Slick salesmen of the intellectual apocalypse

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Dumb is as dumb votes.

We are in a bind, aren’t we? If educated people speak out against populism then we prove their point; that we belong to an elite that is out of touch with ordinary people. And so by speaking, we make it worse. But if we apologise and say we understand why people feel this way then that’s not right. And it doesn’t point to a way out. Good people are meant to oppose fascism.

I don’t have an answer. It’s a quandary. And I don’t know what’s coming next from north of the Tiber.

But I’m pretty sure I know how we got here.

Firstly, the academy lost its mind. In a post-truth world we need heavyweights standing-up for truth. We need passionate veridicists willing to point out facts from history and about society. We need practical philosophers who will challenge political whimsy with professorial gravitas. But the social sciences fell, to varying degrees, for relativism. There is no truth any more, only signifiers. Right and wrong is an unfashionable binary. Impenetrable jargon is such stuff that careers are made on. So the academy has both bound and washed its hands.

Then there are the systems we have in place for educating our peoples – systems created, at least in part, to strengthen our democracies by giving the populace the knowledge they need to make good decisions.

But these systems have been led into error by false prophets. These are the ones who look at the pinnacle of disciplined human endeavour – an invention, a cure, a play, a painting – and declare that these works are the product of ‘creativity’. If only, they claim, we could get students rehearsing their creativity in a trillion mediocre and worthless ways then we would prosper.

It is as if the hoard were marching on us and yet we were in thrall to oracles urging us to teach our soldiers the quality of fightiness and the need for good heart rather than teach them how to handle their swords, hold their shields and maintain a defensive line.

Slick salesmen are selling us mirages. None of these will lead to better educated peoples. Instead, we will frivolously waste the time of young people as they mess around with computer games or lego or some other engaging gimmick prior to dropping out and wondering why the world has gone to crap.

We can do better than this. Do many of our students even know enough of history to know what is at risk? As teachers, it is up to us to pass on to our students the fruits of civilisation – knowledge that is worth defending. We know how to do this, we just need to stop hating ourselves long enough to give it a go.

Our modern democratic empire is guilty of many evils, hypocrisies and contradictions. But it is better than the chaos that awaits its demise.

Rage against that chaos.


10 thoughts on “Slick salesmen of the intellectual apocalypse

  1. Ada Mallory says:

    Thank you Greg for this provocative but so very true article. It dares to express why many of us have been consistently shut down by supposedly liberal thinkers who are far more closed minded than any so called fundamentalists or conservatives I have ever known.

    The status quo has always been capable of being very wrong- few people think things through themselves- and opposition to status quo thinkers has been swift and complete.
    Even within our churches.

    If everyone thinks something is right, well, it simply must be. Right?

    As a writer you are right on. Pun intended.

    Ada Mallory

  2. Simple answer to this Greg. It’s nothing to do with character flaws of those who pulled the lever for Trump; that’s a distraction. Hillary was simply the worst candidate ever. How bad? She lost to Trump — what else needs be said?

    But this documentary (and abbreviated form of the much longer book by the same name)

    goes some way to elucidating one aspect of why she was such a bad candidate.

    And Bill Whittle gives a more lighthearted treatment here, throwing Trump out of the equation and running Hillary against a turnip.

    The inanity of attacking the character of Trump voters (which seems the default response of the left to this election) as a way of winning over in this discussion is clearly laid out by this very left-wing UK commentator Jonathan Pie in his response immediately after the election (profanity warning!).

  3. ad says:

    It’s not just that. Consider: Does everyone trust the left-wing parties in any given country to be loyal to the very country they aspire to lead? If the answer is “no” then clearly they face an enormous electoral disadvantage.

  4. Chester Draws says:

    Our modern democratic empire is guilty of many evils, hypocrisies and contradictions. But it is better than the chaos that awaits its demise.

    There will be, as there has been, many people calling for the “improvement” of democracy over the next five years. Those calls won’t be coming from the likes of Trump, Le Pen, etc.

    They will be coming from the Left.

    It’s not the Right that riots when it loses an election. They weren’t on the streets whining when Blair or Clinton got elected. It’s the Left that riots when it loses a fair election.

    We already have people advocating less democratic systems to combat climate change or opposition to immigration or unstable capitalism. And those calls usually come from the Left or academia.

    So I share your concerns that our democracies are being dragged down. But it isn’t the populists who are doing it. They are the biggest supporters of liberal democracy — that they don’t want the elite or supernational organisations making all the decisions, they want the people, isn’t anti-democratic.

    As a long term voter of the centre-Left, I am disgusted by their recent antics when they don’t get what they want.

  5. Pingback: PISA, the phonics check and ‘post-truth’ | Filling the pail

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