A subversive phenomena has refused to die in the South Eastern United States. Anti-intellectualism is hallmarked by: its disdain for the formally thoughtful, the concise, and the expertly-derived consensus. Within the time-span of my life that stretched from childhood, to adulthood, I observed the ebbs and flows of an anti-intellectual movement, within the major monolithic systems of society: the Christian Church, the Education System, and now (again) within the Political System.
This is not new to our larger southern society. Over the years, stretches of religious fundamentalism, anti-government sentiment, and socially derived systems of injustice have paralleled each other with remarkable meticulousness. What is disconcerting, is the fact the governmental systems have tended to protect these social systems with tenacity.
We fooled ourselves (as a collective society) into believing that this was changing at several points within the short history of our southern states. Suffrage for African Americans. Suffrage for Women. The Civil Rights Act. A challenge to take mankind to the moon. An African American President. The possibility of a female president. I could go on.... Conclusively, we thought we were stepping past the fearful parts of ourselves, and were ready to embrace a more perfect union of civility.
But it returned. You can hear it in conversations. You can read it between all of the lines. And it says ever so sharply.... "Knowledge and Civility are not as important as immediate and short term fiscal gain" "Long-term global health is not as important as short-term American convenience. " "My God is greater than your God" "Nothing will change my mind"
It is not defined in an election, the election (and our choices for a likely president) are a byproduct....it is defined in the deepest parts of our inner person, and in our tendency to desire something more easy to comprehend than the reality of our existence. The reality for us all, that existence is complex, is outweighed by an irrational and primal desire for things to be simple (like they were in the good ole days before the 1960's). What we fail to acknowledge, is that the modern lifestyle that we so love is intrinsically tied to the progression past our "good ole days" So, we bury our head in the sand because we are scared of the real challenges demanded by an ever increasing population, and competition for natural resources: problems, where the solutions are harder than simply screaming how American we used to be.
We have made strides and progress towards raising the average level of intellect, respect, kindness, civility, and equality. But we turn back toward our more dark past all too often. Neo-Liberalism is confused with progressivism, demeaning the possibility of progress. (this is how abortion exists) Right Wing fanaticism harvests this misunderstanding to advance their more "plain spoken" ideology, as if being plain spoken is the remedy for complexity. In the end, when a progressive idea fails, it does so, either falsely in the name of Neo-liberalism, or at the alter of pseudo-wisdom by the intellectual lowest common denominator, and at the cost of our humanity. The Wisdom of a bygone era, proven ineffective at maintaining civility, is clung to in desperation. In our case, desperation to return to an America that does not exist, and never really did.
God is all to often blamed for our anti-intellectualism. His words are twisted more craftily and more deviously than his counterpart (the enemy) ever could have imagined them being used. These words are used to justify institutional racism- ever lowering expectations of our children- and - obviously, fanaticism. God has nothing to do with our lack of willingness to accept new ideas, to embrace science, or our inability to figure out how to get along with each other. He has been imploring us towards enlightenment, but we reject this call in favor of hatred, for the same reason that we reject progress itself: Because hatred and anger are easier. He warned us that evil would be called good, and good would be called evil.
Intellectualism makes us see life in balance, and as it actually is. As opposed to the extremes visualized so readily for us by neo-liberalism or extreme conservatism. The extremes among our contemporary philosophies, politicians, and religions, are equally as damning as their opponents. And the one thing that they all have in common, is their rejection of knowledge, and enlightenment. What can a reasoned man do??
Be kind. Seek to understand your worst enemy, and make him your friend. Be civil. Refuse subversive discourse, and above all, seek balanced approaches to complex conversations, as opposed to an answer that sounds reminiscent of a past that is en-tropically unavailable to us now.