Wednesday, July 02, 2008

This is still a provincial country. And It's not that anti-intellectualism is so prevalent but that American political intellectualism is seen as antidemocratic, not only by those who distrust it but in fact by those who advocate it. Intellectualism and it's opposite are equally individualist and atomistic in origin: "I can speak for others" vs. "No one can speak for me." Communities are founded out of necessity or fear, but thinkers dream of "freedom." It's the dilemma of America that individualism and democracy are in conflict.
Cultural intellectualism is something else: apolitical, anti-political, expatriate, or sincerely democratically indulgent. But I know of no other country where the class of political thinkers -or of those who want to consider themselves in that role, left and right- are so incapable of seeing themselves through others' eyes, all while being so urgently, arrogantly, indulgently, sincere.

It's not only about idiots like David Brooks, but bright men like DeLong and Krugman, Josh Marshall and Robert Reich; about worried Zionists who think that a willingness to talk about Palestinians is the same as a willingness to talk with them, and then while refusing to admit the original error, are willing to talk to them without seeing the need to take them seriously. The same process holds for the history of race, gender, and sexual orientation. Over time people acclimate, and rationalize in defense of whatever assumptions they may now have, but they themselves were never wrong and of course they are not now. For an American who takes himself seriously the observation that his understanding may be incomplete is like an accusation of mortal sin.
Will American liberals ever understand that they're mocked for their hypocrisy as much by European Social Democrats as by conservatives in their own country? Will they ever realize that its not the contradictions that damn them but their inability to see that they exist?

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