12 January 2009

An Attack On Intellectualism

It's a frightening day when you realize that being intelligent and valuing an education has become a negative in the United States. It all began with Sarah Palin - 5 schools before a college degree and no postgraduate work, but if you said a word about it you were being "elitist" and "cruel," as if that was no to decide whether or not a person should be entrusted with the fate of the free world. I agree that it's not the only criteria, but what, exactly, is wrong with getting an education?

Now, once again, she's back on her high horse saying reporters "mistreated" her during the campaign. Recent quotes include such zingers as "The mama grizzly rises up in me, hearing things like that," whilst referring to recent criticism of her teenage daughter's pregnancy and subsequent marriage. While her kids are not necessary up for discussion, she is, and so should her intelligence. Now the media are elite for asking hard questions, Obama was elite for going to Harvard and the country is just full of "liberal elites." Replace elite with intelligent and you've got "the media are intelligent for asking hard questions, Obama was intelligent for going to Harvard and the country is just full of "liberal intelligent people." How terrible!

It's an attack on intellectualism, and it isn't the first time this has happened. Look back to Pol Pot's Cambodia, just to name one. Things are going downhill, those in need are vulnerable and all of a sudden it's time to blame educated people who are "distant" and "don't understand" because they're just so educated and "high and mighty," rather than think "hey, why don't I try and get an education as well, so I can be intelligent, make educated decisions and create a better future for myself and those around me?"

It hasn't come to the surface just yet, but it's a bubbling and I'm scared for all of us. Yes, there are problems with access to education, and that's something that needs serious attention. Still, that doesn't mean the best thing to do is attack anyone who does have one. Meanwhile, it seems to be increasingly cool to plead ignorance and want a leader who does the same. Now that is frightening.

Part two emerged just today, with "Joe The Plumber" reporting live from Israel on the current escalation of violence. He offered such telling insights as "when someone hits me, I'm going to unload on the boy." When discussing the situation for Israeli's in southern Israel he said “I’m sure they’re taking quick showers, I know I would. So you can’t plan your day, you can’t take a picnic.“ Mortars are being launched and he's talking about planning a picnic?

Hundreds of people are dead and at the root of it is a conflict that is hundreds of years old, of which Joe has no knowledge, but you can't say anything about that because then you're being elite (read: intelligent). Well I'm over that. Let's get a few things straight. Joe the Plumber has no idea what's happening in the Middle East and should not be given a platform by the likes of even CNN, who are reporting on his reporting, which is in and of itself a major problem.

It's alright that people are experts in subjects then use that expertise to explain a situation or do something about it. Rather than get irritated, maybe just try and learn something from them. What's more, why doesn't the media get back to doing it's job - reporting real news. By telling stories like this they're legitimizing this attack on education. What else did Joe have to say? Oh, just that the media have no business reporting war. Why, you ask? Because it makes "the war" unpopular and then it's harder to fight it. And where did he make this statement? While reporting on war!

I can only hope there isn't some broader agreement on this absurd notion. While I in no way believe the mass media have done a good job of reporting conflict these past 8 years, I can't even imagine where we might be had all of this been simply happening with no watchful eye. What about Abu Ghraib? Guantanamo Bay? The list goes on and on. Still, there it is once again - advocating for ignorance. For staying in the dark and not seeking anything beyond your own immediate World. Does that really sound ideal to you?

Be afraid. Be very afraid.


Kyle Taylor


shelby said...

This reminds me of a great quote from a HuffPost before the election, where Aaron Sorkin wrote a fictional meeting of the minds between Obama and his "West Wing" character, President Bartlet.

"BARTLET: Where does a guy with eight houses who was legacied into Annapolis get off calling you an elitist? And by the way, if you do nothing else, take that word back. Elite is a good word, it means well above average. I’d ask them what their problem is with excellence. While you’re at it, I want the word “patriot” back."


Kyle Taylor said...

LOVE. IT. I'll also take back the words freedom, equality, justice, values, morals, education and, just for good measure, right (as in correct).

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