PLEASE NOTE:

MyNews24 is a user-generated section of News24.com. The stories here come from users.

 
The Last Contrarian
 
Comments: 61
Article views: 1076
 
 
Latest Badges:



 
View all The Last Contrarian's badges.
 

The Value of Intellectuals

27 February 2014, 08:42

One of the greatest men alive and a true hero of mine, Thomas Sowell, described intellectuals as ‘oblivious of the fact that they are trapped on an island of knowledge surrounded by a vast sea of ignorance.’ I agree with his observation, but I have to further the discussion so that this elegant and wise phrase does not become part of the arsenal of the common fool who would wield this statement crudely and out of context in his battles with the common intellectual.

I refer the reader to the following video to hear Dr. Sowell present his case: http://rarereaders.seablogger.com/2011/05/thomas-sowell-staff-infection/

Perhaps obsessively, I have given Dr. Sowell’s admonition a considerable amount of thought, for I take the reprimand somewhat personally. I have concluded that Thomas Sowell made a minor, but crucial, error in judgment when he delivered that statement. As it stands, such a blunder would be embarrassing enough for any economist, let alone one who has demonstrated—throughout his entire career—a perfect understanding of the perspective-yielding properties rendered by a qualification Dr. Sowell himself has resorted to so many times: “Compared to what?”

The comparison, I would say, are the flimsy, makeshift life rafts to which the common man clings for life on what to him is an even bigger, not to mention undulating and life-threatening, ocean of ignorance. I don’t know about you, Dr. Sowell, but that island looks like a much safer and more comfortable place to be when a storm hits, than out in the swells on one of those rickety rafts constructed out of the rotting planks that constitute a Western public education. Occasionally some commoner decides to put in the extra effort to reinforce his raft with some newspaper headlines, tabloid gossip, and extracts from daytime talk shows—an honest but futile attempt.

But I digress.

It is, of course, true that most educated men are overly proud and protective of whatever ‘figurine of comprehension’ they have forged from the raw knowledge they spent many years gathering and refining for that exact purpose. It is also true that intellectuals often suspect and deem ‘false’ and/or ‘unworthy’ any such replicas made by other intellectuals. I blame the hostility intellectuals have towards their own kind on the dogfight world that is academia.

So who can really blame intellectuals for having a superiority complex when today’s intellectuals were told, over and over again, not just by their parents, teachers, schoolmates, and future employers, but later also by their lecturers, professors, and peers at college/university, that escaping from an academic establishment ‘scroll in hand,’ so to say, is the defining measure of their individual worth and future success?

But we both know that what any intellectual has to fear the most when he seeks out a pulpit or public platform from which to deliver his deductions, is becoming the target of another intellectual’s moral crusade. The pub squabbles and lunchtime political debates of the common man are, after all, a far cry from the truly brutal debates and battle tactics that intellectuals use to shell their opponent’s island. And then there are the lynch mobs hiding in the general populace, that try to ‘pitchfork’ and ‘barn lantern’ any public intellectual that utters statements that conflict with the intuitions of the mindless mob.

To be an intellectual, or to ever claim some relation to the noun (however informal or distant) will gather towards oneself a slew of enemies in much the same way that sustained celebrity draws death threats and stalkers.

Sure, nobody likes a smart ass (as the cliché goes), especially not one that is in love with his own rhetoric, but what is the alternative? Should intellectuals huddle together in clandestine hovels, while the common man is left to bleat away in misery caused by his own ignorance of the world he finds himself in and yet unable to comprehend the workings of? I would think the world has had enough of influential people gathering behind closed doors to decide, often in secret, what is best for the average person.

I confess, solipsism and pride are the hallmarks of many an intellectual, but whether this makes intellectuals ‘dangerous’ to the rest of society must again be contrasted against the alternative—the ‘compared to what?’ part.

For many an intellectual hermit, life contains none of the extravagant parties, the CNN interviews, the roaring public debates, and the runaway book sales. Many an intellectual simply reads by candlelight until the early hours of the morning, and then contemplate what he had learned, as he stares at the barely visible ceiling in his darkened room. Such minds can yield plenty of workable ideas and inventions for society, so society needs to engage such intellects, not stigmatise them. The alternative is to tune in to the static that is the opinion of the masses, who are ill-equipped (not necessarily their own fault) to evaluate and deal with the issues our modern world faces and produces.

And it is exactly because more and more people in the West are tuning in to this static, that Western society, yet again, seems to be aiming for the rocks. Public opinion is drifting from fact and reason towards ignorance and opinion. The common man almost seems allergic to knowledge and collapses in an intellectual wheeze when asked to think deeply about any particular subject.

I dare say, that it is the masses’ intellectual lethargy coupled with their sheer numbers that make them the most dangerous demographic in society. Intellectuals provide some much-needed refereeing of what would otherwise be a uniform, grasping mass tearing down society for momentary satisfaction—at which point civilization would retreat back into the caves, then leave the caves again and crawl back up the trees.

Some would say that the only reason Western society has not yet run ashore on what it would later find to be, not an island paradise, but an island filled with man-eating savages, is due to the persistence of intellectuals who seek out a public platform and then introduce the common/uneducated man to intellectually hefty subjects. Intellectuals then, through their persistent explanation and simplification, empower the ordinary man so that he can follow or even contribute to the high-level discussions held, on his behalf, by his leaders.

In that respect, intellectuals are a dangerous people, but they only represent a danger to the powerful oligarchies and social elite who would happily see the ordinary man stripped of his humanity and exploited like a common beast.

In closing I would like to affirm my agreement with Thomas Sowell’s apt description of most intellectuals, and I sincerely hope that my article has, at the very least, juxtaposed Dr. Sowell’s statement and given a potential clarification of the intellectual’s raison d'état.

Follow The Last Contrarian on  Facebook  -and-  Twitter

Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on MyNews24 have been independently written by members of News24's community. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. News24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.
 

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
61 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Read more from our Users

Submitted by
czoe
Racial syndrome..a dividing line

Without tolerance of each other and respect of one’s culture and race that are identically unique, we shall never be stable and successful politically; socially; culturally and economically.  Read more...

23 comments 313 views
Submitted by
Siyabonga Dube
Nothing South African about that

If being fake was a crime then a very vast majority of people in our country would be in jail. Read more...

2 comments 384 views
Submitted by
PhillipHoffman
The perfect God

This is in response to Rebone’s recent article about the Jewish/Christian God. She elaborates on reasons why God is imperfect. Read more...

84 comments 443 views
Submitted by
Godless Heathen
Character Assassination, Hello Pe...

On Thursday some allegations were made in a comment and I am going to tell you why I will not engage.  Read more...

5 comments 414 views
Submitted by
Tendani Siala
EFF conduct necessary and warrant...

Under normal circumstances the (mis)conduct of the EFF MPs in Parliament yesterday over the Nkandla saga should be condemned in the strongest terms. Read more...

21 comments 1300 views
Submitted by
Morgan Willard
Time to put an end to erotic musi...

When did we start being okay with soft porn being showed on television sets on a daily basis?  Read more...

23 comments 376 views

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

20% off all TV Series!

Want to have a chilled day at home? Get 20% off TV series, the perfect excuse to "veg out". Shop now!

Save R700 on the Hisense LED TV Now R2499

Get the Hisense 32” HD ready LED TV for only R2499. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 40% off fashion accessories

Save up to 40% on selected handbags, purses, watches, jewellery and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Save up to R2000 on top electronics

Get every day mind bowing savings on top electronics. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

As seen on TV - New book releases at only R199 each

Get mind blowing book savings on new titles. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

 

services

E-mail Alerts The latest headlines in your inbox

RSS feeds News delivered really simply.

Mobile News24 on your mobile or PDA

E-mail Newsletters You choose what you want

News24 on your iPhone Get News24 headlines on your iPhone.

SMS Alerts Get breaking news stories via SMS.

Blogs Your opinion on you, me and everyone.

Calais Website keywords automated by OpenCalais.

 
Interactive Advertising Bureau
 
© 2014 24.com. All rights reserved.
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.