The modern intellectual – Long winded, resolute, smugly calm, and can be found citing throngs of misapplied references in an effort to establish credence and a deflecting wall to hide behind should someone call out their idea as utter bullshit. But as long as intellectuals can create a melange of contrivances and purported facts stitched together in some Frankenstein like manufacture of the truth they can continue to parade through a series arguments that are addressing the symptoms and not the sickness – bombarding audiences with complexities they are unlikely to absorb using paragraphs full of bullshittery which can be freebased into a sentence. Charles Bukowski said it well: “An intellectual says a simple thing in a hard way. An artist says a hard thing in a simple way.” Denoting the gap between people that talk fancy because it sounds impressive and those artful in writing and creating arguments that connect.
Amidst intellectuals’ overeducated celebration of their own regurgitated pile of ideas something odious occurs, we lose objective reasoned debate in the public forum. My intent with this writing is not to dismiss honest intellectuals seeking to inform, but to bring them out of the bubble worlds they currently reside. They see wars, complex twisted tales of corruption, and the worst of society, but they do not contemplate the average day-to-day life and how we’re led to believe that only the most extreme abuses of power are worthy of our immediate attention.
In my last piece The Tragedy of Nothing I talked about the hushed suffering masses jumping through hoops, checking off the boxes, waiting to retire and die – or take the current trendy shortcut and overdose on oxy in a suicidal escape route. But the daily build up of frustration and depression isn’t good enough to elicit public debate, it seems we need mass shootings and climate destruction to catch our attention.
Basic observations and arguments are left out of the public forum that question the foundations of our culture like why are we living by a philosophy crafted with an anhedonic Amish work obsession driven by an Ebenezer Scrooge like hunger for money, and why are we doing it if all it creates is misery and exploitation? This system of ego and individualism is broken at its core foundations, a system made specifically for rule by aristocracy. Thus the arguments should start with big questions, but we remain lost in the details, forsaken to tumble in circles because the right questions are not brought to the forefront that address this system as a whole. Deductive questions which dig to the roots of our social contract are among the most important we should be asking.
But most intellectuals do not argue for the common person, and thus they miss a crucial leverage point. The proletariat have unknowingly condoned, albeit through coercion, a system that has led to the present strife, and it’s to be assumed they would not support the status quo if they understood what the well informed know. However there is not time nor energy from either side to impart or absorb this compendium of knowledge. This creates a problem of how to connect with the “I just want to come home from work and zone out” working class. Fractional reserve banking is a tremendous scam, but try relaying that to someone coming off a 10hr shift after standing all day. The word “fractional” alone is likely to induce a violent narcoleptic fit. However the evidence that will resonate with the time starved masses for changing the system does not lie in the little known, but the well known we can all see in front of us and fomenting that into action.
Perhaps intellectuals believe themselves to be above basic arguments, maybe they deem these questions to be impractical, or feel as though topics have been adequately addressed three hundred years ago and there is no reason to tread over them again. But we clearly have lost what the definition of liberty means, and equality for that matter, and I don’t know I’ve ever seen a real debate about what constitutes happiness in the public forum and certainly not on a presidential debate stage. How can we be at liberty to pursue happiness if we don’t know what these terms mean? These are high level ideas that are necessary to establish a basis for legislative precedent thereafter, that is if we believe these are truly worthy concepts. Yet arguments addressing our basic autonomy and rights remain unaddressed or treated like teenage idealism in the public forum, and for this malfeasance I must indict the intellectual community for their role in not properly framing our discussions.
Some intellectuals are kept tamped down by threat of losing jobs or funding, while others remain wildly detached from the truth based on purblind ego and hubris, but I cannot fault them for trying to productively use their intellectual faculties. Whereas the average American reads nothing more challenging than young adult fiction while promoting anti-intellectualism on twitter and facebook rants, solidifying the stereotype of the dumb American. Surprising no one our populace endorses a bevy of poorly thought out ideas and narratives, which are anti-proletariat as much as they are anti-intellectual.
This leaves intellectuals faced with the task of cutting through the thick covering of media propaganda themselves and attempting to deliver the people from a manufactured reality fed to us all. But for all their efforts Americans remain firmly planted around the digital glow of distraction, tuned into the trendy hum of a society that finds itself lost at the brink of impending chaos from climate destruction. Meanwhile intellectuals drum up the next round of stats and cherry picked heart wrenching pathos which are supposed to unify the working class and prompt action, but their delivery of the bad news breeds hopelessness, or worse boredom, substantially more than outraged conviction.
Adding to the list of sins are the consistent attempts to educate via historical storytelling, which are more often a digression with an interesting factoid than a connecting force. Even when historically accurate these narratives too often do not match up to the present moment or precisely define what is wrong. Furthermore, forcing arguments to have well known validated historical narratives as proof an idea’s relevancy is not good thought, it’s lazy. The historical storytelling is losing people in a history lesson instead of teaching them what is wrong at a very deep level with our current system and relating how that impacts their lives and robs them of a better life they could be living.
But arguments that dare to allude to the a priori are often dismissed out of hand by intellectuals leading audiences to believe ideas and knowledge cannot be reasoned on their own logical merits, instead ideas are routinely backed with appeals to cultural norms, established credentials, and misplaced scientism – not on new creative thought. The intellectual community is simply too focused on fixing a stat instead of fixing a culture turned against itself on an ego based death spiral of self hatred where wisdom isn’t quite as lauded as it used to be.
The adherence to the sub-ideology of scientism is not solving our problems either and is seeing ever smaller rewards out of ever greater inputs. Still, scientism insipidly marches towards peak diminishing marginal utility where the burden of crafting studies and maintaining our problem solving machines is outstripping the benefits. We’ve long battled to collect empirical evidence to overrule oppressive theocracy, and that battle has been ongoing, but along the way philosophy took a backseat because it became too dangerous for intellectuals to manage. Too soft. We needed facts. Except the experience of life isn’t a Truman Show recipe we can package and sell.
The belief remains popularized by intellectuals the meaning of life can be found in a balanced equation, a little antidepressants, exercise, diet, a favorite distraction from your misery, some cognitive therapy, yoga, and a little help from your friends – how cute! This reductionism of the experiential strips the humanity from the equation and leaves plug and chug, color by numbers lives suggesting do this – get that philosophy allowing externalities to be dismissed as ends increasingly justify the means. They use “facts” like GDP and employment rates as measures of well being, but go hangout with a middle class family and see the panicked stress of daily life, and what success looks like is survival with a good credit rating, consequently we devolve into mechanisms and predictable gears to achieve our great success.
After the mis-prioritization of values and poor argumentation comes the dreaded observer effect where intellectuals worry how they will be perceived and liked as a result of their findings. They are acutely aware that the messenger is often shot and so begins the even-handed attempt to feign pragmatic conclusions to appear reasonable and avoid being pegged a radical, doom and gloomer, or utopian – What is left is milquetoast conclusions that talk big ideas on the outset and deliver the same results. And it is the capitulation towards desired popular acceptance that is the most damning part of intellectual commentary. The inauthenticity of it all leads to conclusions that are band aids while the populace fails to understand the systemic problems enough to reach the right conclusions on their own.
All this work done by the tenured and the credentialed to give that glossy polished feel to intellectual work telling us what we already know – We are broken. It’s no surprise we have cultivated a society that when presented with a new thought will quickly run to safety picking up their armaments labeled credentials, stats, and tradition so that they may light the sky ablaze in hellfire to down any foreign aircraft in their conformist skies. We have learned what real intellectual helplessness feels like, and we have accepted its confines.