Agonising over the loss of liberal ideals 

I am conflicted. Seriously conflicted. I have been at the University of Cape Town since 1974, as a student, postgraduate and academic; I have been here through the unrest periods of 1976, the 1980s, the 1990s, and now the 20teens.

And never before have I felt as alienated or depressed about being here as I do now.

Seriously: even though I demonstrated in 1976, 1985 and in the 1990s, and agonised about leaving in 1990 (saved by Mandela being released), it was not my institution that was the target of protest – and now it is.

To describe why, I must describe the context: this is of an institution that is the oldest western-style university in Africa, one of the oldest in the southern hemisphere, and which leads Africa as a teaching and research facility. It is also run by well-meaning liberals, albeit largely white, and male, some of whom were revolutionaries in their time, and who remain committed to a non-racial, egalitarian University.

So what could go wrong? Well, factor in a disaffected student movement that doesn’t quite know what it wants, but wants it NOW, however unrealistic it is, and a liberal administration that would like to be protesting with them but isn’t allowed to – and you may begin to see the problem.

Back in the middle of 2015 a movement started seemingly out of nowhere, dedicated to getting rid of the seated statue of Cecil John Rhodes below Residence Road, between Smuts and Fuller Halls of residence. Now let it be said that very few actually opposed this: while Cecil had been central to Upper Campus since the 1930s, he was a gift of an eponymous Trust, and was rather wished on the University. His awkward sitting position also gave rise to the legends that either he was suffering from severe piles, or that he was obliged to rise when he saw a virgin – but that he was never quite sure if one had ever passed him by, so never quite stood up.

Be this as it may, the #RhodesMustFall movement gathered momentum very quickly, sparked by a very strange protest involving a half-naked longtime undergrad student, a drum, a protective helmet, and a container of human waste from a portable toilet. His protestations of pain and alienation – very conveniently covered by film and media crews – sparked a movement that spread across the country and even to Oxford, where a Rhodes scholar was moved to demand the removal of a bust of Rhodes at Oriel College, and to justify his having the scholarship as a defiant act involving taking back the money stolen from his ancestors. He subsequently thought it amusing to participate in the abuse of a poor waitron at a Cape Town restaurant, and is now apparently a junior UCT academic, but this is incidental.

So Rhodes fell – due to a decision by UCT Senate ratified by Council, that was remarkable for the fact that so few people opposed the motion. And which rather bemused the #RMF protesters, who had immediately assumed that we needed to be forced into doing it, and had in fact been involved in some very intimidatory demonstrations in support of their cause.

And there’s where we should have been warned. The children of Tutu’s Rainbow Nation, the “born free” generation of post-1994 South Africa, were increasingly becoming stridently confrontational and even racist in their dealings with what was in fact a fuzzy-mindedly liberal administration, sympathetic to their cause – and which seemed to have no idea what to do about them.

So things bumbled on until late 2015, when University of the Witwatersrand students – Wits to those of us too lazy to do the whole thing – started the #FeesMustFall movement, which was aimed at stopping any fee increases for the following year. One by one student groupings at the other major academic institutions jumped on the bandwagon, and this time managed to force most of these to close, for a month or more. Given that we in the south write exams at the end of calendar years, this was extremely disruptive to the academic process, and in addition, huge damage was done by rampaging mobs of “students” at a number of institutions.  UCT seemed to have adopted a policy of negotiating with anyone who stepped up with demands, and to go to endless lengths to appease a constantly changing spectrum of radicals with often ill-formed and intemperate opinions.

I asked our Senate at the end of 2015 why we did not simply gauge support of the amorphous groupings – who were determinedly anarchistic in having no discernible hierarchies – by means of our sophisticated online polling system, which has the capability of both requiring a validated institutional login, and then delivering an anonymised response. I got no decent response then, or early in 2016 when I asked again.

Fast forward to the end of 2016, when it started all over again – with a twist. This time, emboldened by the fact that they had apparently cowed the State President into announcing there would be no fee increases at universities in 2016, they had a new demand: no fees at all.

Inevitably, this again sparked demonstrations and intimidation of students who did not join the protests; again, it descended into racial abuse and profiling of white academics as automatically being reactionary and racist; then it spun into a movement to “decolonise” the universities and their teaching curricula. While this seemed a valid idea on the surface, the fuzziness of the concept of decolonisation especially as it pertained to the teaching of science, made it difficult to engage with – and the racism inherent in the concept that white people were responsible for the phenomenon made it even more so.

With the downward spiral of demonstration-reaction-counter-reaction has come universities that are either formally closed or effectively closed, where gangs of students roam seemingly unfettered, intimidating their colleagues and those staff still trying to teach. At UCT this has been less violent and less destructive than some other campuses; however, so too have our administration seemingly been more lenient and more accommodating of the endless transgressions and endless lists of constantly changing demands. I have asked since, by email, why we do not formally poll our students and staff, when the institution has been deluged with individual polls and Faculty surveys which have shown overwhelming support for an end to disruptions and a return to normality – with no reply. We still have had no formal institution-run survey of staff and student opinions on the matter.

We have been away, my academic and personal partner Anna-Lise and I, for much of the recent shenanigans, which has been good both for my blood pressure and levels of anguish. However, today I undid all this good work by going to an extraordinary UCT Senate meeting, called for the purpose of getting the UCT Senior Leadership Group to take control of our campuses, and end the violence and intimidation.

To attend was to immediately get sucked into a vortex of well-meaning but fuzzy ultraliberalism and in some cases semi-incomprehensible ultraleftism, which decried “militarisation” of our campus, while simultaneously crying out against the abuse of non-participating students and of academic and non-academic staff. We had staff who identified so closely with students that they tried to bring the demands of the nebulous grouping calling themselves the “Shackville TRC/SRC Candidates” or somesuch, to Senate – even to the point of relaying an implicit threat of disruption if Senate refused to hear them. We had impassioned flights of rhetoric decrying the brute intimidation by the protesters; we had endless comments that the proposed motion was unworkable / could never work – against a background of a motion solidly rooted in respect for the Rule of Law, which all of the apologists seemed to regard as being invalid.

I wanted to contribute, but didn’t trust myself to remain coherent while my heart was fluttering and my hands were shaking. In any case, my points were well made by other people – including that protesters should REALLY be kept out of certain buildings, because they were very well stocked with dangerous chemicals and machinery, and that the research enterprise at the University was at serious risk.

In the end, and despite much hand-wringing and apparent attempts to derail the vote, an abbreviated version of the motion was passed, asking the VC and team to attempt to regulate protest activity so that life could go on.  This, against a background of chanting and singing outside the venue, apparently by “Fallist” demonstrators who had demanded – and been refused – entry by the same security personnel that many of my colleagues saw as being unnecessary.

We exited the Senate meeting through a gauntlet of uniformed security, keeping us separated from a small band of dancing and chanting protesters. I thanked the security guard at the door, and was immediately abused by a man outside the door as “a white male professor who speaks to security like they are friends”. I went nose to nose with him, but he restrained himself to gesturing in my face, so I forced a laugh, and went on. He went on to abuse the Dean of the Health Sciences Faculty, who seemed to be used to  it, as a traitor and a white puppet as we all walked away.

That is the first time in all my years at UCT that I have ever suffered any racial abuse. It is also the first time that I have seriously questioned the wisdom of staying here, when I have had several opportunities to leave and have not. We stayed, Anna-Lise and I, because we thought things had changed so much for the better in 1990 with the release of Mandela, and that after 1994 that we could make a difference in the new nation. We thought we had done so, too – until the new ultraleft youth dismissed us contemptuously as “white privilege”, and in need of decolonisation.

It’s probably too late to leave now. But for the first time since 1990, I want to. And that makes me very depressed.


About Ed Rybicki

Ed is a 60-ish virologist and biotechnologist, formerly a Zambian and presently a South African. He is into family, virology, biotechnology, science in general, science fiction in particular, photography, red wine, wearing loud shirts, 70s rock, blues and smooth jazz...and telling stories. Sometimes, interesting ones. And writing for his own amusement.
This entry was posted in Personal stories, science controversy, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

58 Responses to Agonising over the loss of liberal ideals 

  1. Meg Rybicki says:

    I am so sorry that a bunch of confused students have been able to disrupt so many lives. I agree that 3rd level education should be accessible and affordable, and as a parent of 5 offspring, am conflicted by the thought of fees and student loans being implemented in Ireland, as it would leave me better off, (students are expensive), but commit my offspring to debt before they even start work. I hear what you are saying, and am sad that the dream of a fair and just rainbow nation has crumbled somewhat…..

  2. Shaun Westley says:

    While I sympathize with your position Eric, it’s rather reminiscent of Mr Steven Boykey Sidley’s piece in the Rand Daily Mail. It is sad that one should face racial profiling but also bear in mind those doing it to you not only have faced prejudicial profiling for centuries but also structures and systems that essentially worked and by extension still do work against them. What you witnessed on Monday wasn’t an attack on the character of Eric Rybicki, but a generational anger that has erupted from years of disenfranchisement. The post Apartheid period of identity politicking has and will continue to give way to demand politics.

    Being despondent in your position is totally understandable. I would urge however to not reject identity politics, critical race theory and it’s framework as “ultra liberalism” or regressive leftism. While it may be true that some of the FMF leadership (and perhaps staff as you allude) have somewhat been reduced to looking at the world very one dimensionally and through this framework only, it is the thoughts of my peer group (20’s to 30’s) that these frameworks really could play a critical role in guiding policy and legislation as well as conversations around equity in one of the most unequal societies this earth has to offer. Besides, who wasn’t an idealist in their youth? One soon learns that progress isn’t the acceptance of one sided demands but the sum of two sided compromise. I wish you the best moving forward, and I wish you to bear in mind those students that were hurling abuse at you on Monday will be standing outside parliament today. They will face the police, who by and large have been missing from public discourse, a police force that has shown itself incapable of de-escalation of confrontation. One that inflicts trauma on a daily basis to student nationally, and has and most likely will continue to do so outside of it’s guiding legislation and arguably against the constitution. Anger always has some foundation in fear.


    • Ed Rybicki says:

      Ed. Not Eric. But your points are well made. My feeling, though, is that in 2, 3 years the Fallists will have gone – and we will still be here, picking up the pieces and trying to make good.

  3. John Gilmour says:

    Your writing reflects an entitlement that sits in the blindspot of privilege. You are the centrepoint of your own narrative – trapped in the triangle of the victim, perpetrator, and rescuer. We need to free ourselves to be solution-focussed participants in an emerging new reality.

    • Ed Rybicki says:

      My writing reflects how I feel – how you interpret it is up to you. However, you are also completely ignorant of my personal history, so I think you need to dial back on your assumptions more than just a little.

      • John Gilmour says:

        We all have a personal history- it could be helpful for me to read what you write and circulate to be read by me and others in the full context of your personal history and then interpret your feelings in that context. Is this really what you want from your blog readers or should only those who know you read your work? Then say so in a preface and I will not take your words as seriously as I am doing. Your publically shared words must surely have some stand alone value. I made no assumptions about you personally. I am responding to the words that you wrote – the blog places you as a victim of an inevitable process of organisational decline through the mindlessness of others who simply do not get it. Even in your comment response, you say: “We will still be here cleaning up the mess when the ‘fallists’ have gone.” Time to re-read Paulo Freire Pedagogy of the Oppressed – your personal history does not make you immune from the emerging anger. You have a choice to be part of the collective healing that is needed but not through feeling that you have become the victim of “ethnic abuse”. “Cleaning up” will not be the way forward when “they” have gone. Co-creating new ways of doing things will most certainly be a better way forward – you acknowledge this at some level but do not say how you see us doing this. What process would you like me as a UCT graduate and education activist, more or less from your era, to be doing to help the process rather than deciding whether I will stay or leave? In the history of institutions of higher learning in the world, any degree of self-pity will clutter good process. After all. there are many “fallists” who are stuck in the same mode.

      • Ed Rybicki says:

        I am conflicted again: I really feel no need to explain myself to you any more than I already have; this was a personal piece, after all, on my personal blog site. I am as entitled to my existential pain as any Fallist is entitled to theirs, after all?

        On the other hand, as an academic of many years standing it is incumbent upon me to come up with novel ways to educate folk – and I have, and I’m doing a sabbatical next year to further that.

        And yes, I see “us” cleaning up after “they” have gone – because they will, and we will. The psychological cost, however, may be harder to undo.

      • Meg rybicki says:

        I see a grim decline in further education standards and availability in SA, with an horrific inevitability.
        Elderly white lecturers will not be popular .
        Higher education is hard enough to access for many in Europe, and it all boils down to finances. I have little hope for your brave nation and “normal”, hardworking people who love their home and dont want to leave. Most of my black South African friends who no longer live there thought the same.

    • Sziggy says:

      All blind rhetoric and no substance. Classic FMF.

    • J Liebenberg says:

      John Gilmour –

      You mention ‘the centrepoint of your own narrative’…. but isn’t that the description that fits all of us when we express an opinion? We write or speak from a particular perspective, the one that we see with our own eyes and hear with our own ears, and experience in our own bodies and minds. I didn’t get the impression that Ed Rybecki was unsympathetic towards students; I may be wrong but I felt he was trying to express the frustration and misery of being a lecturer in an environment where academic engagement was being cancelled out by current student action. I do, however, think you have a point in calling attention to ‘an emerging new reality’. There does come a time when ‘the way we’ve always done it’ can no longer stretch to fit a new state of affairs or, indeed, transform itself to meet the challenges of the future.

      All the same, it’s very hard to face anger and contempt, especially when, because of one’s ‘group’ identity, one’s involvement in the ‘struggle’ (whatever that involvement may have been), is neither obvious nor anticipated by those who have been born post 1994 and grown up in a ‘free’ South Africa, yet a South Africa that’s still stuck with its divisions, preconceptions and economic inequality. From that point of view anything done prior to 1994 is likely, I imagine, to be irrelevant to them, part of history that has no further benefit or effect on achieving fairness for today. Even so, fairness is unlikely to be achieved by continuing to assign characteristics – this time of privilege – on no other consideration than race. It is not that privilege has not existed, but that privilege and prosperity are no longer reliably defined *only* by demographic constructs. That too is part of the ’emerging new reality’.

      Nevertheless, it seems unreasonable to blame university faculty staff for the current ills, as it is not the academics themselves who can make the kinds of changes that students demand and I can empathise with the disillusionment that Ed Rybecki is expressing. Sensibly, re-structuring of fees can only come about by Parliament providing some kind of overall guidance on regulation of fees and funding. Having said that, it should be recognised that most countries, globally, charge very high fees for university courses and fees are climbing higher, not dropping.

      • Ed Rybicki says:

        Nice one: and you made some of the points I did not include. And I think “the way we’ve always done it” needs to swept aside; there are many things we as an academic community could be doing differently. Accepting abuse because of ethnicity is not, however, one of those things.

      • Meg rybicki says:

        J liebenberg I salute you. As a parent of European children university fees, and the additional expenses, are akin to a second mortgage every month. We “suck it up’, as sadly, that is the only way my children will be able to avail of third level education.

    • Ed Rybicki says:

      Yaaaaah…I was an African before I was a South African; I am the first generation of my family to be in South Africa, and I came as an adult – I only became a citizen when I thought it looked like everything was going well. I might reconsider.

  4. Spot on Ed ! Can’t believe the universities allow criminal activity to continue while showing no regard for their staff and students who want to make a positive contribution to this country. Between 1994 and now there was 20 years of people of all races who got a loan, got the degree and entered the workforce. Why should this and every other generation be any different ? Very disrespectful to those who’ve fought hard and appreciate where they are today because of it.

    • Ed Rybicki says:

      Thanks Lonnie! I think you folk at UWC are facing worse than we are; I wish you strength and fortitude to get through it. That, or proposing to Monash that they set up a cape Town arm doing science…B-)

  5. D says:

    The student protests made me realise that South Africa’s demise is inevitable. These rioters are just the logical conclusion of ANC rule. It’s unlikely our society will withstand the corruption and perversion that’s now seeping into the very last nooks and crannies that remain good and orderly. You could probably find a teaching position abroad, Ed. I am leaving within a few months, while I still can.

    • Ed Rybicki says:

      I think that is unduly pessimistic: I think they (protesting students) are the logical conclusion of not having done anything about the origin of the protests, which was again a consequence of UCT being a little too lenient. And I almost certainly can’t find a teaching position abroad; most places I would want to go are suffering their own cutbacks and I am too old…so we better fix what we have!

      • gonexc says:

        Responsible protest is a right but so is responsible governance. Like you I am stuck here in Zimbabwe, unemployable elsewhere due to disability and age and wondering if I didn’t make an appalling mistake in not emigrating when I didn’t have the age issue. Oh well, I well entrenched now so my partner and I have just bought a house!

  6. Willy Paine says:

    Interesting read and well written.

  7. Alison Paterson says:

    Hi Ed,
    I remember your virology classes fondly (~2000). I appreciate reading this piece and I know for sure that you have been and will continue to be committed to doing good amidst this very trying situation. I feel your pain and my country’s pain. There is no easy way through this mess. It is bigger than us as individuals, but remember that your work on campus has touched many, many individuals who have gone on to amplify your good work.

  8. Penny Jones says:

    It almost seems that this movement , and the spin – off accelerating civil unrest, was carefully seeded to distract public attention from the quiet , sinister progress of state capture…. Many liberal older South Africans, ourselves included, share you sense of depression and uncertainty about the future in SA.

  9. Gerhard Ras says:

    Ed. The process of democratisation in SA was described as miraculous in 1994. Fact is nowhere in the world before has a democratisation process happened as rapid as in SA. If one understands that the process of democratisation hinges around two principles, i.e. electoral participation & institutionalisation. The participation leg of democratisation was the easy part, whereas institutionalisation in the sense of respect for capabilities of state institutions is always the challenging one. I can recommend the studies of Huntington in this regard, which will confirm my take that we are experiencing the institutionalisation phase with all its discomfort. Like you I want to think of myself as liberal, but I don’t want to leave. I followed a career in local government where the pressures were & are tremendous. Hang in there, it will take time but it will get better.

  10. Luhan Swart says:

    Dear Prof, pardon the ignorant. Protect those eager to learn and those who are willing to submit to authority. Stay the course and never loose hope. Every generation has good and bad apples. Good apples always outlast bad apples, there is less rot.

  11. Berendien Lubbe says:

    If I had your way with words, I might be able to ask these questions in a far more erudite way, but I don’t so this is what I want to know:
    1. What do I do about my “white privilege”?
    I cannot give back my “whiteness” into which, through some genetic coincidence and without any input from me, I was born (in South Africa).
    I don’t know how to give back my “privilege”. I know others are less fortunate than me and I wish it were otherwise. I agree I had a good school education where I was taught to respect others and disciplined into good behaviour more times than I care to remember and where I was also taught that to get on in life I would have to work hard and look for opportunities. So I took loans, worked while studying part-time for all my degrees, earned little to begin with, didn’t get every job I applied for, worked my way up, made plenty of mistakes, became an entrepreneur taking risky decisions to make money (and lose even more), went into academia, took my job seriously, did my research, worked my way up again, learnt from others and then felt I was doing something worthwhile by mentoring others. So now I am even more privileged and this deepens my dilemma because somehow I feel I have earned what I have and not simply been born into it.
    2. What are the “practical” criteria for a decolonised education?
    I know it is a process and it cannot be boxed into measurable outcomes, but where does that leave us? At what stage of the process will students be satisfied that education is decolonised. How far back must we discard knowledge gained through western scientific endeavour? What must go into the curricula (and be discarded) and in which disciplines? I can roughly understand decolonisation of sociology, history, psychology, the arts and others but what about zoology, statistics, mathematics, accounting? Are white academics part of colonised education and will they have to go, despite what discipline they teach?

    Actually I am a little confused about everything and I cannot say that I am optimistic about the outcome for universities. The students may eventually achieve much of what they have set out to do: free (for them) decolonised education but good universities are grounded in decades, and even centuries of knowledge (no matter the origin – African or western), and to throw it all out so forcefully makes quality the big loser.

    • Ed Rybicki says:

      Sober and reasoned words! The answer is, it is a LOT easier to decolonise Humanities and the like than science, albeit with much curriculum rejigging – and especially the harder sciences. What is “decolonised physics”? No mention of Old White Guys? Decolonised biology? Science is a universally-accepted set of methods and system of dependence on evidence; it is very hard to see how to decolonise that.

      As for “whiteness”: any mention of this in the context of automatic assumption that it confers privilege smacks of demonisation of a section of the population due to skin colour, which sounds like…yes, the “A” word.

  12. Pieter Swart says:

    Ja Oom Ed, ons ou mense raak maar gatvol, maar wat kan jy doen? Well said Ed. One can theorise and philosophise as much as you want, but it takes years and years of hard work by dedicated individuals to build and establish a university like UCT. It takes one or two years for totally irresponsible unthinking individuals to break it down. This is a bit like a waterfall, easy to go down, sometimes impossible to go back up again. It just bugs the hell out of me that we are now the only ones trying to prevent tertiary education in this country form going over that waterfall. Maybe we can now quote Don McClean: “Oh, and there we were all in one place, A generation lost in space
    With no time left to start again” Byt vas Boeta!!

    • Ed Rybicki says:

      Ja, boet…! Definitely no time left to start again. So, let’s sing:

      “And while Fallists read a book on Marx
      The toyi-toyiers practiced in the park
      And we sang dirges in the dark
      The year the varsities died

      And as the flames climbed high into the night
      To light the sacrificial rite
      I saw Satan laughing with delight
      The year the varsities died
      He was singin’,

      Bye, bye colonial varsities…”

    • Ed Rybicki says:

      …and this just came to me, for a chorus:

      Bye, bye, watch the varsities die
      Marched to Parly for a party, but the Treasury was dry
      And sad old guys drinkin’ whiskey and rye
      Singin’, this’ll be the year that they die
      This’ll be the year that they die…

  13. Reblogged this on Michelo Simuyandi and commented:
    Very sad development

  14. Robin Palmer says:

    We are getting so polarized. This the first post anywhere I have seen that has no,black respondents thus far.

  15. sponge2016 says:

    Paleolithic-nostalgia is not something I can identify with, and which seems to be the dominant narrative at UCT. Opening a singles’ bar in the Philippines, or a laundromat in Budapest makes more sense than trying to force people to use their brains by learning science, which of course has to fall, or learning anything that is deemed vaguely Western.

  16. Ron McGregor says:

    Eish, this is one of the most depressing discussions I have yet seen. Depressing because BOTH sides are literate. (It’s less depressing when one side is clearly just plain stupid!)

    The analogy of Chamberlain and Churchill comes to mind. Max Price (and others) have been playing Chamberlain, desperately trying to appease the Nazis, and futilely claiming “Peace in our time.” But until we come up with a Churchill who will draw the line and say “enough is enough,” we are on a hiding to nothing.

    What MIGHT happen is that, in the absence of a Churchill, we may produce yet another Barend Strydom.

  17. NIDS LOVE BIG EYES says:

    Thank you Ed for your courage and for staying. Nobody would blame you and your partner for seeking fresh pastures, you have only one life. I’d be gone like a shot.

  18. Michaela says:

    Please don’t leave. Science, and UCT, needs you (and your fellow academics) to continue to set an example of how world class research can be generated at an African university.
    Let’s start a new revolution… viva ACCESS to science, technical skills and better teaching for all in our country.

  19. Rudi de Lange says:

    Depressing indeed, and there may be little that we can do in the interim. What we see is just the surface of acquired anger and hatred from a small group of individuals. What keeps me from severe ‘academic depression’ is my smart and forward thinking students.

  20. triestessa says:

    Liberal academics have taught an entire generation of children to be victims and to hate whites (yes whites even hate themselves now). You tried to build an egalitarian utopia despite the fact that humans are tribal and ethnocentric. You’ve ruined your people and your country by failing to acknowledge reality. I have no sympathy for you, though I do weep for the poor whites who don’t have the means to flee SA even if they want to.

    • Ed Rybicki says:

      I don’t think LIBERAL academics are the problem – the ultraleft, rather, or those who subscribe to those weird precepts that declare that racism is unidirectional, for example, or that the sins of the parents must be visited upon the children.

      And now that I’ve read your whole post rather than just the snippet I could see, I think you’re so far off beam as to be beneath notice.

  21. z v says:

    Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it or betray it

    • Ed Rybicki says:

      Sure – I have no problem with that! What I do have a problem with is the knee-jerk labelling of people as being reactionary or “colonial” with no evidence. Oh, and intimidation and disruption.

  22. Tim Skern says:

    Hi Ed,
    thanks for you insight into the developments in SA universities and UCT in particular. It is always very depressing when universities no longer stand as beacons for debate and reasoned argument but are clubbed into submission by rabble-rousers, however convinced they are of themselves. As others have said, it is important that Annaliese and yourself make a statement and stay. In Austria, we may have a callous, inhuman far right-wing President on the 4th December (provided the election is not declared invalid again). I too will be depressed but we will not leave but fight to uphold the values that make Austria a fine country to live in.
    BTW, thanks for you history of virology, very useful background for my students.
    best, Tim

    • Ed Rybicki says:

      Thanks, Tim! It is indeed rather depressing that there is such a right wing movement in the world. And thanks for your comment on the book! Feel like writing a review??

      • Tim Skern says:

        I would love to write a review. It’s just a question of time. Currently swamped with reviewing theses, manuscripts etc and am myself hopelessly late with a workbook on protein structure. But I start my bachelor course on virology next week and lecture to 150 schoolkids on emerging viruses auf Deutsch on Friday, so with my mind tuned to virology, maybe I can squeeze something in for you!
        One patriotic comment on the history straight off, though. You could mention that Landsteiner discovered PV in Vienna ;-). Landsteiner and PV were on the old 1000 schlling note, eradicated by the Euro. Jpg at:

    • Ed Rybicki says:

      Tim: please send me your email address; I do not have it anymore? To ed.rybicki at Then I can send you a link to the PDF version of the Virus History book.

  23. Ed Rybicki says:

    Hah! I shall hold you to that…and it would be good to include the banknote as evidence of public commemmoration of a famous virologist?

    • Tim Skern says:

      will do my best! Glanced through all four chapters in the blog. One comment would be that I think Rossmann’s HRV14 structure (1984/85) and Holge’s PV structure should be included. The first human viruses to have their structure solved. I still remember the excitement of listening to Michael present the structure for the first time. As Rosalin Franklin also started to work on crystals of PV, this would be the closing of another circle. I’ll send you the jpgs of the Austrian currency note.

  24. Pingback: What do you say,when liberalism fails? | Ed Rybicki's Blog

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