Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Throwing Darts At The Intelligentsia

Reading Christorpher Hitchens' Why Orwell Matters reminded me once again of the miserable record of the European intelligentsia in the 20th C. If one were to spread in a row the top three ideas shared by the elites in each decade and throw darts at it, I doubt you would hit a correct one all night.

They did very well on the secondary issues for improving society, and may even be credited with advocating for and obtaining much that we value in our lives today. But the large, animating ideas of both the trained intellectuals and the educated classes - from the Social Darwinism, nihilism, and racial imperatives of the 00's, through the Marxism, Socialism, and Fascism of mid-century, and on to the Coexistence, Postmodernism, and Multiculturalism of the 80's and 90's, they have simply been wrong at every point. There is almost a dependability to it: pick out a year and a country, say England in 1908 or Sweden in 1941 or Italy in 1977, and examine what the great thinkers of the culture were instilling in the university students. You are guarranteed to find great wisdom in all the small things of life, but absolute madness in the large ones.


Anonymous said...

This is only tangentially related, so please forgive me... it relates to your earlier posts about the A&H tribe and other tribes in America. I didn't post it earlier, when those articles were on the front page, because I just now thought of it.

I have long been puzzled as to why America's intelligentsia reacted with such indifference to 9/11. Surely, I though, would not a direct attack on their own country impact their thinking? But apparently it didn't. At first I thought maybe they were just suicidal. But that doesn't make sense. Suicidal people will generally act on their impulses sooner or later, and I think an unusual rate of suicide among America's scholars would have been noted in the media by now if such existed.

This morning it dawned on me. Who would have been most likely to be in the WTC on the morning of Sept. 11th? Why, it would have been mainly members of the business tribe! The WTC was a place of business. It was not a place of random musing, or a kaffeeklatsch for those who deem themselves as unrecognized geniuses. It was a place where people went to get stuff done, and that stuff by and large was commerce.

Now it makes sense. The liberal elites are indifferent to 9/11 because *it wasn't their tribe that was attacked!* In fact, as they regard it, the tribe that was attacked was a tribe they hate -- therefore they should be happy to ally themselves with the attackers. Of course, inherent in this is that said intelligensia ranks their tribal membership above their citizenship in importance. To me, that's a perverse idea, but I know that at various points in human history, it has been the normal state. And I can't come up with any other explanation that seems rational.


Assistant Village Idiot said...

The other place attacked was the Pentagon, which is military tribe.

I think what you say is partially true. There are certainly people of sufficient compassion, patriotism, identification, etc to regard the WTC victims as coming from among their own even if it is not their "primary" tribe. This is exactly one of those situations where I want to be careful not to include too many people in my generalization.

That said, there are people like that. Michael Moore famously noted that the terrorists had hit the wrong target because it was in New York, and those people hadn't voted for Bush. That's quite breathtakingly tribal. Ward Churchill's comment about the people in the WTC being "little Eichmanns" would certainly apply. Lest we think those are unusual or fringe cases, I would note the following: My brother, who taught at Smith, chuckled that no one at Smith could see what the fuss was about - at his school, Churchill would be a moderate; Moore's movies continue to be well-attended and considered cultural influences; the intelligentsia sends its sons and daughters to the military at about one third the rate of the many other American tribes.

I have used an illustration from the country song "Have You Forgotten." Thick southern accent, overdramatic lyrics, typical of its genre, and probably the least favored by the intelligentsia. It includes the lyric "We had neighbors still inside, going through a living hell." I wondered if New Yorkers would have considered Southerners "neighbors."

Anonymous said...

"Why Orwell Matters" - excellent read. I put it down about halfway through and haven't quite gotten back to it. Soon, he tells himself, soon.