Friday, 21 May 2010

Just shut up, won't you

This is a posting that somehow went missing in my internal post office. I think it's a follow-up to this but it still seems to have an independent life of its own.

As a group, we don't just mark ourselves as separate from the new intake. Like all students, I guess, we also mark ourselves as separate from the lecturers etc. Last year, I tracked this marking by our increasing capacity for silence.

Analysts are comfortable with silence. More so than just about anybody. They are used to having someone in their consulting room who is silent for long periods. Silence is, of course, a communication in itself.

Most other people are uncomfortable with silence. They fill in gaps in the conversation as quickly as they can.

As a group of students, we started out in the second category but, bolstered by each other, moved towards the first. At the start of the course, if a lecturer asked a question, someone would have a go at answering it straight away. Some lecturers, it must be said, were less than generous in their responses to answers and questions. Most of us quickly decided we'd rather not be made to feel stupid so we kept quiet.

Over the weeks and months, we became both more comfortable at asking genuine questions and more comfortable in staying silent when we felt we had nothing to offer - whether because we didn't want our heads bitten off or because we hadn't done the reading or because we weren't particularly interested in the seminar.

As the year passed, our capacity for remaining silent grew and grew. Sometimes it was genuinely productive. We were thinking stuff through, ruminating, wondering. Sometimes, we weren't, though. We were being snotty.

At least once, the whole group seemed to decide - spontaneously and for whatever reason - that we just didn't feel that generously minded towards the lecturer. So when we were invited to join in, we said nothing. Confident in our capacity for silence, most of us didn't even hide our gaze. It wasn't that we didn't understand the seminar or have things to say about it. Just that, collectively, we wanted to withdraw.

It was a kind of strike, I guess. A childish one, I know. But kind of fun in the way childish rebellion can be.

A little something for the weekend Having laughed at Chinglish, now is your chance to sneer at Teabagish.

Next up The second of five big Ds and Freud: Determination (less boring than it sounds, honest)

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