In “How to Think” (Common Dreams: Building progressive Community, July 9, 2012) Chris Hedges observes
Cultures that endure carve out a protected space for those who question and challenge national myths. Artists, writers, poets, activists, journalists, philosophers, dancers, musicians, actors, directors and renegades must be tolerated if a culture is to be pulled back from disaster. Members of this intellectual and artistic class, who are usually not welcome in the stultifying halls of academia where mediocrity is triumphant, serve as prophets.
The problem is, in general, these groups are not welcome today because their own messages are just as stale and ineffectual as those of the tenured mediocrities who got there first.
For example, the professor argues in learned journals that ethics is an illusion. There is nothing behind it really but the accidental survival of the naked ape.
But those who “question and challenge national myths” mostly, at bottom, believe what he does. They have no defensible ethical foundation for their demands for the changes they accidentally want. They just seek to impose their will. A drive that the prof can explain.
But the prof and his colleagues got there first. So they impose their will instead.
Welcome to Darwin’s society. The only change worth fighting for would be to dismiss both lots, if possible.
It goes on:
They are dismissed, or labeled by the power elites as subversive, because they do not embrace collective self-worship. …
Oh, let’s stop you right there, Chris Hedges. Anyone familiar with these groups knows quite well that they do believe in, and ostentatiously practice, collective self-worship. They know, beyond any earthly certainty, that they are better than the rest of us. Darwin’s followers can explain how ancestors’ selfish genes enabled that belief, just as they do in today’s descendants. Some of Darwin’s followers even claim that there is a liberal gene. (There is also supposedly a conservative gene.)
When they fail, as all idols do – it is hard to put this point with the requisite charity – it’s not the feet of clay, it’s the heads of clay that turn most people off.
They offer the possibility of a life of meaning and the capacity for transformation.
Transformation to what, clay? Many such movements offered that opportunity to millions upon millions of people in the twentieth century. Most of us are well warned against it now.
It’s not that the Common Dreams folk don’t have topics for criticism, but that they don’t have a philosophical position from which criticism could be meaningful or morally compelling.
They would do to the university what the Occupiers did to a public park in downtown Toronto, depriving locals who were starved for green space of their favourite free beauty spot – and ruining it as well.
So there is no clear case for not leaving the current deadheads in charge of the university for now. They at least don’t turn fine horticulture into a muddy mess or commit street crimes.
What we need is Uncommon Dreams.
Hat tip: Pos-Darwinista
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