Monday, 10 November 2008

America - look out for so-called intellectuals.

When one looks at the multitude of things that threaten the very foundation of the way we live one finds a particularly insidious threat that is unrecognised by the largely self-appointed members of the group.

That group is intellectuals.

The threat is what I have been calling intellectualism.

Intellectualism, as I define it, is the belief that those people with high IQs are, by definition, better equipped to provide leadership to the world and prognosticate on matters of morals than those below them in the smarts stakes.

Marxism in all its forms - socialism, communism, environmentalism - is an example of intellectualism at work.

Marx and his modern day followers believe that the world can be ordered according to their will and it's no surprise to see a preponderance of high IQ people being sucked into this alluring fallacy.

Intellectualism is currently in the process of breaking down Western Europe.

Intellectuals have always held a higher cultural place in Europe than in the United States and it's one of the reasons that Europe looks down its nose at America.

America, on the other hand, knows that being smart is only half the battle and that getting off your butt and succeeding is what drives society forward. Therefore, Americans celebrate those who are successful above the intellectually capable.

People like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are undoubtedly extremely smart people but intelligence does not correlate with wisdom, as our university faculties prove time and again.

It is most certainly true that the anti-intellectual positions taken by places such as the Discovery Institute play into the hands of the anti-religious intellectuals who are driving the secular movement in Europe. That's why the Discovery Institute is on my top 10 list of institutions that destroy the world - they inadvertently cause the Christian values baby to be tossed out with the belief in God bathwater, and that spells serious consequences for Europe.

The coming conflict in Europe, brought about by failing economies, with its large number of immigrants who have assiduously failed to integrate into the local culture will be made all the worse due to people's lack of understanding of morality and common values system.

Dawkins, for example, is among the many atheists who believe people can choose their own values - as he outlines in The God Delusion - even giving a list of the 10 he chose (which, embarrassingly for him I suspect, came from an atheist website).

It may be a sign of intelligence that one can choose those they feel most comfortable with but how wise is it for there to be no underpinning values system that stitches society together, epecially in times of national crisis?

Tom Sowell, a great thinker himself, brings us this piece describing intellectuals and their history of being on the wrong side of issues at nearly every opportunity.
Among the many wonders to be expected from an Obama administration, if Nicholas D. Kristof of the New York Times is to be believed, is ending “the anti-intellectualism that has long been a strain in American life.”

He cited Adlai Stevenson, the suave and debonair governor of Illinois, who twice ran for president against Eisenhower in the 1950s, as an example of an intellectual in politics.

Intellectuals, according to Mr. Kristof, are people who are “interested in ideas and comfortable with complexity,” people who “read the classics.”

It is hard to know whether to laugh or cry.

Adlai Stevenson was certainly regarded as an intellectual by intellectuals in the 1950s. But, half a century later, facts paint a very different picture.

Historian Michael Beschloss, among others, has noted that Stevenson “could go quite happily for months or years without picking up a book.” But Stevenson had the airs of an intellectual — the form, rather than the substance.

What is more telling, form was enough to impress the intellectuals, not only then but even now, years after the facts have been revealed, though apparently not to Mr. Kristof.

That is one of many reasons why intellectuals are not taken as seriously by others as they take themselves.

As for reading the classics, President Harry Truman, whom no one thought of as an intellectual, was a voracious reader of heavyweight stuff like Thucydides and read Cicero in the original Latin. When Chief Justice Carl Vinson quoted in Latin, Truman was able to correct him.

Yet intellectuals tended to think of the unpretentious and plain-spoken Truman as little more than a country bumpkin.

Similarly, no one ever thought of President Calvin Coolidge as an intellectual. Yet Coolidge also read the classics in the White House. He read both Latin and Greek, and read Dante in the original Italian, since he spoke several languages. It was said that the taciturn Coolidge could be silent in five different languages.

The intellectual levels of politicians are just one of the many things that intellectuals have grossly misjudged for years on end.

During the 1930s, some of the leading intellectuals in America condemned our economic system and pointed to the centrally planned Soviet economy as a model — all this at a time when literally millions of people were starving to death in the Soviet Union, from a famine in a country with some of the richest farmland in Europe and historically a large exporter of food.

New York Times Moscow correspondent Walter Duranty won a Pulitzer Prize for telling the intelligentsia what they wanted to hear — that claims of starvation in the Ukraine were false.

After British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge reported from the Ukraine on the massive deaths from starvation there, he was ostracized after returning to England and unable to find a job.

More than half a century later, when the archives of the Soviet Union were finally opened up under Mikhail Gorbachev, it turned out that about six million people had died in that famine — about the same number as the people killed in Hitler’s Holocaust.

In the 1930s, it was the intellectuals who pooh-poohed the dangers from the rise of Hitler and urged Western disarmament.

It would be no feat to fill a big book with all the things on which intellectuals were grossly mistaken, just in the 20th century — far more so than ordinary people.

History fully vindicates the late William F. Buckley’s view that he would rather be ruled by people represented by the first 100 names in the Boston phone book than by the faculty of Harvard.

How have intellectuals managed to be so wrong, so often? By thinking that because they are knowledgeable — or even expert — within some narrow band out of the vast spectrum of human concerns, that makes them wise guides to the masses and to the rulers of the nation.

But the ignorance of Ph.D.s is still ignorance and high-IQ groupthink is still groupthink, which is the antithesis of real thinking.
Well said.

George W Bush, long derided as being a Texan yokel, reads more than one book per week (over 60 per year) on history, politics and philosophy.

Who among his critics knows that fact?

How many books do his critics read?

(Nothing Follows)


Gail said...

Please do not confuse the current pseudo-elites with true intellectuals. I am a lapsed (have not paid dues) member of Mensa and have an embarrassingly high IQ.

However, I know from experience that raw intellect, not properly used is more frivilous than beauty. At least seeing a beautiful person brightens anyone's day. Unused intellect has no value whatsoever, and I have met many of the sorry, overly intelligent underachievers who prove the point.

I am a devout conservative because I know that character, judgement and moral fiber are not characteristics of intellect. Those are the qualities that predicate good leadership. I have often worked directly for people of lesser intelligence than I, but nevertheless with greater overall ability and I have been honored to know such capable people.

Now, of course one does require a certain intellectual capacity to understand the vagaries of life and of politics, of history and humanity. But...even people with average or below average intellects are perfectly capable of managing their own lives. They don't over reach. People know their limits and are capable of great courage and decency regardless of intellect. They also are capable of recognizing true intelligence when they encounter it, and do not meet it with resentment.

The poseurs who are masquerading as "elite" and as "intellectuals" are neither. They not only lack character, courage and honor, they are also very lacking in intelligence. The only thing sadder than the underachieving person who has intellectual ability, is the mediocre intellect pretending to himeslf and others that he is somehow superior. Do not be fooled by those people. Just because they are stupid enough to deceive themselves does not mean you must humor them. You may, however, pity them. It is not necessary to be mean spirited toward them, they cannot do anything about their limitations and cannot accept them with grace.

Best regards,
Gail S

Jack Lacton said...

Hi Gail,

Thanks for the thoughtful response.

I think that if one has a high IQ and is a conservative that they're much more likely to place other traits above intelligence as being important.

My friends have badgered me for years to do the Mensa test. I could never see the benefit of membership, I must admit, other than to say you were a member. Perhaps you can enlighten me on that one?