Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Occidentalism and the Intellectuals

I’ve been reading an engaging book called Occidentalism: The West in the Eyes of its Enemies, by Ian Buruma and Avishai Margalit. It’s a broad, sweeping work--probably too much so for something so brief--but among its many interesting arguments is that today’s suicide bombers have no genuine precedent in Islamic history, but that, like the earlier "death cult" of the Japanese kamikaze pilots, have their origins in the poisonous soil of 19th century German romanticism, with its volkisch racial ideology, its disdain for liberalism and capitalism, and its hatred of urban culture. He notes how the 9/11 bombers, like the kamikaze before them, had educations that were far beyond those of their ordinary countrymen. Anyway, this particular passage struck me:

Where the free market dominates, as in the United States, intellectuals feel marginalized and unappreciated, and are inclined to be drawn to politics with grander pretensions. Taking their freedoms for granted, they become easy prey for enemies of the West.

Discussions - 5 Comments

It’s probably an unoriginal thesis, but I’ve long believed that our radical intellectuals of the modern era were the spiritual remnant of the old landed classes, who felt dispossessed by capitalism with all its wolfish, enterprising energy. Or the younger sons of impoverished aristocracy, same thing.

It’s easy to feel alienated if you don’t know how to go out and thrive in the market. So you become a critic *on behalf of* the underprivileged, and try to leverage yourself into some sort of righteous power through triangulation. Or something like that.

The thesis about German Romanticism might hold some water if Muslims actually translated the works and read them - which I’m guessing almost none have. Spain (a fiercely nationalist writing nation) translates more foreign works into their language in a year than Islamic countries ever have (Harold Bloom said something roughly equivalent to this to show how little Muslims have tried to understand the West).

Intellectuals feel deeply wounded and confused when somebody that might own three or four Burger King franchises, or several Taco Bell’s, carries more social clout because of his heftier bank account.

In the United States, the almighty dollar places the pretensions of lefties in stark, and humorous relief. And they can’t take it. Americans don’t view kindly those that are solving the problems of the world whilst comfortably seated in the faculty lounge. Victor Davis Hanson frequently skewers such like.

Carol, it might be more accurate to suggest that our modern intellectuals *aspire* to a status held previously by the landed classes. They desire the trappings and social status that the aristocracy held in days of yore. And that’s why Europe is increasingly becoming anti-democratic, and that more and more power is vested in unelected bureaucracies and in the judiciary, where they are capable of seeing their agenda enacted without electoral interference, "far from the madding crowd."

I was raised in a college town and now live in a different one and would have to second you idea. The university staff live in the town but apart. I taught for awhile at the university and quickly became part of the "social scene" (even though I taught ROTC). As soon as I retired and started working elsewhere I became invisible to my former social "friends". They truely do live in a bubble and truly feel they are superior.

Leave a Comment

* denotes a required field
 

No TrackBacks
TrackBack URL: http://nlt.ashbrook.org/movabletype/mt-tb.cgi/9336