Michael Totten, whose blog I read and support has a marvelous interview with Paul Berman, author of Flight of the Intellectuals. The interview is lengthy and wide ranging but worth the time to read it. Unfortunately, for some reason, Michael doesn’t have a permalink on the article so you have to scroll down to May 11. [Jonathan adds: Link to Totten’s post] One sample. They are talking about Bush Derangement Syndrome:
Paul Berman: I had an experience like that in relation to Ronald Reagan. I had a huge learning experience in Nicaragua in the 1980s when I was reporting for the Village Voice on the Sandinista revolution — a Marxist semi-communist revolution in those days.
Reagan was against the Sandinistas, and he did all kinds of things that, at the time, I thought were terrible. And I still think he did terrible things. Still, I was always astounded when I was among very poor people in Nicaragua to learn how many people liked Ronald Reagan. I would question them, and I could comprehend their answers, pretty much.
MJT: What did they say?
Paul Berman: Extremely poor market women, for instance, in an extremely poor town, would tell me, “the workers and peasants are suffering.”
I would ask, “Who is defending the workers and the peasants?”
And they would say, “Ronald Reagan.”
I said, “Ronald Reagan is defending the workers and peasants?”
Paul Berman: And they would say, “Yes!”
All they knew—and they got this from the Sandinista news radio—was that if the Sandinista regime had a bitter enemy anywhere in the world, it was Ronald Reagan. And therefore they felt he was defending the workers and peasants. Their way of speaking about the workers and peasants reflected the Marxist rhetoric, but they hated the Marxists.
It is terrific, as are most of his posts.
6 thoughts on “The Flight of the Intellectuals”
Leftists never listen to the downtrodden people they claim to speak for.
I remember back in college I stumbled into a clustering of various groups that claimed to represent hispanics in Texas. At the time, around 80% of Texas hispanics followed the Catholic Churches opposition to abortion and likewise opposed abortion on demand. I ask some a member of each the groups where they stood on abortion. Of course, they all strongly supported the leftwing party line of abortion on demand with zero regulation or oversight.
I was quite a lefty back then (hey, it was eighties, we all did crazy things) and I was naive enough to be shocked by the realization that these groups where not representing hispanics but really just exploiting them. That was one of those little experience that incubated in my mind for a few years and eventually caused me to see leftism for what it was.
That’s what makes “Community Activist” such a farce. They don’t go into communities to help the people of the community implement the peoples own ideas, they go there to exploit the people’s problems for the sake of the activist pre-existing agenda. Leftists regard poor and oppressed people as fuel for their political machine. They shovel them into the furnace dispassionately when they need more heat.
“They don’t go into communities to help the people of the community implement the peoples own ideas, they go there to exploit the people’s problems for the sake of the activist pre-existing agenda.”
Not always true, not in Chicago. It is a one party city and a one party county, where the (often nonexistent) private economy and the political process both routinely fail to deliver the goods people need to get by, due to corruption and the lack of sophistication of the people involved. I have seen with my own eyes that there are people who are interested in the wellbeing of people in the community and use activist methods to get attention.
There are lots of people who are misguided about what is a good thing to do, but well-intentioned.
Then, there are some who have other agendas.
Like most blanket generalizations about a large groups of people over long periods of time, it is not entirely true.
I have seen with my own eyes that there are people who are interested in the wellbeing of people in the community and use activist methods to get attention
Of course there are its just that they act in line with their own beliefs and preconceptions. They seldom use their knowledge and skills to promote ideas that they personally do not agree with. If the activist ideas and the peoples ideas line up, its great but if the activists ideas are different from the peoples, they’ll pack up and move.
Community activist often portray themselves as some kind of hired gun political technicians who pay no attention to the values of their clients. Indeed, this is why a professional organizer can claim to speak for a large group of people who did not formally elect them.
I don’t think we disagree much.
There are people who are ideologically motivated, of course.
There are also people who are more bread-and-butter motivated, and just want the rats out of the alleys, or the garbage heap stinking away on the empty lot removed, or the crack-house on the corner shut down, or the building with an absentee landlord boarded up that has a rotted out floor where kids get in and fall into the basement and get hurt — and the local alderman won’t respond and the local cops won’t respond, unless people raise holy Hell about it. That sort of thing. These people often actually live in the neighborhood, or at least in the city.
Obama was the first sort. He blew into town, and tried his hand at it, and wasn’t good at it. Probably too unwilling to engage in relentless, over the top confrontation, which you need to get the most basic things done in bad neighborhoods in Chicago.
There’s a link labeled “permalink” at the bottom of that Totten post. Which I will now go read, because it looked pretty good while I was scrolling through it to find the end. Cheers.
[Jonathan adds: Thanks, Retardo!]
That’s what makes “Community Activist” such a farce. They don’t go into communities to help the people of the community implement the peoples own ideas, they go there to exploit the people’s problems for the sake of the activist pre-existing agenda.
The obvious examples are the ones who block the construction of Walmart stores in the city of Chicago. They claim that Walmart will just exploit the people by hiring them to low pay jobs and are only holding out for an employer to come by with higher paying jobs. Problem is, those other employers never come by. So the people being organized lose the experience at Walmart that they could use to get a better paying job.
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