Friday, February 24, 2006

Intellectuals and the Masses

The long-term reader here will know that our usual theme is not one of posting grotesque photographs of Mohammed but of examining closely the history of why we have arrived today at the social and political conclusions we take as given and normal; and that we trace those opinions, the history ideas of the right and good of multiculturalism, of welfare and state corporatism, of what we reduce to Left dhimmi fascism, as our main emphases.

Over the course of this blog we've looked at the modern Western intelligentsia as a corrupt and disgusting lot who, from at least the time of Plato have written of the "masses" as sub-human, as incapable creatures who must be controlled by the elites. In essay after essay we've looked at the history of this elitist fascism. Chronologically, our most recent looks at this idea has been Julian Benda's Treason of the Intellectuals, written in the 1920s, at the gnostic fascism of the proto-Nazis of the 19th to mid 20th centuries, and at the French "postmodernist" Left dhimmi fascist neo-feudalists of our time. Folks, it's not alway fun reading this blog. This installment, however, deals with the same theme in the form of three very short book reviews from amazon books. I've just acquired a copy of the book under discussion, and the reviews that follow should give at least as good an account for you as I will give when I finish it.

This topic is essential for us to understand if we are to effectively deal with our social decay and the creeping rot that destroys our democracies. Our elites, our political leaders, our clergy, university professors, school teachers, the media morons, all of these people are the very kinds of personalities we'll see in the discussions below. I'll follow as time allows when I finish my reading.

PARTHO ROY (Tampa, Florida USA) - See all my reviews

Strange to think that a well-chaired professor at Oxford, that ancient bastion of academic elitism (still, despite the sun setting on its hallowed but crumbling halls), would have so much criticism to level against the dawn of modern intelligentsia. But upon reading the first part of this concise and well-documented book, it became clear to me just how rotten at heart our intellectual heroes truly were. Carey finds a wealth of unnerving evidence that the great figures (self-appointed "greats," as this book shows us) of the modern literary canon festered with hatred of the common man, so much that they advocated (oftentimes straightforwardly) wiping out all of humanity. Moreso, the various case studies in the book's second part uncover further details about just how much these great writers loathed the "masses," and the strange, selfish reasons behind their disdain.

This is an excellent read for anyone struggling through "Ulysses," "To the Lighthouse," or even "The Wasteland." Carey's thorough research and well-argued points shed much-needed light on the dark side of our past century's most celebrated authors: why they wrote in such an unreachable voice, why they crafted their themes to be so alien to most people, why they lived where they did, and (most importantly) how much worthier they took themselves as human beings. I did groan a bit during the final chapter, which was about Wyndham Lewis and Hitler. Dropping the "H-bomb" can make anything seem evil and was therefore too easy a potshot for Carey to take at the intellectuals. Also, the two back-to-back case studies on H. G. Wells were somewhat redundant; Carey would have done better to write two case studies on two separate writers. Still, this book gives the reader an exciting, enlightening, and shocking view at the world of the intellectuals between 1880 and 1939 (and, in the Postscript, a look at similar currents in today's postmodern world), and I highly recommend it to any fan of modern literature who is not afraid to explore the ugly side of the great writers.

The Writer As Totalitarian Snob, January 30, 2003

Reviewer: R. W. Rasband

John Carey's "The Intellectuals and the Masses" is an eye-opening account of the fear and loathing many English writers had for ordinary people during the early days of Modernism. The intellectuals of the time hated and feared the growing power of the newly expanding middle class. Many famous and prominent writers came to dislike democracy and capitalism, because they thought they were losing influence. Carey theorizes that Modernism was invented in order to shut out the common reader of the day; to prove the elite's superiority and to put the upstarts in their places. Wyndham Lewis, a man with an amoral personal life, worshipped Hitler. D.H. Lawrence noted the efficiency of poison gas and imagined a large execution chamber where all the stupid people could be killed. Virginia Woolf sneered at the banality of the conversations she overheard from the women in the lavatory. The Bloomsbury set was especially guilty of the worst class-consciousness.

Some writers did battle with their impulses and the intellectual fashions of those years. George Orwell wrote with a minimum on condescension about "the proles" in his early novels and "1984." H.G. Wells seemed to advocate mass extermination of his inferiors in his non-fiction, but in his fiction his imaginative sympathies were usually with the failures and "losers" of the world. James Joyce's masterpiece was "Ulysses", a tribute of sorts to the common man (although written in a Modernist style that made it impossible for the common man to read it.) But on the whole the snobbery of most of the intellectuals of the day was unforgivable.

This book is an excellent companion to Modris Eksteins' "Rites of Spring" his cultural history of World War I. Both books argue that Modernism was in part responsible for the horrors of the 20th century, with its ruthless elitism and emotional coldness. Shaw, Pound and Forster dreamed of ridding the world of "superfluous" people; did this make it possible for Hitler and Stalin to actually attempt it? The necessary ideas were in the air. And they still are. Carey notes that, as the masses began to catch up in sophistication, post-modernism and literary theory was invented to create a new elite artistic language for its aristocratic initiates to revel in. The Modernist loathing for the mass media of newspapers was replaced by hatred of television and America, the middle-class nation par excellence. (And I would add, they really hate the Internet.) If you want to know why so many celebrities seem so sour and cynical about everything but themselves, read this book.


Intellectual hatchet-job., June 21, 2000
Reviewer: A reader
When I adjudicated secondary-school debating competitions, there was always one dependable red flag that signalled a crumbling argument: the comparison with Hitler. Hitler was the teenager's favourite: if you could infect your opponent's argument with just a touch of Hitlerism, the crowd was instantly on your side and your opponent now had to climb a mountain of odium to win them back. The biggest and most facile cliche was always the favourite amongst the weak speakers for knocking down an argument with one brute blow. All that was required to make it work was the unthinking presence of a large crowd.

With this in mind, it is disturbing to discover that an Oxford Professor of Literature is able to do no better. Carey has written an entire book that appeals to the masses (for its dishonest nature similarly requires an unthinking audience for its success). It confirms from on high the masses' most vulgar stereotypes about some of our most well-respected intellectuals and writers: their snobbery, elitism, wilful esoterica and even their supposed personal problems. Given this fact, it's no surprise that a comparison with the lowest common denominator of villains crops up - yes, Hitler.

The most objectionable aspect of the book is that instead of examining the validity of the selected writers' ideas on their own merit, Carey focuses mainly on their personal shortcomings. In attempting to appeal to a not especially bright readership, Carey certainly knows what he's doing: after all, once you are made to think that Nietzsche was resentful and unfulfilled, that H.G. Wells had sexual problems, that Virginia Woolf was annoyed by bland banter because she was approaching madness, and that Wyndham Lewis had similar thoughts about art and culture to Hitler, it's difficult to warm to their ideas, whether right or wrong. The chapter on Lewis and Hitler is particularly funny since on the basis of the incidental similarities Carey finds between the two, thousands of other writers could be accused of Nazism.Why would an academic take on such a mission? Why write an entire book deliberately quoting the top writers out of context and classifying them as maladjusted fools? Why stoop to such such low-bred ad hominem attacks? If the Professor feels that literature suffers from a lack of popular appeal, demonising some of its finest luminaries is hardly going to help.

If any of this has been of interest to you and if you wish to know more of what our focus is here we suggest a google search of our title and such names and words as benda, plato, darre, gnosticism, neo-feudalism, left dhimmi fascism. There are roughly 30o essays in the archives here on this topic alone. Some of it might be interesting to the dedicated reader. I hope so.


truepeers said...

There are many good reasons to read Dag's essay. For example, take a look at this very able survey by Keith Windschttle of the madness of the contemporary western intellectual class. It shows us the problem but cannot really explain it.

Instead, it concludes, ambivalently: "The consequences of this adversary culture are all around us. The way to oppose it, however, is less clear. The survival of the Western principles of free inquiry and free expression now depend entirely on whether we have the intelligence to understand their true value and the will to face down their enemies."

Only with the kind of historical essaying into subjects like Gnosticism that Dag is doing can we come to understand the emergence of hte current madness and thus more efficiently reject madness as madness without having to first take it on seriously in order to debunk it on its own terms. The way to efficiently oppose what Windschuttle calls the adversary culutre is to reveal the basis of its resentment as not simply delusionary in the sense of it being a gross misinterpretation of history, but delusionary in the sense that the pseudointellecuals are fueled by their indulgence in resentful phenomena like Gnosticism which is a belief that mastery of reality is possible because such mastery is essentially reducible to a mastery of language and the empire of reason.

The Gnostic is a believer in magic: if everyone falls under the spell of his stage show, then reality itself will be transformed. But, in fact, our language is but a tool, a means of deferring and framing action, that makes possible - with no guarantees - that we can achieve a faithful grip on reality if we are humble enough to see that our academic or linguistic knowledge is not a direct knowledge of human reality and the paradoxes that underpin it; rather, our knowledge allows us to understand our experience of the world but not to control it.

The Gnostic is like the barbarian who seeks certainty and control in violence. But control of death is eventually a road to one's own death. If we are to build a future worth inhabiting we can only act in good faith, not in Gnostic certainties about, e.g., who is the victim and who the victimizer.

The reason the contemporary intellectuals are so obsessed to reduce all forms of human interaction to the model of the Nazis and the Jews is because this is the model that comes closest to putting the question of violence, the question of who is the victim and who the victimizer, beyond debate. And our intellectuals don't want honest debate but rather a guarantee of the righteousness of their own linguistic magic: e.g., "Thou art Nazi (white man) and thou art the Holocaust victim (poor Pali). Israel, today thou art the Nazi (in other words, you are today the kind of arrogant bastard the Nazis once called Jew); in saying this i make it clear that my anti-Zionism is not antisemitism. And because i am a great intellectual who can quote Edward Said until all before me are racked with guilt, it is so, what i say."

Such is the mind of our "intellectuals" today. So why pretend to give them honest debate? Just declare them mad and know how to back this up.

truepeers said...

Should read: There are many good reasons to read Dag's essays (plural)

dag said...

A short note on the accompanying images above: the b/w ones come from Fritz Lang's German Expressionist film Metropolis. I might have used a confusing visual metaphor that I hope here to clarify: The first figure, a small being in the bottom centre of a mass of indistinct buildings, and those of the carnivorous cityscapes following, should bring to the reader's mind the relational state of "masses" to our position in terms of our relations with with our intelligentsia. I take that relationship for granted, portraying the masses as a lone figure dominated by the soul-crushing sterility of and Moloch-like appetite for life of the masses of the modern intelligentsia. I think there might be some confusion, though, because our common understanding of metaphors seems to be that the intelligentsia are the "defender of the oppressed." I see them as exactly not so, as the soul eaters and the wreckers of the lives of the people. I am at odds with the prevailing meme. Hence, the confusion some might have in matching the images to the texts. The images above represent the intelligentsia as City of Moloch, our left dhimmi fascists having supplanted Lang's ruling class of capitalist intellectuals. And what better image, now that we can, than to see Ward Churchill as False Maria?

Also by way of metaphor, let's look at the robot, False Maria, the final image in the text, and see that Spielberg used her as inspiration for R2D2 in Star Wars. I find that the most telling example of the decay of the intellectual as artist that I can find today. Lang's stark and horrifying image of Mary as robot-demon is reduced to a comic and irritating travesty of Todorov's insipid "friendly helper" motif. Such is the intellectual bankruptcy of our intelligentsia today. And they have the nerve to complain about such as Sir William Jones, (1746-94) one of those who revived Indian history and culture from the destructions made by the Islamic conquest. This same William Jones is one of the major figures in Indian history whom our current lot of cultural relativist pseudo-intellectual poseurs would condemn out of hand as a brutal and genocidal racist. Jones/ Todorov; Lang/ Spielberg. Dag bangs his head.

Truepeers writes of gnosticism and the corruption of language as reifier's building tool-kit. That's a bit weighty for this section and my small additions. If you will, then, let's wait and see if we can develop a feature for the coming days.

Not surprisingly, somewhere in the archives here one may find more by Windschuttle.

And finally, following is a link to a biography of Sir William Jones.

Sophia Sadek said...

Nice blog dag. Thanks for sharing.

Pardon my intellectual elitism and gnostic magic making, but I simply must defend the charges against Plato. As a student of Plato and other ancient intellectuals, I've come to the exact opposite conclusion to the one presented here.

Plato once wrote that he would never publish his true beliefs. Much of his work is a satire on the spirit of his times. In reading works of his contemporaries, as well as the more esoteric aspects of the "platonic" tradition, there is a strong undercurrent of dissatasfaction with the materialist elitism and despotism of the times.

The dialogs of Plato contain a variety of subversive concepts: There is imagery of Socrates teaching mathematics to a slave. There is support for women's rights in a form that shocks people to this day.

At the time that the Greeks were stuck in the Cave of Ignorance, barbarians were freely intermarrying between classes. Such lawlessness and beastly conduct was frowned down upon by the military elite of Greece and Rome.

May the farse be with you!

dag said...

That was indeed farcical, and thank you for sharing.