Are Intellectuals Really That Patronizing?

Intellectuals (i.e. academic types) are often accused of thinking they are better than other people. They don't. What they believe is that education makes them broader-minded (it's the whole poet as prophetess thing).

In Monday's class, the professor was talking eagerly about the assumptions people make about the West and how we should ready beyond such assumptions. "These are narratives people accept . . . " he extolled, and I muttered to myself, "I don't." I didn't blurt this out since, aside from being rude, the inevitable response is: "Well, that's because you, Kate, are a sophisticated person."

This is nonsense. The issue at hand is whether people absorb wholesale the preached narratives of society. And as far as I can see education is not the determining factor. (In fact, educated people seem remarkably gullible.) My personal belief is that it is character or, to be more exact, maturity which determines how people react to the world. The problem is that popular culture theorists have masked this by insisting that popular culture is a game where all the (uneducated) people know the rules. Which is silly. No one watching American Idol is thinking, "I'm now participating in a ritual that extends back to Ancient Roman times and gives me a visceral sense of belonging." Well, I do, but that isn't because I'm sophisticated. It's because I am weird.

The fact is, most people don't care what the intellectual gloss is. But that doesn't mean they are being brainwashed by the establishment. Not having the right labels to put on things doesn't preclude people from being able to handle them just fine, thank you very much. Call it the right brain at work if it makes you feel better, but individuals are not simply blank slates who are unprotected from the environment until education gives them the wherewithal to "read between the lines."

Like I mentioned, I think it is a matter of maturity: not religion or politics or education. Just maturity (whether or not one survived adolescence basically): the ability to accept the world's imperfections. This is important since a true adult can distinguish, effortlessly, between a Hitler and a George Bush, but the adolescent mind cannot. All wrongs become the worst wrongs. All slights are personal. All mistakes are done on purpose. All opposition is carried out by the jerky clique that we hate, na-na-na. We all have this mentality. We battle parts of it all our lives, but the mature adult moves or tries to move beyond much of it. And the ability to do so has nothing whatsoever to do with education.

Check in later for what I think IS the purpose of education.


No comments: