Saturday, December 11, 2004
Intellectuals And The Coincidence Of Political Affiliation
It would probably be reasonable to describe intellectuals as people who direct considerable attention to, “things of the mind,” this supposes an interest in philosophy, the arts, and ideas in general. It would be odd indeed to find a person drawn to philosophy (a “love of knowledge”) and they not show interest in issues regarding human society and politics. It’s probably safe to say that most intellectuals take more than a passing interest in political matters.
Throughout history we find intellectuals of both moderate and extreme political belief spanning the political spectrum. There were Nazi intellectuals, Communist intellectuals, and there are free-market intellectuals. So why is it that in our own time, in the west, intellectuals are more often than not, allies of Leftism? What distinguishes a leftist intellectual from a right-wing one? First we must realize that both philosophies, in their extremes, are statist in nature; they wish to establish an order where others are forced to conform to the intellectual’s “plan” – collectivism. Neither Communist nor Nazi will be found to argue the superior value of a free and open society of autonomous citizens. Both sides of the extreme Right/Left false dichotomy feel the need to impose the template of central authority upon all aspects of society.
It is surely more than coincidence that we find “right” and “left” intellectuals in agreement on a variety of matters, particularly in their attitudes toward Capitalism, which they both see as corrupt, decadent, and “unjust.” It is equally no coincidence that most left-wing intellectuals today are found to side with far right Islamo-fascism in its current war on free society.
A most insightful critique of this paradox can be found in a work by Eric Hoffer, (best known for his book, The True Believer). In his book, The Ordeal of Change, Hoffer addresses the unique nature of Leftism’s popularity among intellectuals -- in America in particular.
Hoffer’s book (now out of print) contains some insightful commentary on the nature of the intellectuals in modern western society, the things that motivate them, and the flawed leftist ideals they tend to rally around.
One of the issues that Hoffer addresses skillfully is the nature of management in Capitalist society vs. Socialist society.
”To the eternal workingman management is substantially the same whether it is made up of profit seekers, idealists, technicians, or bureaucrats. The allegiance of the manager is to the task and the results. However noble his motives, he cannot help [but view] the workers as a means to an end. He will always try to get the utmost out of them; and it matters not whether he does it for the sake of profit, for a holy cause, or for the sheer principle of efficiency….
…Any doctrine that preaches the oneness of management and labor – whether it stresses their unity in a party, class, race, nation, or even religion – can be used to turn the worker into a compliant instrument in the hands of management. Both Communism and Fascism postulate the oneness of management and labor, and both are devices for the extraction of maximum performance from an underpaid labor force…
…Seen from this point of view, the nationalization of the means of production is more a threat than a promise. For we shall be bossed and managed by someone, no matter who owns the means of production – and we can have no defenses against those who can tell us in all truth that we, the workers, own everything in sight and they, our taskmasters, are driving us for our own good. The battle between Socialism and Capitalism is to a large extent a battle between bosses, and it is legitimate to size up the dedicated Socialist as a potential boss.
One needs not call to mind the example of Communist Russia to realize that the idealist has the making of a most formidable taskmaster.” (The Ordeal of Change, Pgs. 64-65)
In addition to Hoffer’s insightful appraisals of "management," his inquiry -- a concise 120 pages -- dissects the reasons why contemporary intellectuals tend to be Leftist in their sympathies and more so, why they so despise the United States in particular. In other countries, such extremist elites are often openly nationalistic, if not adoring of their own state’s authority – why should this be?
Through stealth and guile, the movers and shakers of leftist polemic have sought to transform America slowly and by degree into the socialist model of mega-government. The dilemma for them has been the nation's natural tendency to continually recoil back to its true nature as a haven for individualist thought and free and open commerce – no place for a social planning intellectual to feel at home, to be sure.
In France, a totalitarian adoring Jean Paul Sartre was held in high esteem by both the state and its citizenry. Where are the admired intellectual heroes of America? Noam Chomsky is a fringe political charlatan at best, esteemed by a thin sliver of self-absorbed intellectual wannabes.
America’s genuine hero figures are entrepreneurs, sports figures, and entertainers (with an occasional astronaut thrown in for novelty). Seen as evidence of shallow value standards by the arrogant Euro-chic, Americans have directed their admiration to people like Bill Gates and Steven Spielberg. France has Jean Baudrillard and a dead literary quack named Derrida
The average American “worker” -- proletarian interests aside -- would probably pass on the opportunity for leisure conversation with a French “thinker.” In fact, most would have more in common with a billionaire software mogul or pop film director.
Don’t think that the irony of this circumstance is lost on the celebrity wannabes of the academy. In essence, most Americans see intellectuals for what they are, mere scholastic entertainers – albeit considerably less entertaining than most pop figures.
Intellectual brilliance is, of course, a good thing, but that bitter and transparent undercurrent of wanting to rule and wanting to “plan” (other’s lives) has fortunately been rejected by simple citizens, just as John Kerry and (indirectly) Michael Moore were rejected in the last election.
Most intellectuals today don’t like America because they don’t like bourgeois society in general, or the capitalist system that allows such society to flourish. As long as Americans shower attention, admiration, and power upon entrepreneurs, media personalities, and the like, the intellectuals will resent the system that has placed them (the intellectuals) into such an irrelevant status.
It’s hardly a surprise that most intellectuals today are so allied with the forces of collectivist philosophy and the manifest bureau state. They would hate to have it pointed out to them, but their allegiance is motivated primarily by the attribute they despise most in free capitalist society -- individual self-interest.
It’s not wonder that, recently, we find the Left so defensive, if not outright supportive, of Fascist Muslim terrorists. It’s not so much that they approve of Burka dress codes and fatwas as simply sharing a hatred for America and its values. It turns out that typical American values fail to promote submission to the intellectual’s self-perceived greatness.
It’s no coincidence that most intellectuals today are kindered spirits of the far Left’s cause, just as it is no coincidence that most of the bloodbaths and oppression of the last century occurred under their watch.
“Thinkers” should think, and leave the rest of us alone to live as we choose.
“Freedom Fighters” keep on doing what they do best…
…Using random violence to prevent freedom from taking root in Iraq.
I still keep seeing implications in the media that the insurgents are somehow simply acting to eject the “American occupiers.” Someone needs to remind the average mainstream media observer that the insurgency consists of former Baath Party allies who wish to re-impose Hussein’s fascist police state and Islamic extremists who wish to impose a Taliban style dictatorship that shrouds women in Burkas and kills homosexuals – needless to say, they don’t want an election to take place. Where do we see the cause of “freedom” among any of these vile henchmen of tyranny?
In their non-stop attempts to soften the image of terrorists, the so-called “progressives” out there have certainly strayed far from their claimed values. Of course, we must remember, they spent the better part of the last century fawning over the former Soviet Union.
A new post in perhaps five to seven days…