an Intellectual-Friendly World
I don’t think it’s fair to
say that Americans hate smart people. We just hate certain kinds
of smart people. We actually like people who are street smart,
clever or who have know-how. We value the kind of intelligence
that can be measured in outward success. We like applied research.
We like inventors. We like people who can take an idea and make
millions of dollars off it. What we don’t like are nerds
and know-it-alls. We don’t like pure research. We don’t
like intellectuals, those types who devote their lives to the
pursuit of knowledge with very little hope of ever making a substantial
amount of money. You know the old saw, "When are we ever
gonna use this in the real world?" (Asked of simple arithmetic
by my generation who saw the advent of cheap pocket calculators.)
Or, "If she’s so smart, how come she’s not rich?"
We like smart people if we can see the immediate application or
financial success of their work. We hate smart people when they
"live in an ivory tower" and think that they are better
than us, while all along they earn less money than we do.
Blame it on the old protestant work ethic. If you’re outwardly
successful, God must be smiling on you. Capitalism and conspicuous
consumption, our modern legacy of the ethic, form the foundation
of our society. In this paradigm, the pursuit of knowledge or
wisdom is seen as a waste of precious time. The intellectual’s
focus on improving his mind also keeps him from making real money.
Time and money are two commodities that we take very seriously.
Our emphasis on the practical has been extremely adaptive. Our
resourcefulness and industriousness have brought us to the level
of the world’s only super-power. But we have come to a point
in our evolution as a nation, where our know-how has far exceeded
We have made advances in science and technology that we can hardly
grasp. We keep inventing, discovering, creating, because that’s
what we know how to do best. But we are sadly ill prepared for
assimilating our technology into our lives. Our fundamental humanity
has not changed. We have been very busy, and that is good, but
we also need to think and talk about the aim of our activity.
Where are our advances taking us? Is that where we want to go?
Who do we want to be? In order to answer these questions, we need
to be able to think critically, to have a foundation in ethics,
logic and metaphysics. These need to be among our areas of expertise,
so we can make informed and reasoned decisions about our future.
The word "intellectual" has to cease to be an insult.w