Skip to comments.Intellectual Insanity in American Life
Posted on 12/19/2005 10:27:40 AM PST by vanderleun
THE ALWAYS ASTUTE NEO @ neo-neocon has just published her reflections on the political ramblings of that old war horse "intellectual" Harold Bloom. He comes out of the experience looking rode hard and put away wet.
The essence of Bloom's attack on George Bush is that the President is... wait for it... stupid and doesn't read books. There's a fresh assertion from a clod sharp and tenured academic mind. It doesn't take Neo many words to dissolve Bloom's clod into thin mud since Bloom ignores the facts about Bush's real reading habits before bloviating. As usual no fact ever penetrates Bush hate for reasons explained below. I won't comment upon Bloom's assertion about Bush's intelligence and reading habits. That's done ably by Neo. What struck me is a remark Neo highlighted :
"Bloom doesn't think much of Americans, either:
"All of this is extraordinarily blatant, yet the American people seem benumbed, unable to read, think, or remember, and thus fit subjects for a president who shares their limitations."
The assertion that "the people" are dolts for electing a dolt is heard more and more often from those who consider themselves as the only class fit to vote, fit to win, and fit to rule; the American "intellectuals." Or, as was once said with aplomb in Blazing Saddles, "You know. Assholes."
Now that the vast majority of what passes for intellectuals in America live in a reality distortion field as substantial as that great gas giant Jupiter, there's no escaping its pull. Over the decades "Professional American Intellectuals" (PAIs) have managed to so secure their sinecures in Academe and the Media that they are impervious to any shock that shake them out of their delusion short of a thermonuclear explosion. And for many that wouldn't do it either -- unless they happened to be in the city at the time. We've already established that the destruction of 911 was not enough to penetrate their shields.
Existence within this reality distortion field is similar to, and overlaps, the effect that sudden wealth has had on young entrepreneurs in our time. It's not a new phenomenon, but the endless fast and immense wealth for little effort that our fat system throws off allows it to happen with greater rapidity and intensity today. I think of it as "The Bubble."
When a person gets a very large hit from the money machine these days -- hundreds of millions or perhaps billions -- he receives a kind of life security much like academic tenure, and exceeded only by a job at the Post Office. Then a slow but almost inescapable change begins to take place.
The ability to command any material object or mortal pleasure becomes a soul-warping force stronger than the inability to command any material object or mortal pleasure. Slowly at first, but with ever increasing speed, the individual is sucked away from all those who knew him or her as a normal human. Decent friends become distant to avoid being seen as spongers even though money and favors are dispensed with the best will in the world. Real hustlers, spongers, and perveyors of blandishments come into the Bubble Boy's realm on wings of subtle but unremitting flattery.
In time, most of the old friends have either melted away, walked away, or been driven out by the hordes on the con. The afflicted is left surrounded by people who assure him they are his friends because real friends always stand by a pal --- as long as the gravy train rolls. Since he no longer has any real yardstick against which to measure his drift from normality, the drift continues until he is surrounded only by sycophants of all sizes and shapes. He is then in The Bubble and will stay there until death, tragedy, or the end of the money.
So it is with the PAI "Professional American Intellectual." Indeed, many of them have wheedled their way into The Bubble of the Suddenly Wealthy since he always needs affirmation and they always need a grant. One of the first thing a PAI learns in school is how to mirror money. And money loves to be mirrored as much as the witch in "Sleeping Beauty." PAIs proliferate next to and within effortless money and the vast dark towers of American philanthropy. As Exhibits A to D I give you Senator and Mrs. Heinz-Kerry, the Hollywood Clintons, the George Soros Brigade, and the Huffington Huff of 2004 if you can bear to recall their antics. There are others and they are legion. This is, as I said, a fat country. We can afford a lot of them. We even let them jet about the nation to instruct us on how to live and think and believe and be. All the old snake oil of "the betters" who always know better and love to butt in to people's lives. Sometimes, since they are parasites on the body politic, we even allow them to run for office.
Looking at these intersecting bubble palaces wafting about America today, one can only feel irritated and saddened the inhabitants are compelled, en masse it seems, to move from hating Bush to hating The People as well. When this happens the murmured subtext is always thus: Oh, pity and fear the poor " Little People" who did not go to the right schools, read the right books, wear the right clothes, summer in the right places, speak the right French phrases, and have all the right friends. At parties, summer houses, and lunches in New York City for over 30 years I heard this nattering as a constant theme. I am ashamed now to say that I nattered right along with the rest. After all, once you've got a seat at the round table you've gotta walk the walk and talk the talk. That person standing behind your chair isn't the waiter and can't wait to sit down.
The darker level below the whispered subtext is that if "The Little People" cannot be trusted to vote correctly, than perhaps the running of America cannot be left to such losers. Yes, perhaps it would be best not for America, but for "the future of the planet" if only the PAIs and all their pals had the vote and had their way, now and forever, Bubble without end, always. This oozing attitude of self-righteous smarm harks back to that time when only the racial and intellectual and financial American elite had the vote; that four-score and seven year period before the Civil War.
Within The Bubble of the PAIs the standard issue view that Bush is stupid is, of course, neither new nor illuminating. It has been the First Commandment of "Real and Really Smart Citizens" of the US since well before the election of 2000. It reads, "Thou shalt always believe and constantly assert that George W. Bush is dumb."
Within the Bubble the questioning of these secular commandments is not permitted. Other ages called it heresy and burned the offenders at the stake. This Brave New Bubble calls it politically incorrect, and casts any heretics into the outer darkness of the vast prehistoric wastes between the Upper West Side, Georgetown, San Francisco and Beverly Hills. The question of how this man, or any man, becomes President (the most arduous job interview in history) without being intelligent cannot even be thought, much less asked. It can't be asked since the answer is "He can't. He has to be smart." That single admission brings down the whole house of cards they have now piled up halfway to their empty but highly evolved heaven.
Bloom and the millions with him in The Bubble have now entered so deeply into their distortion field they cannot extricate themselves. To admit to even a smidgen of the truth is to admit that their entire shared "reality" is a mass delusion, an intellectual insanity of their crowd, the Smart Set. But still there has to be some explanation of how an "obvious moron" can become President. Twice. More and more that reason is now being given as "The People are stupid."
This is shameful on the face of it. Worse, this is from a party and an intellectual tradition that gave us such native geniuses as Wood Guthrie for whom this land was made for you and me, and Carl Sandberg for whom "The People, Yes," and the towering poet Frost for whom:
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright (The deed of gift was many deeds of war) To the land vaguely realizing westward, But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced, Such as she was, such as she would become.
American intellectuals, with few exceptions, have never managed to match the majesty, the faith, and the vision of our songwriters and our poets; all of whom knew that the true soul and destiny of these states was never to be found in the elitist enclaves or the petrified forests of academe, but always out there in "the land vaguely realizing westward" among "The People."
The unreasoning anger at Bush has now begun to spread out like a pool of unrestrained bile into a widening anger at "The People." It will only intensify since one of the chief ways of identifying those who are suffering from a state of severe and unremitting high anxiety is through their expressions of irrational anger which quickly escalate into spuming and sputtering rage.
It might well be a case of "Those whom the Gods would destroy, they first make intellectually insane." In a way, it is probably good that those PAIs among us remain in The Bubble. We have enough psychotics loose on our streets already. It's winter in America and all the heating grates on our city sidewalks are already taken.
The Night Before Jihad
Twas the night before jihad and all through the mosque
Not a terrorist was stirring not even Abu Al-Zarasq
The suicide belts were arranged neatly on the floor
The written fatwah from Imam was taped to the door
The mullahs were delighted with news on CNN
That the Democrats were repeating how Bush lied again
The Times and DNC continually sing our notes
Yet, when we take over we'll still slit their throats
An infidel so friendly we could not recall
But, Burkett, Sheehan & Wilson weren't working at all
The Stupid Cowboy they called him was still all the news
Kerry was our man but destined to lose
When outside our haven arose such a clatter
The GIs were upon us to settle the matter
Allah would reward us with our virgins tonight
Not as we planned but for us it was all right
From our glorious heaven we heard news that we like
The American press spoke of this US terrorist strike
On Murtha On Pelosi On Kennedy and Reid
The Democrat Stooges always say as we need
The infidel liberals don't learn from their past
Merry jihad to all and to all a good blast
What exactly are intellectuals functions? They, imho, have added very little to society, while harping on perceived inadequacies. Their natterings are usually foggy at best, and ultra lefty at worst. Imho.
Bloom's hero Emerson said that every hero becomes a bore at last, and that's especially true of intellectual heroes. But the thing about Bloom is -- he's not a typical anything. He's put a lot of energy into being original, and you have to at least give him that.
What's the use of intellectuals? I don't know how to answer the question, but if somebody has to ask it something's really wrong. Surely understanding the world, discussing its qualities, and reading books are things that are worthwhile and more than justified.
It might be interesting to look at the real history and family backgrounds of these self-designated elites. I have not looked at it in any depth, but it seems to me that the American intellectual elite is a two-tier system. At the top are the dilletantes of the "Eastern Establishment," their status based on freedom from work and the traditional snobbery of "old money."
The real rank and file, the masses who nurture this hierarcy, however, seem to come from a different background, what I have sometimes called the "hinterland elite." These are the privileged children of more localized elites, the "rich kids" from small and medium size towns in every part of the country. They are the ones who have the freedom to pursue academic fields in which the chances of actually making a living are low to remote. They are the drama and philosophy majors and the academic literature mavens who plague the existence of every working writer.
This kind of background will automatically produce a high degree of snobbery, reinforced in universities by previous generations of elitist dilletantes.
Some succeed. The best example I can think of is the son of a very prosperous but uneducated body-shop owner. The boy concentrated on drama, since he had a trust fund and did not have to worry about earning a living. He eventually became a typical hinterland intellectual, a local TV personality in a small market in Louisiana.
Because of their geographic origins, some of these hinterland elitists are themselves subjected to varying degrees of cultural snobbery, to which they respond with a desperate compulsion to join their tormentors. They become exquisite snobs themselves.
The only person I know who adheres to the near-racist notion that Americans are inherently stupid is the son of a local TV producer, fairly far up the local pecking order but not far enough to get real respect. He became an anthropologist, later a State Department officer, and is now a consultant to overseas businesses. He lives in Thailand and boasts that he will never again set foot in his hometown.
This is really about parochial snobs trying desperately to show that they are not really like the folks back home.
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