A moment of shameless self-promotion … I will have my two minutes of fame on the ABC’s Radio National Encounter program tomorrow (Saturday), called ‘Heaven and Earth’. I’ll be talking about utopia, religion and politics. The program begins at 5.05 pm, with a repeat on Wednesday October 3 at 1.05 pm. Somewhere in that mix I guess I will turn up. Or, of you prefer, you can listen now at the streaming audio & podcast links on the Encounter website at http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/encounter/heaven-and-earth/4276300 with a transcript to follow early next week.

All of this is hosted by the irrepressible David Rutledge.


With a year passing since the dreadful attacks by Anders Breivik in Oslo and on the island of Utoya, not a few have noticed how deeply Germans seem to have been affected. For a goodly number of Germans, something seems to have shattered in their souls. They have been obsessing about the events of a year ago, spilling tears, lamenting the loss of a mythical peace-loving Norway (despite the fact that Norway was at war at the time), feeling that the small Germanic nation in the far north has fatefully stepped out of the Garden of Eden. Why?

I would suggest that Norway comprises, subconsciously and even now, the heart of the mythological Aryan utopia. Here is the pure, untainted Aryan race; here one may find the old myths that speak of human origins above the Arctic Circle rather than among those Semites of the Fertile Crescent; here blond, broad-shouldered men and wide-hipped women frolic in the mountains, forests and fjords; here peace, equality and justice prevail. ‘Subconscious’ of course, but one may trace these lines in the rediscovery of the power of myth in the 18th and 19th centuries, the argument that the Nordic myths spoke of a Herrenvolk that originated in the north, all of which mutated (when it became less than respectable to hold such opinions openly) into the Indo-European hypothesis.

I’m guessing that some may have personal foibles, but the following have universal validity as among the most pleasurable things in life:

1. Massaging my inner ear with a bent paper clip.

2. Wearing a night shirt.

3. Wearing longjohns in winter.

4. A foot massage.

5. A head massage.

6. Tiling.

7. Aiming the moveable shower rose in the direction of the other circular muscle on my body.

8. Washing in a dribble of freezing water on the Trans-Siberian in winter.

9. Using a squat toilet on a rocking, speeding train.

That’s in the far north-west of Romania, part of Transylvania. And this was taken at first light in one of the villages:

… it can be just the way this pipe lies there as it does, or the way this otherwise so inconspicuous thing suddenly acts so that one’s heart skips, and what was always meant seems finally to regard itself.

Ernst Bloch, Spirit of Utopia, p. 203.

As I am about to head off the Canberra, it feels like I am going to a different country. Here I swim everyday and the temperatures are pushing 30 degrees; there it still gets below zero every night, so I need to pull on all my thermals for nights in the tent.

So I thought I’d repost this one on my ideal university:

The University of Utopia is committed to research of the highest quality, a serious programme of reading, a willingness to discuss ideas with colleagues and work collectively. Unlike other universities, the University of Utopia does not overpay its staff in return for overwork. By contrast, a full professor receives AUD $30,000 per annum. The difference – AUD $ 120,000 – goes to paying adequate administrative staff, more teaching positions, multiple PhD scholarships, and a world-class library. Promotion involves a reduction in work hours and not an increase in pay.

The expected duties of any lecturer are:
– one course of no more than 10 students per semester
– a maximum of two postgraduate students
– adequate consultation with students
– a maximum of one committee
– a maximum of one hour per week for administrative tasks
– four days per week for reading, research, writing and discussion

The university’s buildings are neither pretentious nor prison-like. They have comfortable offices, enticing reading areas and grounds that encourage reflection and conversation. As a result of the university’s apparent innovation, visitors flock here from around the world. We have become an employer of choice and have become one of the world’s leading research and teaching universities.