Intellectuals

25 Jan

In the 19th century, the industrial revolution greatly expanded the wealth of the West, increasing its budget for luxury goods such as people who make their living having opinions. This new Intellectual class quickly saw, as other had before them, that the World would be infinitely better off if they were running things. They conceived of a State run be experts, with the authority to control all aspects of life. Several popular brandings of this notion (Socialism, Fabianism, Marxism) jelled in the last decades of the century. As the Gilded Age of the Social Darwinist elite showed signs of decay, the Western Intellectuals gathered in cliques, coteries, committees, and concatenations to draw up their plans for the New Tomorrow.

The history of the 20th Century is a history of how thugs and madmen took advantage of the Western Intellectuals (and those who imitated them around the globe) and their lust for control. Again and again ‘revolutionaries’ came along, singing the sweet song of “Social Justice” to get the Intellectuals’ support. And again and again, once said support had been acquired, the ‘revolutionaries’ put off their costumes and revealed themselves to be little but garden variety bandits and murderers, with a smattering of psychotics for spice. And anywhere the ‘revolutionaries’ actually took control, one of the first things they did was set about liquidating whatever the area might have in the way of an intellectual class.
And yet the Intellectuals in the West have never absorbed this lesson. Only when it became clear that not even the Russians felt Stalin was anything other than a monster did the West begin to admit that Stalin had out-murdered a certain Austrian corporal. Only when Mao was safely in his tomb did his cult of personality in the West begin to fade. A similar cult surrounding Castro’s torturer, Che Guevera, never has faded. The hunger of the Intellectuals for a system whereby they might impose their will and be as important in fact as they are in their own minds is so great that they are always ready to fall for another charismatic operator with a nice line in revolutionary patter.
There are two factors in this strange serial delusion. First, the Intellectual Class, which was vitally important to the progress of civilization  in the 19th century became rapidly less so as literacy spread and the originally nascent middle class took over the stage of all human drama in the West. Yet their idea of themselves is necessarily fixated on the days when men like William Wilberforce championed the abolition of slavery. The modern day is messier than that (so was Wilberforce’s day, if they but knew it). The other is that, in their enthusiasm for an all-encompassing State, they have acted as cheerleaders for mass murder. While a few of the Intellectual class have faced this, and recanted publicly and often (David Horowitz springs to mind) many more simply do not want to confront the fact that they are accessories  to tens of millions of murders. At some level they know that they could not bear that weight, and so they do everything they can to deny it.
So, starting by denying the history of their infatuation with revolution, they gradually come to deny most history, and then to deny (and attack) any matter of fact that conflicts with their pet projects. Not that they are unique in this regard. The aristocrats of Europe did their best to ignore the rise of the middle class and the fantastic growth of wealth attendant on the industrial revolution. The Plantation Aristocracy of the old American south went to war willfully ignoring their lack of an industrial base with which to arm themselves. The Social Darwinists obliviousness to the changing circumstances of the late Victorian era pretty much handed the initiative in politics to the progressives. And now the progressives have come to the end of their run, unable to cope with the world they have made. They can no longer point to great successes, for they have overreached on so many fronts. Their model governments on the European continent are going bankrupt. And so is the government on all levels in the United States. So they focus on intentions, and have public fits when faced with inconvenient facts.
Not all intellectuals are like this, of course. Not all of the plantation aristocracy of the old south wanted to hold onto slavery either. Just enough to bring about the total ruin of their way of life.
The great opinion organs of the intellectuals – the New York Times and others – are flaccid shadows of their former glory. The universities that are the wellsprings of intellectualism are losing their prestige, albeit slowly yet. The cities where the intellectual life was fully realized are in deep financial trouble, and many are rotten at the core. The high point of the Intellectuals was probably the ouster of Richard Nixon, a Republican who, other than his determination to pursue the Vietnam War, resembled them more than not. Since then they have been running on momentum, regularly failing to garner in political influence more than they expended in political capitol. They can still do a lot of damage, and they are far from done. But their vision of an all powerful, all beneficent State is receding into the distance.
Tom Wolfe, an intellectual who never gave in to the general neurosis, has said that he expects the 21st century to be known by later historians as the 20th century’s hangover. With a little luck he may be right.
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