Normally this blog stays away from politics for fear that some employer may not want to hire me for my non-mainstream opinions. Since employers don’t seem to want to hire me and AI is going to render me obsolete real soon now, screw it.
This article from the Atlantic talks about “intellectuals” diminishing any attempt to connect history to the present day. Back in my college days before the fall of the Berlin Wall – I’m old, hey? – I remember a long, frustrating, and fruitless discussion at a “party” with a conservative who took exception to Steven Jay Gould’s attempts to connect prior instances of “bad science” to modern examples of racism, sexism, and religion-based intolerance. After several loops around his circular logic I finally had to agree to every one of his talking points just to extricate myself from the conversation. I felt like a poltitical prisoner forced to confess his recidivist ways, or a heretic recanting in public.
Even the author would agree this trend isn’t new. Thanks to the Internet, though, it’s now public and, predictably, huge swaths of the electorate agree with aggrieved (predominantly white affluent straight male) intellectuals: all these racial studies, gender studies, gay studies folks should leave their “identity politics” aside and concentrate on real problems that affect real (white straight male) people. Being a white straight male myself, I find this whole meme – I hesitate to call it a thought, let alone a belief system – absolutely apalling. Of COURSE the problems of today have their roots in the past. Of COURSE problems that affect people who aren’t white, straight, or male are just as important as any other, perhaps moreso as they remain persistently unaddressed. Of COURSE history isn’t just pinning butterflies on a board; it’s the story of how we as individuals and as societies got where we are today.
And yet these people – my people – pretend we’re poor oppressed minorities whenever someone shifts the spotlight away from us even for a moment. The status quo is in some cases literally killing people, yet the complainers are the problem, not the status quo. It’s South Park writ large: anyone with a belief or a concern outside normal (white straight male) experience deserves relentless mockery, not sympathy, and the sometimes broken mechanisms to correct these problems most (white straight male) people don’t believe in need abolishing, not fixing.
I never called myself an “intellectual” (save ironically) because I lack the academic rigor to claim such a title. I’m a computer programmer … not even an engineer, as the college I went to thought engineering was a four-letter word. But I certainly won’t now. Not if it means watching people suffer and die from an ivory tower while I maintain my “objectivity” and “detachment”.
It’s incumbent on those of us born with gifts to use them for the betterment of society. Even my modest talents could have been better used building software to advance sane public policy. (As opposed to working for failed startups, assimilated companies, and abandoned projects.) Maybe that opinion isn’t popular any more; maybe it never was.1 Yet what use are these “intellectuals” whose livelihood – tenure, grants, book deals, publications – revolves around flattering those in power? Who insist we’d live in the best of all possible worlds but for those whiners? Who assure us unwashed masses that everything is fine even as we see flames engulf the buildings next door? “Well, it’s not our building,” some of us tell ourselves, “and it never will be.”
Until, one day, it is.
Thanks for reading. If you see me when I’m bagging your groceries or making your Big Mac, feel free to say hello.