Possessing the mandatory Stiff Upper Lip, and following my own advice, I smile serenely when reading some of the comments made about my most recent article, Grow Up Grownups: in it, I advocated a return to using reason rather than emotion when making decisions and to being less 'precious' about having one's feelings hurt. Otherwise, I argued, people become embroiled in complex situations without having any real reason to do so, support causes without knowing anything about them and judge harshly those against whom they have an emotionally-fuelled grudge in general, rather than rightfully targeting the guilty few. What I found most interesting, though, was that I was charged with intellectual snobbery and advised to take a trip into what some call the 'real' world.
I've been in and out of this 'real' world for years, and have worked in numerous places with numerous kinds of people. Some I've liked, others I haven't: such is life. I've always been interested in others' stories; for although I can't learn a great quantity of new facts from many of those I've met, I can certainly learn how their responses to situations differ, and how their experiences have shaped them, of what they want out of life and what matters to them. I also tend to retreat into an academic world because it is the only place in which I feel at home; in which I can use my intellect to the full, develop new theories about the world with likeminded others, and am not obliged to try to think like the 'man on the street'. What intrigues me most is the idea that my world is any less 'real' or valid than the one in which my critics dwell. In my humble opinion, being advised to live in a 'world' in which struggle, strife, discord, discontent, humiliation, failure, high taxes, low wages, ill health, Nanny state and dishonest government are all accepted as the status quo - are almost seen as a grim badge of honour (the sage utterances of 'well, life's hard, isn't it? But there's nothing we can do about it, so we might as well make do' strike no chord with me; I won't subscribe to such fatalism) is to condemn me to misery. A life lived in the quest for the Beautiful, however, one which seeks to learn the mysteries of time and space, the numinous, the inner workings of the human psyche and the origins of everything is to be applauded.
Which is something we don't do in the UK. Intellectuals and academics are viewed with suspicion. A good background and education are seen as excuses for discrimination. Society has dumbed down, the Spin Doctors attempt only to appeal to the middle and backwards slope of the bell curve, and those who think rather than do are ostracised. Which leaves little to aspire to - except, of course, becoming a footballler, X Factor or Big Brother winner, or a footballer's wife.
Socialism has always viewed intellectuals with fear and loathing, because they can swiftly and lethally expose its shortcomings. In socialism's exaggerated form, Communism, it tends to stick the intellectuals on pig farms or their bones down mineshafts and satisfy the lowest common denominators' lust to destroy anything that is different or smacks of superiority. Under NuLab, 50% of the population have been shoehorned into higher education, whether they possess the requisite nous or not: all in the attempt to downgrade university degrees and remove them of their 'special' status.
Such an approach runs sharply contra to evolutionary theory. To make a mockery of higher levels of intelligence which contribute to society's betterment, its potential and its happiness is to destroy future generations' innovations in thought and progress. Our legacy will be their existence: the way in which their world is worked out relies upon what we do today. To dumb down now places ever greater obstacles in the way of personal freedom and individuality. There's nothing to strive for. Moving up to the middle classes through intellectual achievement and endeavour becomes a logistical nightmare as they are, arguably, the class which is most penalised. A culture which celebrates the ignorant, the animalistic at the expense of evolution (and God's) most precious gift, that one single facet that separates us from the rest of the natural world, reason, is a dying culture.
So I, for one, will continue on in my merry way; unashamedly academic to the hilt, and I hope to die in a library surrounded by exquisite examples of erudition. There are many ways to live: and to strive for excellence is, after all, the core purpose of human nature.