Saturday, May 05, 2007

Power to the (Indignant) People!

Wicked Dox publishes an article written by Tom Wolfe that originally appeared in Harper's Monthly in June, 2000.

An excerpt:

[...] The new hero, the intellectual, didn't need to burden himself with the irksome toil of reporting or research. For that matter, he needed no particular education, no scholarly training, no philosophical grounding, no conceptual frameworks, no knowledge of academic or scientific developments other than the sort of stuff you might pick up in Section 9 of the Sunday newspaper. Indignation about the powers that be and the bourgeois fools who did their bidding-that was all you needed. Bango! You were an intellectual.

From the very outset the eminence of this new creature, the intellectual, who was to play such a tremendous role in the history of the twentieth century, was inseparable from his necessary indignation. It was his indignation that elevated him to a plateau of moral superiority. Once up there, he was in a position to look down at the rest of humanity. And it hadn't cost him any effort, intellectual or otherwise. As Marshall McLuhan would put it years later: "Moral indignation is a technique used to endow the idiot with dignity." Precisely which intellectuals of the twentieth century were or were not idiots is a debatable point, but it is hard to argue with the definition I once heard a French diplomat offer at a dinner party: "An intellectual is a person knowledgable in one field who speaks out only in others." [...]

It's quite a long article, but well worth the read.


Lance Burri said...

Boy, that reminds me of a few people.

Lance Burri said...

"Moral indignation is a technique used to endow the idiot with dignity."


Steve said...

Don't tempt me to indignance, Lance!