, and as you entered the Bodleian, faint jazz would welcome you to your seat, or perhaps a Beatles ballad, while an automatic back massager slipped into gear. A new oxcabulary would of course be necessary; uninvitingly titled ‘problem sheets’ would become ‘sheets of benefit and self-development’ while the equally galling ‘Exam Schools’ would become the ‘pad of liberal expressionism.’ Tutorials would be replaced by ‘knowledge sharing’ and ‘gatherings for introspection’ in the University Parks. And should the birds, fresh air and space be insufficient to summon one’s inner vibe, hippie lettuce would be readily available to aid one in that crucial quest for inner light and the beauty of being. When philosophical self-discovery finally got too much, one could simply slip from the ceaseless reality of the natural world into a blissful unconsciousness.To best promote the new harmony it would be necessary to eradicate social distinctions and barriers. Individual colleges would therefore be replaced by brotherhoods living in large communes. Since another important element in this philosophy of calm would be getting in touch with nature, communes would lay emphasis on ‘going back to the land’ with brotherhoods trained in the art of digging and vegetable growing. Shared boathouses would become shared greenhouses and inkpens would be more fondly replaced with the shovel and spade. Oxford would pioneer the Organic Revolution. And men would walk barefoot to town so as to attune them to their natural surroundings and remind them of their birth from the flower of nature.Standards of dress and grooming would also have to be tailored to reflect the new liberties. Suppressed Oxford students who had formerly been confined to using the bop as their only opportunity for self expression, under the pretext of fancy dress, could now prance unrestrained in psychedelic bell bottoms and tie-dye. No longer would the male yearning for long-beaded necklaces and long hair need to be explained away with: ‘I had a gap year.’But of course we would never condescend to call ourselves mere hippies, as that would suggest turning the Oxford clocks back rather than forward. For ours would be a New Knowledge. We would instead be living the post-post modernist dream, man: the ironical approach to the Twenty First century.

by Katherine Dreyfus

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