I carried on at some length a while ago about 'informed debate' or something not unlike it. It's one of the few things I've written on this blog of which I'm proud, in part because I was a Good Internet Citizen and actually hyperlinked to the sites I was talking about. I begin to see why that matters so much. [And wouldn't you know it? 'Hyperlinked' isn't recognized by this thing either! Every possible future being outstripped by the sheer fuckitall forwardness of what actually is.] Unfortunately, amid the wind and waste of my (as usual) somewhat bloated rhetoric, I managed to say a couple of things that bear, if not correction, then clarification.
See because here's the thing, see: you may have noticed a serious bias on this page toward some ill-defined 'life of the mind'. Blogs may not be much by way of intellectual(!) masturbation, generally, but the flogging that goes on here is of course primarily mental, i.e. all in ya head. And this blog in particular is the 'work' of a currently-unemployed lad of no particularly hearty physical disposition - unless 'hearty' means 'somewhat rounded' - so it functions as a kind of validation of retreat, a justification for staying inside where it's cool/dark instead of outside where it's warm/alive. I can always point to the words and pretend they're preparation for my storied writing career to come. [Aren't they?] But when I yammer about the nature of this country being one of debate and people articulated their blah blah beliefs in freedom...well, that's kind of bullshit, isn't it? This is a nation born in violence and perpetuated through violence, a place where the squeaky blandness of Mickey Mouse is better known than that weisenheimer Bugs Bunny, where John Wayne is an icon and 'voluble' is a backhand. I'm pretty sure I was talking about this, but: that's a bad thing, I kind of think.
I can't decide whether this 'life of the mind', a life of reflection and no small amount of solipsism, is actually prized by American culture at all. And because my knowledge of U.S. history is shoddy, I don't actually know whether there's ever been a time at which it was. I think we have that myth as well - farmers spouting homespun wisdom in beautiful letters to their relatives in the Old Country, blah blah - but it's merely self-serving, and false. Perhaps it has something to do with loss of religious structure: the loss of a reflective culture of faith. But it's weird to think of contemporary religion encouraging intellectual engagement - on the news you see more or less the total opposite, don't you?
This country is obsessed with class conflict, in a very tacit way. Insofar as there is an American intellectual class - and Chris Matthews isn't it - it is on the sidelines in American popular discourse, because it is not thought to be of America. It contributes to the nation's discourses without risk, because in America higher education is an indulgence. We're a prescription culture: and I don't just mean in the medical sense. We like our thought straightforward and prescriptive, not ruminative. It's why we like popular novels that are no more than bland middle-age self-help books and corporate-slave fantasies; it's why we elect officials without verbal dexterity; it's why we dope up our children to send them to school; it's why people are drifting away from scholarly traditions in church; it's why we transformed Iraq by taking it over.