I’d like to address something I’m frequently and continually accused of, which, as with all human interaction consisting of parties who hold to opposite, different, or conflicting basic standards–usually appear as invisible to all involved.
I am accused frequently, and virtually with every person I encounter, of holding standards ‘way too high for reality.’
This is especially grating and apparent when turned to the realm of love and romance, which is the realm I happen to encounter most often, where seemingly no one holds any claim to standards whatsoever, let alone high standards.
Usually the emotion proceeding on the moment, from anyone making this accusation, no matter what it pertains to, for me, is that of initial and profound misunderstanding. But when I realize that the other party doesn’t merely not consider it to be a matter of them or I misunderstanding anything at all, but actually even a denial that any such values exist in reality, that misunderstanding often turns to a feeling of despair and anger.
But my experience has taught me that this accusation is far from merely referring to romance and seeking a mate, but what I have gradually come to realize is any number of topics and issues with one thing in common: they are all ethical matters. This means: all matters pertaining to and involving human values, or the attribution of ranked importance of things, for a person.
‘Human rights’ though loosely defined, is considered an ethical issue. When we see the bodies which line the streets in Baghdad, or witness Chinese tanks threatening to mow down individual by-standards, everyone is very concerned. And yet, shrug and move on without wincing, blanking out, (or never paying attention in the first place) all the conceptual or historical events leading up to those atrocities, thus further allowing them to happen.
Everybody wailed about 9-11 and the concern, ‘the human factor’ the loss, the tragedy of it all…But what about the historical fact that the US has instituted violent dictators who kill not merely 3000, but hundreds of thousands of people every year? Was anyone interested in knowing about all the US’s constant military oppression of people’s from these very kinds of countries such as Afghanistan or even Iraq and Iran to whom we’ve given arms to kill each other and make profit for short term interest for nearly 40 years? Did anyone including myself even know who Osama Bin Laden was before the attacks?
The question is always controversial in any get together any of my friends or family have ever had: Isn’t ignorance, intentional ignorance or a failure to think, acquire knowledge and conceptualize, an ethical issue? That is, isn’t failing to think and know, wrong in a moral sense? That is, let’s say, in the same way failing to be a good mother or father is?
It seems beyond me to think how it couldn’t be when nearly all the major failings in the world entire, can be traced directly back to the people who could have thought and didn’t, to the people who could have voted for the other guy, and didn’t.
But do we see more than just the fading disapproval of perhaps a tired high school teacher in regarding knowledge as irrelevant? Our parents might of grounded us for getting bad grades, but how much did we actually retain? And how much did they really care about what we learned at all? How much do they care about what we know now?
We regard Information Technology (IT) as ‘important,’ as an essential economic factor in the world. We regard the entire field of history as a hobby. Society rails at how ‘messed up’ everything is, how awful and crooked our politicians are. That same society votes 40% of the time, and consequently goes tanning and skiing while bombs are being dropped. A child’s got a problem when a therapist says so, and the therapist is right because an all too often, over consumerized college psych degree said he knows what he’s talkin’ about. An adolescent child and often even his parents, are sophomoric and unqualified, merely for the attempt to understand some of the same basic principles, let alone apply them to their lives. This is often the case, when in fact, the advice of an educated parent go well beyond the regurgitation of textbook recitations, in that that is where psycho-therapy seems to be heading. In any case, psychology is a science when problems occur, and an ‘interest’ when they seem to disappear.
And philosophy? Forget it, philosophy…just irrelevant, subjective, relative, you name it, and that’s what philosophy is. Not even eligible to be a science, philosophy, the study of how human beings should live, the basis of all Western mental health, the standards by which things are right or wrong, is claimed to have no objective basis, often and curiously I find, militantly so. It is squelched from all stated action and behavior, yet implicitly required. Unstated, until some of it begins actually crumble away, as is happening right before our eyes in virtually every sector of our world. I see it most often right here, between friends and co-workers.
What I find even more curious than all of the above though, is the moral cowardice and the overall lack of cohesiveness the so-called ‘intellectual-left’ gets away with, or rather facilitates what others can get away with. Notice that this displays how the failure of action is the moral equivalent to the actions of the perpetrators.
Observe the cohesiveness of rightist movements in general, observe how little the democrats come together over the most glaringly obvious, what couldn’t even be considered mistakes–and are nothing less than complete blunders! Such as the fact that Bush knew about Al-Qaeda’s intention to throw commercial airplanes into the World Trade Center, while KNOWING how those same towers were struck by the same organization just 8 years previous! And no one called him out on that!? And yet, Clinton gets a blow job and it was as if the world just ended. This is due to the very well knit moral consensus among republicans as pitted against the left.
The same deal seems to go on with my own friends, most of whom are leftist, and most of whom remain divided and without any real consensus on central issues.
I think, at least with regards to philosophy, that is, of establishing an objective one, the failure to come together, is what is probably for most, a fear of fitting in with the society at large, in finding no way of maintaining lasting relationships with those to whom (for whatever reason and in whatever form) the obscure value of intellectualism mixes with them, like oil and water. Others are lazy, and still others justify giving up, in regarding some floating degree of intellectuality to be ‘suficient ‘ the rest of their concern swept away by a sad mixture of fear, complacency, habit and convention.
I and maybe a few others I know, however, are essential ‘leftists’ who are adamant in the belief that intellectuality or the pursuit of knowledge is a moral issue.
That is, we regard it to-mean-something, something beyond a socialite’s sense of it being good conversational material.
But when something, a value, is said to mean something–what does this mean in itself?
If someone values something, it means something, because it produces action and not just words.
For myself, intellectuality is one of my highest values, but only because this means, I don’t go to parties or get-togethers with people who I think betray that basic value, no matter how fun they are, or how much in other ways, they might have to offer.
I do this in the same way one would not go to a KKK rally and persist in being against racism the next day, despite how kind, rational or benevolent those same people might be otherwise. In the same way a single mother wouldn’t join the potential date rapist of her daughter for a drink at a bar, no matter how much that man may be well suited to her.
This also means something because I don’t deal with those friends anymore unless they themselves also uphold that value. It means something because I read books, and I interpret them, all the time. It means something because I think and pursue knowing things most of the time, while others do other things. It means I never tolerate intellectual passivity in my own presence as a permanent state. It means I forgo the respect of many family members as long as they know why I can’t give them that respect. It means I examine myself for flaws and constantly challenge my own notions of reality and truth, but it does not mean I need to participate in irrationality in order to do so. It also means that I do not shrink from the responsibility of, when appropriate, seeking to challenge people and their ‘truth,’ to point out when and how someone is intentionally ignorant, no matter how subtle and rationalized that self-immolation may be.
In growing up I’ve come to realize we choose our most sacred values which finally solidify around a certain age. I think 30 to 35 is around when most people seem to grow up these days, whereas before it was more like your 20 somethings, and even before that, having children at 12 and 15.
I have lost most of my old friends I’d say to staying steadfast in protecting this value whereas their actions, though I barely know them anymore, have seemed to settle into the conventional view of intellectuality as near equivalent to entertainment, whereas the ‘real’ action is goes on in other ways and in other capacities. No more is there this group of friends where words and ideas are believed–can change the world, or at least our worlds.
In any case, I’ve realized that the lack of action, is once again, almost worse than the active perpetration against values itself. The main face of anti-intellectualism is seen, as metioned, in passivity for instance. And yet no one acts with any social conscience on behalf of reason in any actively chronic capacity.
I always wonder what would happen if most of society were intellectual and regarded and acted upon it morally in the same way it does to more basic human sensibilities? And I wonder what progress could be made and isn’t, on that basis?
Most don’t see the connection of how disconnecting reason and knowledge from any aspect of life ultimately and often immediately results in its consequences, let alone how those consequences are always grave in the end. The consequences in the failure to think range in all degrees, but at the hilt of any prosperity, of any success,is the action of our conscious intelligence, and of any failure, the choice not to use it.