Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Opinion/Article: Anti-intellectualism and activism

After receiving a couple of very nasty emails on a mailing list I frequent, I have had cause to think about the power of anti-intellectualism. Yes, self-professed 'intellectuals' can sometimes be a priggish bunch, but without analysis of some sort, whether professional or otherwise, I think we'd all be going to hell in a handbasket of unexamined and profoundly unhelpful assumptions. I did a little googling, and came up with the following article, which nicely states a lot of the things I have been thinking about political activism for a while, particular in relation to anti-intellectualism: "Action Will Be Taken":Left Anti-intellectualism and Its Discontents"
(by Liza Featherstone, Doug Henwood, and Christian Parenti).

I think one of the interesting things about anti-intellectualism is that is seems to call for people like myself to justify what it is that we do. I have a problem with justification, though. Justifying something doesn't make it any more valid, it just means that it has been 'justified', i.e., that someone has offered a justification for the action. That doesn't get you anywhere, and certainly provides no moral or ethical guidance or yardstick for behaviour or thinking. So, I'm not a great fan of justifications, as they often get you embroiled in claim and counterclaim arguments, which I find incredibly unhelpful. I do what I do, think what I think, and there are consequences for myself and others in how I do so. I work out as I go along whether or not the character of what I do or think is working for me, in relation to how (not who) I would like to be in the world. Justifying it to myself or others requires me to attempt to convince myself or others that what I do is okay for me to do. Why would I need to convince? To what end? I don't know. Just rambling. I had a migraine this morning and my head is full of gaps.