“Once the rockets go up, who cares where they come down.”
-Tom Lehrer, Harvard Graduate & Professor – lyrics to “Wernher Von Braun”
One person’s rockets are another person’s incoming.
Are you wondering about an answer to “How can [insert name of Progressive] possibly say [insert outrageous statement]?!”?
Well, they were groomed for (or are exclusively informed by) elitehood under the ivory towers* of Harvard, Yale, UC Berkeley, Vassar, Evergreen, Michigan, Radcliffe, etc., etc.. They’ve succumbed to, as Tolstoy said, “not only the pride of intellect, but the stupidity of intellect. And, above all, … the dishonesty of intellect.” They know they know enough to best conduct everyone’s affairs.
They were sufficiently awake in class to note Socrates’ dictum that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” They are sufficiently woke to think that applies only to the lives of others. They are stuffed with pride more than sufficient unto imagining themselves the only qualified examiners. As in Donald Rumsfeld’s “unknown unknowns,” they lack awareness of their lack of awareness.
That is an introduction to an essay I highly recommend at Claremont Review of Books:
Pride and Prejudice at Harvard
An essay and reminiscence.
by Mark Helprin
The essay is a devastating critique of, or perhaps lament for, American higher education – with Harvard vignettes as examples – written so reasonably that your more discriminating (if we dare use that word) left wing acquaintances may profit in spite of themselves.
Helprin’s essay is a finely polished jewel and a joy to read if only for the prose. In it, you will detect reasons for Trump’s appeal, and why he thrives in the face of elite criticism, though there’s none of that mentioned.
It is long. You may regret it is not longer.
There is enough wicked tongue-in-cheek humor, for example:
“This criticism of Harvard found eager repetition among smarting students at smaller, less prestigious colleges, such as Yale, for whom Harvard had been the unrequited first choice.”
…that I wondered if the names following were Wodehousian caricatures,
“F. Skiddy von Stade, who brought his polo ponies; Outerbridge Horsey, of the many generations of Outerbridge Horseys; and of course Stanislaus von Moos.”
They are all real people.
A slice you may find has some familiarity today:
“It is remarkable how such true believers can leverage a community that lacks awareness, conviction, and fighting courage. A well-known Communist tactic is to place a small group of agents both at the four corners and scattered near the center of a large meeting. Reacting simultaneously either to propose or oppose, they can carry the more passive participants with them by creating the illusion of consensus. As the Vietnam War and urban unrest destabilized the ’60s, posing urgent questions one after another and, like the sea beyond a dyke, exerting constant pressure against the figurative walls of the university, leftist true believers took control of Harvard’s soft, privileged center. Pacific by nature, academics are ill-suited to Leninist political combat, and though they cannot be blamed for shying from it, they should be held to account for becoming its converts and agents.
Where were those in authority with the spine to stand up to the fascistic tactics now the everyday province of so many academic institutions? Many on the faculty were veterans of the Second World War. Others were refugees from totalitarianism. They were as brave and eloquent as necessary, but vastly outnumbered by the generation they had sired. William Alfred, my tutor in junior year, said to me, sadly, “It’s different now: they run in packs.” They did, and the elders had begun to fade away.”
Those veteran and refugee elders have faded away. It’s too late to hold them accountable. They failed to transmit a sense of the values of Western Civilization: propery rights, free inquiry, freedom of conscience – the very things they fought to preserve and fled tyranny to enjoy.
That was really their only job. Perhaps they saw the values they failed to teach as so obvious as not to need explication.
One more excerpt, to tie it to my introduction:
A persistent mistake of human nature is to attribute power, wealth, and fame to the workings of high intellect, when as often as not in an aristocracy they are merely inherited, and in a democracy they accrue to those who can please the lowest common denominator. Especially in a conformist environment, the appearance of intelligence can be simulated by adherence to orthodoxies in political belief and how one lives, and the adoption of mandated styles of speaking and argumentation. Thanks to the approximately 4 zillion public-radio call signs, it is almost impossible to escape the astoundingly mannered and self-conscious way of speaking that I call NPR- or Ivy-speak, which, like a self-basting chicken, continuously bathes itself in its wonderful reasonableness. A good example of this is Barack Obama, who, even if he doesn’t know the difference between a subjective and objective pronoun and thinks it is possible to lead from behind, walks the walk and talks the talk in a spectacular victory (for some) of style over substance. Intellectuals would rather be caught dead than failing to pirouette their intelligence or admitting that they don’t know or haven’t read something. At a cocktail party, refer to Durkstein’s Adductive Paradox and see how no one will ask what it is, even though it isn’t. The greatest proof of this lies in the vast tundras of modern academic prose, in which with unintentional hilarity, if one may borrow sentence structure from Winston Churchill, never have so many over-credentialed idiots attempted to conceal such utter nonsense behind so much anaesthetizing jargon.
*An ivory tower is a safe space, away from the cares of the world. It is also hard to imagine a pithier phallocentric, white-privileged microagression just waiting to become banned speech.