Tuesday, 10 January 2017

We live in a world of facades

There was such a rasping cold wind this morning, as I stood a few metres from the Shard tower waiting for my bus to the ECBM. 11,000 glass panels, covering a façade equal to 8 football pitches, doing a better job than my coat was for me in shielding 72 habitable floors served by 44 lifts and 306 flights of stairs from the January weather. People pass by, necks craned upwards, as they try to comprehend the magnitude of this edifice. I crane my neck as well, looking for the 149 bus.

Should I take the tube? Yes, let’s take the tube… but what’s this? The barriers are pulled across. The station is locked. Yes, the majority of tube stations are closed today due to a strike by London Underground staff. This great London institution, and inspiration to transport planners around the world, has ground to a halt. There will be no gaps to mind today.

So what has happened? If you listen to the media, you will see that the different parties are trading allegations with great efficiency as they always do. What we start in the school playground, we continue so effectively in the office and the board room. “Children! Play nicely!” Such is the business world where corporate ‘children’ typically don’t play nicely, but rather with self-interest as an agenda topper. Have I any chance of getting to the objective truth of this dispute? Probably not.

In so many ways we live in a world which is hidden from us by facades, some good and some bad. It doesn’t matter whether these are the glass facades of the shard, the dark tunnels of the London Underground, the character of the West End theatre actor, the second hand car dealership or other forms of man-made façade such as – dare I say it - the image we humans try to present to others. We live in a world of facades.

Some facades are so good that we don’t even realise they are there or what is going on behind them. In so many ways we see the world as others wish us to see it in order to serve their own purposes. However if you take the path of the academic, you can start to flood these facades with the bright light of applied critical research, evaluation and analysis, and slowly the façade breaks down and the truth begins to be revealed.

Can you face up to seeing the reality of ‘reality’? To see life more like what it is rather than what you wish it would be? If you can, then this will be one of the most rewarding elements of your being an academic, and you will find that it is one of the few life skills which is genuinely life-changing. You may even, in your management roles, get corporate children to play nicely.

Graham Harman-Baker

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