Happy 2nd
Anniversary
11 April
 Witch-Hunt in Norway  
by Glenn Campbell
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Chapter 6:
The Long Wait

April 22, 2014,
Bergamo, Italy


For a month and half after I booked my flight, there was still no word from anyone at the school. There was no invitation or acknowledgement apart from Alistair's curt message on Jan. 5 that my proposal would be "considered". At this point, I had low expectations. While the students were selected by a highly competitive process within their own countries, it seemed like the staff was picked up off of Craig's List. My attitude at this point was that I was coming to Norway regardless. Whether I spoke or not was totally up to them. It was no loss to me one way or another.

I had two theories about why my proposal was ignored. One is a logical fallacy called the "Groucho Effect". Have you heard of it? Probably not, because I made up the term just now. The Groucho Effect is based on Groucho Marx' famous quote: "I would never belong to a club that would have me as a member." In other words, if someone spontaneously offers you a free service, it devalues the service in the eyes of receiver. The reasoning goes: "If he is offering it for free, then there must be something wrong with it." Conversely, if a service is expensive and the recipient has to work hard to obtain it, then the product is seen as more valuable. (Luxury marketers have learned this trick and price their products accordingly.) If a service is offered spontaneously at no charge, then the average consumer is going to treat it as worthless and has no problem with wasting it.

I recognized I was fighting the Groucho Effect even as I was writing my proposal, but I figured the staff at the school were intelligent and would appreciate the value of the service itself apart from the way it was offered. Apparently I was wrong. If I were receiving this proposal, I would have written back, "Hey, thanks for offering!" Even if the offer came from a crazy person in America, I'd at least acknowledge it and say whether or not it fit with the aims of the organization. In this case, however, the Groucho Effect seems to have won, and no one saw the need to even acknowledge my proposal.

My other theory can be summed up in a word: xenophobia. That is the "fear of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign". It may seem bizarre to talk about xenophobia at a place where 95 countries are represented, but I can't think of a better word to describe the vibe I was getting as I did more research.

If you look at the school's website and Facebook page, you will see a steady stream of visitors coming to the school from around the world, but they represent only a very narrow range of humanity. The visitors are academics and diplomats mostly, people talking about refugee crises and "raising awareness" about one cause or another. A big event on campus is the Model United Nations, where students from other UWC campuses come in for a series of debates on world issues. The Queen of Norway visited recently, which is certainly a great honor, but it is also emblematic of what is missing from the campus. There are plenty of distinguished visitors, but no obvious ambassadors from Real Life.

What is "real life"? It is the actual circumstances and problems the students will face after graduation. Specifically, most of these students will be going off to four years of college in America, a country few have visited. They know it mainly from movies, TV shows and news reports about outlandish things happening there. I don't see anything in the school's past agenda talking about life in America or trying to put it into perspective. The spoken language on campus was American English, but I see no trace of Americans visiting campus or on the staff. (It is hard to tell without them waving their flags.) You'd think the school would welcome a rare American speaker talking about an American topic (Area 51), but there's another possible reaction: "We don't want those kind of people here." America is always the 500-pound gorilla on the world stage, and perhaps the school, at least on an unconscious level, is making an effort to keep that uncouth gorilla out.

[I regret the discrimination claim above and have backtracked in a later chapter.]

In retrospect, it isn't surprising that my proposal met resistance. I was an uncontrolled influence from a foreign world. My academic and diplomatic credentials were nil. I was a known college drop-out, which isn't the kind of model you want to present to college-bound students. The only thing counting in my favor is that I have some actual experience doing real-life things, which is a bizarre and foreign concept to the highly educated academics who run a place like this.

The administration would never say, "We don't want speakers without academic credentials." That would be contrary to the sermon they are giving to the students about diversity of viewpoints and openness to new ideas. Nonetheless, they had nicely controlled campus comfortably cut off from outside influences, and they didn't want to disrupt the status quo. They couldn't stop people like me from coming, but they were not going to roll out the welcome mat for a speaker who didn't match their educational model.

The distinct impression I got after three months of inaction was that my presence would be tolerated on campus, but I would not be actively welcomed. (This impression would be confirmed by later emails.) That was actually fine by me. I do my best work in hostile environments (as long as there are no guns involved). I love walking into a room where everyone is against me, where I have to defend my position against anything people throw at me. If I can respond rationally to every objection, it just proves the strength of my position. A hostile audience is much better than a fawning one that asks only polite questions, because I need opposition to show my strength.

Hero and I stopped talking about the presentation because we had many other things in common. He is one of the smartest and wisest people I know. He may not have a huge database of knowledge or experience, but he has an emotional intelligence that is hard to find at any age. We had plenty to talk about apart from my lecture, and the volume of my correspondence with him was greater than all the other RCN students combined.

Finally, on March 27, two weeks before my theoretical appearance on April 11, I finally received an indirect acknowledgement that I would be allowed to speak. Hero wrote:

Have you received an invitation from the 'World Today' group? You will talk about both topics quite freely. I think they liked you, because they had a long booked schedule but I managed to prioritized you :-)
So I guess that meant the April 11 lecture was a go! It was a bit comical to be given two week's indirect notice that I would be allowed to speak a month and a half after I bought my plane ticket, but I wasn't complaining. By "both" topics, Hero meant both Area 51 and the Case Against Marriage. On one level, this was a pleasant surprise, since I was only expecting to talk about Area 51 while marriage was the topic I preferred. On the other hand, it was kind of disturbing to have a topic selected for me without anyone contacting me directly.

I offered to make up a poster that Hero could put up around campus just before my talk. He thought it was a good idea, so I constructed one. (I know Hero saw this version, but I don't know who else did.) In retrospect, it was an early draft with too much stuff in it, but at least it tells you the topics I was prepared to speak about.

Notice the new topic I added, which was not in my original proposal:

Geography of USA as relating to college selection As a professional traveler, Glenn has seen every corner of the USA. He will offer some practical insight on geographical factors for selecting a college.
This was based on what I thought was a successful test run giving college advice to the two UWCRCN students (Abigail and Hero). Mind you, I wasn't trying to give academic advice about the colleges, which is out of my field (since I never graduated from college). I was only trying to give geographical advice. For example, what was the general setting of the college? The transportation links? What sort of resources were there in the surrounding community? I certainly couldn't visit college campuses and take photos for all 100 graduating students, but I could give them some geographical perspective you can't get on the internet, only days before they had to make a final decision (usually mid-April).

Alas, my hope of talking about this topic was quickly crushed. Within a few days of apparently being given carte blanche to talk about what I wanted, the noose quickly tightened. There was a crisis of some sort. I didn't have a clue what it was about, but Hero was drawn into a series of tense meetings with the administration. He wasn't telling me many details, but he seemed to be stuck in a tight spot, trying to defend me from unspecified charges and not knowing how much he could tell me.

I wasn't worried. My theory was that the administration finally did a Google search for me, found 60,000 entries referring to me and dug up some detail that upset them. I had no way of knowing what it was, and I didn't particularly care. My position was "either use me or not," so it didn't concern me what they found on the internet. They would just have to work it out and tell me what they wanted me to do.

Turns out, that's not something people like do in academia: make decisions. Instead, there was a big runaround.

Continue to Next Chapter


Happy 2nd
Anniversary
11 April
 Witch-Hunt in Norway  
by Glenn Campbell
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 Next Chapter Facebook Anonymous Feedback
Videos: Leadership Crisis | Finnmark | Tiny Little War | Assault Summary | College Choices | Introduction
Changes to this document are now recorded on the Facebook Page - Active in Summer 2016!
This document is a work in progress, subject to change. Its appearance on Google remains negotiable.

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