An elite? What? They form it? How on earth do they manage that, when most of them can't stand the smell of the others? What do they get, pray tell, with their vanguard? What troops of the phillistines lay slaughtered by their assinine jawbones?
"A great many people now reading and writing would be better employed keeping rabbits." -- Edith SitwellOh, the braying of an ass could scare away the Scythians, and it can attract jennies, and it does wonders for increasing votes, but I've never once seen it elevate the groundlings nor illuminate the vaccuum of culture or politics. Catcalls can get the audience to throw rotten vegetables, but they've never yet inspired an audience member to write a better play.
I was in the barber shop the other day, reading The Daily Worker. (Those people from Reidsville are constantly leaving copies in the barber shops, train stations, and doctor's waiting rooms. They drop off Chick Tracts, Watchtower, and The Daily Worker, and nothing can stop them, those dirty commies.) Anyway, I figured that, as long as I was there, and having finished getting my news from The Weekly World News, I'd see what the folks in red half of the community were up to, and I saw that they were protesting the President. Well, of all the nerve! Protesting the President is not Patriotic.
[haec multa dissiderata]
But aside from that, the question is what we're going to do. Let's suppose that people listened. Let's suppose that they turned off their Weekly World News TV and tuned into Radio Nation. Suppose that we won an audience. Would we win anything more than that? We're the intelligentsia. We are in our van. We are demonstrating that each issue is complex, that each speaker is wrong, that each comment is in need of palpation. It's a full time job.
It is this question that prompted my resignation from the army of the intellectual. I never could embrace gullibility or accept that a slogan could satisfy or that universal truths could be contained inside "newsbytes" -- or any other octet streams -- but I also felt that all of this seeking after the fault was a distraction. By that I do not mean what the cruditarians do. I do not mean that there is no use in thinking, questioning, and copping a feel on propositions. I mean, instead, that as a profession, and as an elite and as a vanguard it is a distraction: as an ideology, it is vaccuous.
Ideology, according to a Frenchman (which is more noble than a freshman, no matter how much the motivations appear the same between the two), is not a profession but rather a belief about one's position in the productive cycle in comparison with the actual productive capacity. It is somewhat like Kierkegaard's notion of the "self" in Sickness Unto Death, where he says that the self is the ratio of the infinite to the finite as it is aware of itself. It is, in other words, an awareness or a belief. It is an action ongoing and not a statement or organic component. Well, the intelligentsia, such as it is (and it is such a shoddy group of fearful assistant professors that it's better far to hear from them than see them), believes that it is productive by endlessly correcting discourse. It is an ideology of correction and reform, endlessly, and therefore it is a profession that is antithetical to any statement. They must not state anything, must not propose anything, for their position and action is to revise a previous statement.
Living, whatever else it is, is an encompassing motion. To the degree that you are removed from it, to the degree that you are not encompassed in it, you are not truly living. Concentrating always on the corrections leaves us never stating, never acting. Proving that "gender is problematized" in Joseph Andrews pales beside volunteering at a pre-school, where you show young boys and girls a successful woman intellectual. Showing that Uncle Tom's Cabin "fails to escape the distancing Otherness of the colonial paradigm even as it seeks to upset it by replacing a malicious patriarchy with a benign patrimony" is absolutely nothing compared to marching down the street with CORE or trying to save Teach for America. Pointing out that transhistorical subjects are invalidated by Hegelian awareness is pretty sad, if it means that you can't agree that "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is a good motto for living.
So, hopes... I set out to talk about hopes, but I seem to have gotten lost in the dig. Hope is always down. Whether in Pandora's box or the Johnson poem I parody in my title, hope is always somehow plutonian. It is the wealth of the poor (plutus...plutocracy... oh, never mind; it's a good pun).
Why would I turn my back on my natural comrades? Why would I toss aside my copy of Commentary and Mother Jones and Chronicle of Higher Edumucation? Well, right now I'm hoping that one of my relatives doesn't have breast cancer. I'm hoping that I can get health insurance for myself. I'm hoping that my best friend my dog's arthritis gives her little pain. I'm hoping that I can survive another fifteen weeks without giving offence. I'm hoping that I can serve my Lord. In the face of these things, demonstrating my intellect by marking the works of others with my urine seems somewhat hollow.