Thursday, February 18, 2010

Is it, now?

I am not surprised to see George Will, stuffed-shirt creature of the Beltway that he is, continuing to put forth this tired meme:

America, its luck exhausted, at last has a president from the academic culture, that grating blend of knowingness and unrealism. But the reaction against this must somewhat please him. That reaction is populism, a celebration of intellectual ordinariness.

For someone who fancies himself an intellectual, Will is certainly taking a shallow look at the reaction to this "president from the academic culture." It isn't that the proles are celebrating intellectual ordinariness. Before I go on, a bit of context for the remarks to come.

There are those who poke good-hearted fun at Kevin Baker's long essays, but there is much goodness to be found therein, one example being this joke from this post that sums the whole thing up in a nutshell:
There is a story, a joke in some ways, an allegory in others, that dates way back. In it, a British Lord travels to the Frontier West, America in the 1800's. His horse throws a shoe on the trail, so at the first little frontier town he comes to, he finds a blacksmith's shop to have the shoe replaced. As he rides up, he sees a large, sweaty, filthy man hammering on a piece of red-hot iron. The Lord sits on his horse, waiting to be served, but the blacksmith doesn't pay him any attention and continues to work his iron. Finally, the Lord, outraged to have been ignored this way by an obvious servant, dismounts, approaches the 'smith, and taps the man on the shoulder with his riding crop.

"You, man!" he barks, "Who is your Master! I wish to have a word with him!"

The blacksmith turns, looks at the Englishman, spits a stream of tobacco juice on the point of the Lord's boot and says,

"That sumbitch ain't been born."

The fact is that those "from the academic culture" are fancying themselves to play the role of our masters, and it's this fundamentally un-American idea that we should have masters at all that is causing this backlash. Working in conjunction with this is the fact that these supposedly smart people aren't making things better -- in fact, they're only making them worse, driving the country deeper into debt and plundering the wallets of America ever more to buy the votes of those who don't want to go out and make their own way in the world. We are seeing every day that beneath that shiny intellectual veneer -- and yes, beneath the shiny fool's-gold rhetoric of "hope" and "change" -- lie the same old venal, self-serving politicians that have been the bane of the Founders' Republic for way the hell too long. And that is ultimately what this is all about. I am reminded of another quote, this time from the great Bill Whittle:
We are, and remain, the descendents of people who had had quite enough of being told what to do by inbred aristocratic fops and unelected, intellectual sadists. When Europeans call us simplisme, they show themselves incapable of recognizing the difference between intelligence, of which we are amply endowed, and intellectualism, that circle-jerk of coffee table revolution and basement politburo planning that we have never had much patience with.

One could say the same of those who are trying to cast the backlash against the people in charge now as disdaining intelligence. I don't know if I'd call them incapable of recognizing the difference between those two concepts. I think I'd just call them and their arguments shallow and/or dishonest, not to mention condescending and disingenuous. Considering Will fancies himself one of these intellectuals, I am not surprised he'd take this tack along with like-minded individuals on the other side of the political aisle, but it's still an ugly and disheartening thing.