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The intellectual is not one of us - The intellectual is not one of us - click opera Page 2 — LiveJournal
February 2010
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Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008 10:10 am
The intellectual is not one of us

The intellectual is not one of us. We are ordinary folks, he is a member of an elite. We gravitate around right wing ideas, he's left-leaning. We're family people, he screws men, women and children. We farm, he stays in the city, with his intellectual elite, or on campus, corrupting the minds of our youth. We're religious, but the intellectual is an unbeliever. We run to fat, he stays thin. We're patriots, he's a cosmopolitan, equally at home with foreigners as with his own kind. He puts loyalty to ideas before loyalty to his people. We have the church, he has the liberal media.

The intellectual is not one of us. We are struggling revolutionaries, he's a technocrat. He's a Marie Antoinette, completely ignorant of the daily life of the poor. He's never been to Appalachia, though he has been to Tokyo. He's the one who helps the powerful build their atom bombs, their death camps, their spy satellites, their coercive media organisations. He's obviously closer to the Israelis than the Palestinians. He hates rap music and the values behind it. To be an intellectual, you have to think like a white person. And intellectuals are as out of touch with their bodies as they are with the people. All those theories, but they'll never understand art. All theory, no praxis. If you can't do, teach.

Those stereotypes of right and left wing anti-intellectualism are reductive sketches of the Wikipedia entry on the subject. (Ah, reductive, there's a word only an intellectual would use! Things are always more complex, aren't they? Potentially? If we really want to talk about this.) The subject is in the air at the moment because Susan Jacoby has published a book called The Age of American Unreason which says that the fact that nearly two-thirds of Americans believe creationism should be taught in schools alongside Darwinian evolution is "an intellectual disaster as grave as the human and natural disaster unfolding in New Orleans". Meanwhile, in another disaster metaphor, Eric G. Wilson (whose Against Happiness is also just published) warns that the American obsession with happiness could "well lead to a sudden extinction of the creative impulse, that could result in an extermination as horrible as those foreshadowed by global warming and environmental crisis and nuclear proliferation". Wow, even I didn't go that far in my Down With Fun! lecture!

America closes the book on intelligence was Salon's title for their Susan Jacoby feature. The New York Times entitled their profile Dumb and Dumber: Are Americans Hostile to Knowledge? New book confirms Americans are stupid, trumpeted Monsters and Critics. Conservatives' rants share blame for intellectualism's decline, said the Arizona Republic. A poor educational system and religious fundamentalism’s hatred of reason have helped turn many of us into isolationist dummies, declared travel blog World Hum. Meanwhile, for misanthropic bulletin board I Love Everything Jacoby's book elicited a shrug: "Most people just don't care about a lot of the stuff that people who say "people are stupid" care about".

The New York Observer has perhaps the most thoughtful article, headlined A Nation of Uncommitted, Distracted Dilettantes. "The contours of a peculiarly American disenlightenment have been traced again and again in recent haute-pop titles as disparate as Morris Berman’s Dark Ages America and Sam Harris’ Letter to a Christian Nation and Al Gore’s The Assault on Reason," writes Jonathan Liu. "A new American exceptionalism of literalist Christianity and proud anti-intellectualism has taken hold: With our Left Behinds and intelligent designs, we must surely seem exceptionally ridiculous to the rest of the world, not least the London-Dubai-Shanghai axis that’s inherited the future while we’ve dawdled over Jesus."

Liu's review is the best because it picks up on Jacoby's nuance -- her attention to the dialectics at play in American anti-intellectualism, from the Scopes monkey trial onwards: "If Scopes and Spencer and Bryan were the morning of the culture wars, Ms. Jacoby’s noontime showdown was the anti-communist 1950’s, which cemented the “pointy-head” academic “as an alien organism within the American body politic.” Her argument is again quietly iconoclastic; McCarthy’s inquisitions were barbaric, but they also pumped up the self-esteem of a tiny clique of Old Left New Yorkers who’d spent the 30’s debating Stalin and Trotsky in obscure journals. “[A] crucial factor,” Ms. Jacoby writes, “in the postwar conflation of anti-communism and anti-intellectualism was the retrospective exaggeration by intellectuals themselves of their own importance and the importance of their twenty-year-old political and personal feuds.” At some point, it seems, the American intellectual fell in love with the idea of himself as the alien organism among bourgeois rubes."

Events in Europe this month haven't been much more reassuring, though. First the Archbishop of Canterbury said the adoption of elements of Islamic sharia law in the UK civic code "seems unavoidable". Then Sarkozy in France started stressing his Catholic credentials, muddying the clear divide between church and state in France. Danish MPs had to cancel a potentially lucrative trip to Iran after the regime there called on them to apologize for the re-publication of the notorious cartoons (which caused renewed riots throughout Denmark), and they refused.

A UK think tank called the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) issued a report saying multiculturalism and excessive liberal tolerance had made Britain a "soft touch" for terrorists, extremists and militants because the "fragmenting, post-Christian society" was seeing "a loss of confidence in our own identity, values, constitution and institutions". Debate over Islam also fuelled the apparent defeat of Marxist critic Terry Eagleton by Martin Amis; the Guardian reported that, following a long-running debate over Amis' anti-Islamic arguments, Eagleton was facing non-renewal of his contract at Manchester University, where Amis gets £80,000 for just 28 hours a year of creative writing tuition. He clearly wouldn't approve of Eagleton's new book, which casts Jesus as a Palestinian revolutionary. But it may be a mark of the fallen tone of our times -- the way that religion seems to be setting all our cultural agendas -- that Eagleton, "Britain's leading Marxist critic", had to reach for Jesus in the first place.

If Marxism won't save us from religious de-evolution, perhaps machines will. This was also the week when Ray Kurzweil declared that man and machine would merge by 2029. On the current evidence, I'm not quite sure what's in it for the machines; at this rate, the only thing they'll be getting in 2029 is religion.


Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008 06:47 pm (UTC)
Pandora's Box

What a species will do for a little bit of tail.

Sparkachu Maelworth
Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008 08:36 pm (UTC)

Hmm, this sounds like something my boyfriend would write. I should show it to him and have him comment on it. If you get a really long response under my name, it's him. LOL!

Bruce Springsteen, you're not the boss of me
Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008 09:27 pm (UTC)

..Your bf is Rick Astley though, right?

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Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008 09:24 pm (UTC)

BERLIN (Kyodo) Director Izuru Kumasaka won the Best First Feature award for his movie, "Asyl — Park and Love Hotel," at the 58th Berlin International Film Festival on Saturday.


Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008 10:05 pm (UTC)

you should use the voice of the sad robot from that belafonte video for your joke voice.

speaking of that, my proctologist, coincedentally named Dr. Momus Belafonte, was checking my prostate the other day, and he put on the glove, lubed his fingers and then proceeded to put his finger in my mouth. Should I be offended?

--The Heirophant


Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008 10:10 pm (UTC)


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(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand

Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008 10:17 pm (UTC)

I'm beginning to feel sorry for Momus, the well-meaning arts and politics teacher at the Heinrich Hoffman Special Needs School funded by the International Attention Deficit Disorder Association.



Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008 11:15 pm (UTC)
Is Eagleton the last of the snake-oil salesmen?

Marxist theory, Birkbeck head-bend, Princeton hippies and Cornel West. A success for Barrack Obama might be the last nail in the coffin for old-school progressives (class of 1848). Be a Brother, not The Man. Fire with fire and fascinating times.

In a way, though: "Look at the smart monkeys, solving all the problems the other monkeys make. Atheism for Religion. Class War for Feudalism. Marxism for Capitalism. Feminism for Sexism. The clever ones, they're the shit-clearers. After the chewers have chewed, the foragers have foraged."

Go back, little Terry monkey. "Oo?!" Go back, before slicing and dicing, counter-slicing and contra-dicing. Before the reactionary, the Catholic Nationalism, the Permadog. Back to source... back.. back..

The Pro-Bling Etc.

Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008 11:31 pm (UTC)

Hasn't religion always set our cultural agendas?

Tue, Feb. 19th, 2008 04:32 am (UTC)

What's the difference between an apathetic yawn and a belligerent baring of incisors?, between disinterest and aggression?ddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddd...[sorry, fell asleep]


(no subject) - (Anonymous)
Tue, Feb. 19th, 2008 01:54 pm (UTC)


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this is not your sawtooth wave
Tue, Feb. 19th, 2008 05:18 pm (UTC)

Soon after reading this post, I found a few news items about "Mac users" vs. "PC users" (here and here). The stereotype of the Mac user (as the cosmopolitan, snobbish cultural elitist, who's Not One Of Us) reminded me of your paraphrasing of right-wing anti-intellectualism.

I'm wondering whether or not Microsoft, Dell and such missed a trick for not running ads playing on the "Mac user=rootless cosmopolitan" stereotype in the year or two after 9/11. when any distancing from patriotic populism was seen as suspect.

Thu, Feb. 21st, 2008 07:31 pm (UTC)
Danish cartoon, Sharia law - a lot of misinformation, it seems....

>Events in Europe this month haven't been much more reassuring, though. First the Archbishop of Canterbury said the adoption of elements of Islamic sharia law in the UK civic code "seems unavoidable".

Its alarming that most people seemed to simply have assumed he was talking about backward rape laws and extreme punishments.. Doesn't it occur to anyone that Sharia law embodies a lot of the ordinary things in daily lives, rather than simply the ones with elements that we consider repulsive?

This is what the Archbishop of Canterbury had to say about it - see the full interview... and, as he mentions, similar arrangements _already_ exists for Jewish citizens.


a quote from the above link:
"ABC That's what it's associated with and I noted in the lecture that there are some Muslim scholars who say you can barely use the word Sharia because of what people associate with it, which for a practising Muslim is quite difficult because they don't see it in that light"

So really he is actually someone trying to TIE together and harmonize relations (and that coming from supposedly evil Christian establishment), yet he is seen as someone proposing extremist, violent quakery. At the same time that leftwingers seem to diss him for it, religious / rightwingers also seem to be trying to drag him down (from what I've read online on various forums - just my observations, I have yet to read a positive comment on him.)


>Danish MPs had to cancel a potentially lucrative trip to Iran after the regime there called on them to apologize for the re-publication of the notorious cartoons (which caused renewed riots throughout Denmark), and they refused.

This was written about the earlier incident - I could not find any more information supporting what this article has written, but what it says is alarming if true: (and would turn our perception of this upside-down)

"When the anticipated reaction by the Muslim community failed to arise, the newspaper continued its campaign, determined to create a full-scale scandal. After a week had gone by without protest, journalists turned on Danish Islamic religious leaders who were well known for their fundamentalist views and demanded: “Why don’t you protest?” Eventually, the latter reacted and alerted their co-thinkers in the Middle East."

A side note, as I wrote elsewhere: "A classmate asked me why the row and violence started AFTER the original cartoon was published in the September of last year, and I had no answer." - its funny because my classmate, at the top of her class(es), was totally un-political, yet she picked up on something that didn't occur to me at all (at the time, I hadn't read the wsws article.)


Another point...

religion all around is seen as a minus, but if people are to actually come together, rather than form segregated groups (which is kind of what propelled Bush Co to power, and continued it), then people have to be really accepting of religious freedom, rather than say "yeah you are allowed to practice what you want" -- "losers"

my 2c

Thu, Feb. 21st, 2008 08:57 pm (UTC)
as it turns out, there are other articles supporting it

originally published in Die Zeit (German paper)

In the first week, there was no protest. It was only when journalists began asking fundamentalist imams in Copenhagen and Aarhus for their opinion that they explained that the caricatures insulted "all Muslims of the world."

"'Because by making fun of people we've also including them in our society. It's not always easy for those concerned, but that's the price they've got to pay.'" - Flemming Rose, on why he published the cartoons, so apparently he believes that Muslims in general deserve to be ridiculed in order to be included, that its the only way...


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