Thursday, October 27, 2005

Is knowledge the fruit of all minds, all minds and all knowledge being equally valid and totally cool if you can dig it? Is my "mistake" somehow wrong if I really believe it's true for me? And who decides what the Truth is, anyway? Is the truth the private possession of some expert who "knows" more than I do, or who "knows" more than those who have a different vision of reality, like the so-called scientist who knows more about biology than the Amazonian healer who combines herbal medicines with the healing powers of the Spirits of the Ancestors? What makes the Western "expert's" knowledge more valid than the native who is at one with Mother Nature, who knows of and from his own rootedness in the spirit of his people and the Land?

Really, what makes Western ideologically-based science any more valid than the traditional beliefs of the peoples of the pre-capitalist world? What gives the White Man the preserve of Truth over the Native? The ideologies of capitalism raise the Rationalist ideology to the fore only because of the power of the White Man's guns and his racist inclination to dominate the peoples of the world. Just look at what the White Man's science has done to the world: people die of cancers caused by modern chemistry and industrial waste and the poisoned food we have to eat. Cities sprawl across the face of the once natural Earth, and everywhere, the White man is waging wars of genocide against the peaceful agrarian and nomadic peoples in his search for oil. And for what? Only to give yet more money to the capitalists, the multi-national corporations, and Bush's friends. Before capitalism arose and destroyed the peaceful existence of the world's peoples they were at one with Nature, living in harmony with the Earth, and there was much recycling. Life was sustainable. Ideas were local and valid for those who held them in common. There was no "Truth" forced on all peoples regardless of their sensitivities and customs. There was diversity. Now, thanks to the cultural imperialism of capitalism and the hegemonic drives to globalization of thought in conformity with the Western capitalist need for compliant workers, the "Truth" is pre-packaged by so-called experts, and local wisdom is dismissed as nonsense. The Grand Narrative of capitalism destroys all local wisdom and tradition and custom in favor of uniformity of thought.

There is no Truth for the universal Man if there is Truth for cultures and peoples. If there are peoples and cultures, then there is no Universal Man, and the French Revolution was a large mistake. If there is only peoples, all equally valid in their own communities, separate but equal, then the capitalist cultural imperialism is an evil in itself that must, if we are moral agents, be stopped, and reversed, and the world must return to a happier and more natural time, say, before the French Revolution.

And what part of any of that strikes anyone as Leftist?

Friend, do not be deceived. Friend, do not believe that what we take as a Left agenda is anything other than verifiable fascism. That which is not universal is particular and exceptional. Law that isn't universal, for example, is exceptional: there is a law for Muslims in the West that means they are expected from the laws of others, allowed to mutilate females for religious and cultural reasons. There are other laws for other groups according to their particular traditions, customs, and beliefs. If truth is simply a grand narrative concocted by capitalists to justify their rape of Mother Nature and their genocidal campaigns to rid the world of peoples for the sake of gaining access to oil, then Truth is a bad thing. Others, knowing better themselves what's right for their communities, have as much legitimacy as any others, and the capitalist version of truth shouldn't be imposed on them from outside. But this is not a Left agenda: this is a Left dhimmi fascist agenda. This is reaction. This is Counter-Enlightenment fascism. This is counter-revolution and anti-Modernist fascism. This is a return to the Middle Ages and its feudalist social relations. It's a bad thing, if you can dig that. Very uncool.

Below we have excerpted a piece from on the state of knowledge in our time. There is today a raging struggle for the future of wikipedia, whose founder is dumped because he's seen as an elitist. The struggle is wider and deeper, of course, and we leave it to you, dear reader to make of it what you will.

If you don't like the way of the world on its present course, you might wish to protest. If your version of the truth is too rational and capitalistic and universal you might find yourself better received if instead of a logical discourse you make a grand gesture, like taking off your clothes in public. That's a real Natural statement. Besides, that thinking stuff is not only vastly over-rated, it's makes your head hurt.


1. A student at the University of Iowa published an opinion piece in the campus newspaper titled "On schooling's useless lessons." The upshot was that she is in college to qualify for her chosen profession and cannot understand why she is required to take courses in subjects she deems irrelevant to her goals. Listen:

"[M]ost students aren't going to be mathematicians, historians, or chemists. So why do we have to take these classes?...

"Not only did the gen-ed classes waste my time and money, but they also hurt my GPA….Statistics and astronomy bored me, so I opted not to attend class and neglected to study for them….As it turned out, my GPA was below3.0 after my first year. I had to take summer classes to raise it….I cannot imagine what I would have done if I were not admitted [to my chosen professional course]. I would have had to change my major.

"How is this fair?"

If that doesn't break your heart, you're made of sterner stuff than I.

2. A week later an AP wire story appeared in my local newspaper, informing me that an heiress to the Wal-Mart fortune has surrendered her 2004 degree from the University of Southern California after a classmate revealed that she had done the Walton scion's homework for over three years, netting about $20,000 for her efforts.

3. Same day. New York magazine published an article that opens thus:

"This story begins, as it inevitably must, in the Old Country.

"At some point during the tenth century, a group of Jews abandoned the lush hills of Lucca, Italy, and -- at the invitation of Charlemagne -- headed for the severer climes of the Rhineland and Northern France."

The author is a frequent and, presumably, trusted contributor, and New York magazine is, so far as I know, a respectable publication. So who was responsible for fact-checking? If you haven't caught it yet, here's the problem: Charlemagne died in 814 CE. No one is expected to know that particular fact, but many generally educated persons might recall that he was crowned Holy Roman Emperor at Christmas in 800. This would make his survival into the tenth century highly unlikely on the face of it.

Two points define a line; are three sufficient to establish a trend? Let me just note that the student's intended major was journalism; that the heiress's degree was from the Annenberg School for Communication at USC; and that, obviously, the New York author is a working journalist. One, already in the business, evidently doesn't know a simple fact of history (and didn't check it out). The other two have made quite manifest, in their distinctive ways, their disdain for knowledge.

But my aim is not to disrespect journalists or the schools in which they train. The problem I am suggesting is far wider. Thus my last piece of evidence:

4. Same day. The Wikipedia, an online project to create an encyclopedia by means of contributions and editing by volunteers, irrespective of their knowledge of their subjects or ability to write coherently, has just lately begun to come to grips with the fact that some substantial proportion of the articles thus generated are substandard. They have therefore launched "Project Galatea," whose aim is to have still more self-selected volunteers impose "large-scale, sweeping stylistic improvements." Note that the improvements hoped for are stylistic, not a matter of accuracy or adequacy. In the "Philosophy" of the project, prospective stylists are told this:

"While there is no need to be an expert on the article you're working on (in fact, there are some advantages to being completely ignorant of the subject to start with), by the time you're done, you will have at least a working knowledge of the topic."

Another point, spang on my line. How worried ought I to be? How worried are you?

Here is what I wonder: Whence this notion that citizens, especially those who aspire to careers of informing the rest of us, need not bother with what once would have been considered the common body of knowledge? And where on earth did the idea arise that knowledge might actually be a hindrance?

I do not blame computers or the Internet. Well…except for one thought that gives me pause. How is it that these tools that were to make achieving our lofty goals easier have instead been commandeered to move the goal posts?

What or whom then to blame, if any? Nicholas Carr has written lately in his blog "Rough Type" about the other-worldliness of much of the literature of the World Wide Web and the simple, communal, yet transcendent virtues it is imagined to foster. He notes, too, the strong preference for the amateur over the professional. I'm inclined to see this as a particular instance of a more general phenomenon, the replacement of the adult by the adolescent as the paradigm citizen.

Adolescents already know all they need to know. They are uninterested in what may have come before them and confident that it did so for naught. They see instantly into the heart of the world's problems and believe them to be simple of solution. They value sincerity, authenticity, getting real, over experience or effort. Approved attitude trumps informed opinion with them, and does so by means of social pressure rather than by, say, demonstrated efficacy. And their sense of entitlement can sometimes border on solipsism.

For some time now, and increasingly, our schooling, our politics, and our cultural life have played to the adolescent in us. Young students are encouraged to focus on their feelings and to express them in any way they find comfortable, while teachers are discouraged from correcting them. Officeholders and seekers rely on the sound bite and the scandal, not to mention their allies in the braying media, to steer or frustrate public policy. Jejune amusements are labeled "Adult." And the marketers who control our media and what passes for our national dialogue are only too happy to pander to the free-spending of any age or persuasion. It's a no-sweat world, and welcome to it.

The adolescentization of politics, begun in the 1960s, has given us the politics of gesture. A couple of years ago some 60-ish women of my acquaintance, as a protest of the Iraq war, went down to the beach and took their clothes off. This seemed to satisfy them, though as I watched the newspapers closely for days afterward I could detect no effect. We are increasingly countenancing an education of gesture, in which self-expression does not merely take precedence over but displaces that which is worth expressing; in which the tokens of achievement are wholly disconnected from achievement itself; in which teachers-in-training are being turned out of their chosen career, not on account of a subpar GPA, but because they fail to display the approved attitude toward certain issues of "social justice'; in which, to put it in plain and concrete terms, a majority of our high school graduates cannot read with comprehension the sixth-grade McGuffey Reader of yore. And do they care? lol

Robert McHenry is Former Editor in Chief, the Encyclopædia Britannica, and author of How to Know (, 2004).

Genuinely well-meaning and decent people have accepted uncritically a full ideological programme not of their own making by the efforts of thought. that programme, if they would look at the rooots of it, is fascism, not the pejorative fascism of "I don't agree with you, you fascist," but of classical fascism.

If we don't reclaim our Modernist Revolutionary agenda from the neo-feudalist fascists of the post-modernist Left dhimmis we are doomed. If we continue to praise the fascist agenda of particularism and exceptionalism, of nativism and privilege over Rationality and Universality, we are finished as Modernists. And that, gentle reader is the truth, dig it or not.

1 comment:

American Crusader said...

All I know is that if I have appendicitis-I'm not taking a trip down the