Saturday, August 25, 2012

A Minor Musing About The Lack Of Both Intellectuals And Community

Some people, when they wish to describe intellectuals derisively, claim that an intellectual is someone who cares more about ideas than people. That description may be shrugged off when the world is afloat an a sea of good ideas; it's damning when there's a dearth of good ideas. Rod Dreher illustrates that the United States currently faces the latter situation:
Liberal intellectuals have their own problems and challenges, of course, and I don’t care about them. For my side, it seems to me that conservative intellectuals have become so fossilized as a class because they responded to the two devastating shocks to the Standard Conservative Model by essentially doubling down on ideology. Just say the same old things, but louder and more insistently, and rely on tribalist instincts and hive-mindedness to marginalize dissenters, and that will carry the day. That, and the fact that liberalism hasn’t come up with a dynamic and compelling vision either for the post-Iraq, post-crash world — that is, a post-1980 world in which assumptions generally shared by both parties about American foreign policy and globalized capitalism have proven inadequate to the world as it is.
Of course, the people who damn intellectuals as uncaring elitists would contend that caring communities will thrive without the highfalutin pronouncements from the ivory tower. They can rely on friends and neighbors to get through the tough times together.  Writing in the Yankton Press & Dakotan, Kelly Hertz contends that sense of community seems to be shrinking as well:
It’s also possible that the small turnout reflected that aforementioned symptom: a growing lack of community within this community. We are seemingly becoming a lot of separate parts, not a unified whole, when it comes to such affairs.

But Yankton isn’t alone in dealing with this affliction, for this is what our 21st century society is becoming.
I'm hardly an intellectual, but I don't get out much, so I won't comment on the Yankton situation. It seems, however, that the entire country is becoming a bit more isolated at least economically:
Rising income inequality has led to a growing number of Americans clustering in neighborhoods in which most residents are like them, either similarly affluent or similarly low-income, according to a new study detailing the increasing isolation of the richest and the poorest.

A report released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center said the percentage of upper-income households situated in affluent neighborhoods doubled between 1980 and 2010, rising to 18 percent. In the same time frame, the share of lower-income households located in mostly poorer neighborhoods rose from 23 percent to 28 percent. The percentage of neighborhoods that are predominantly middle class or home to a wider mix of income levels shrank.
Communities are losing cohesion and rich and poor are becoming more segregated. Although the country may be less racially segregated, Mitt Romney is currently polling at 0% among African Americans. The only cohesive group seems to be intellectuals who are increasingly tribal but have have few ideas. In short, the only segment of the population that has community is one that should be providing ideas. It's good to know they are failing together.

4 comments:

cindythea said...

The conservative movement also had intellectuals. That is the thing that scares me a little. If the intellectuals disappear, then the ones guiding are those that are only served by self interest. When the primary focus is self-interest, then community will die. That has always been my problem with objectivism.

It has no longer become self-reliance as Thoreau talked about, but the ability to take from the fellow person for ones own betterment.

Mike Larson said...

The conservative movement also had intellectuals. That is the thing that scares me a little. If the intellectuals disappear, then the ones guiding are those that are only served by self interest. When the primary focus is self-interest, then community will die. That has always been my problem with objectivism.

It has no longer become self-reliance as Thoreau talked about, but the ability to take from the fellow person for ones own betterment.

LK said...

I'm trying to figure out if Mike logged on with Cindy's log in or Cindy logged in with Mike's.

Anyway, Dreher is a self-described "crunchy conservative." When he talks about "my side" he's talking about conservatives.

A few posts back, I mentioned Buckley and Russel Kirk who were intellectuals who laid out a conservative cause.

MikeLarson said...

It was Mike. Today, I wonder if Buckley would be labeled a RINO and pushed out of the party by the TEA Party