|Bilden används som illustration till TLS-krönikan|
A friend whose new book is to be published by Penguin Random House UK receives a questionnaire titled “Inclusivity in Publishing”. It is accompanied by a covering letter, in which the company’s Group Contracts Team Co-ordinator sets out the aims:
Publishing does not currently reflect the society we live in and we believe we all have a cultural and commercial imperative to change this. We have made significant strides over the past few years, including removing the need for a university degree from nearly all our jobs . . . .
It is hard to argue with an idea like “inclusivity” but future generations might come to see this as a crucial moment in the perfection of anti-elitism. Ignorance is Knowledge. Too much culture (old style) is a sign of resistance to the progressive ideology of the new. The publishers intend to obtain “better information on the diversity of the authors we publish”, with the aim of making their catalogue reflect “the UK population taking into account ethnicity, gender, sexuality, social mobility and disability”.This is merely an overt statement of an idea that has settled in the culture (new style): meritocracy is dead; long live representation. Talent is only a part of what makes you publishable or employable; don’t count on it to help you past the finishing post. Identity, so-called, is of equal importance, with the emphasis on race, class and gender.
A questionnaire follows: “Author Inclusion Tracker”. Some inquiries will be familiar to users of institutions such as the National Health Service. “How would you define your gender?” “Do you identify as trans?” “How would you define your ethnicity?” Tick-box options for the last include seven permutations involving Asian, Black and British, as well as “White: Gypsy or Traveller” and “White: Irish”. We looked for “Pictish”, our preferred census entry, but not a trace. Inclusive, eh?
It is in the realm of education that the aspiring author must proceed with caution. They want to know what school you went to. “Independent or fee-paying” spells trouble, obviously, as does “State school: selective”. Under “Higher Education”, you might do what job applicants have been doing for years – go easy on the facts – but in this case lower rather than raise your credentials. Even an undergraduate degree could land you in hot water. Don’t forget that unlovely phrase: “including removing the need for a university degree from nearly all our jobs”.
Random House wants to know if “any of your parents completed a university degree course”. Just say no – they’ll never check. If invited for a job interview or to meet an editor, hum “We don’t need no education” as you pass reception. Remember: Ignorance is Knowledge.