Quote of the Day

From the avalanche of vehement and ignorant attacks on Bush v. Gore and the oft-made and oft-refuted allegation that the Bush administration lied about WMD in Iraq, to the remarkable lack of interest in Mr. Obama’s career in Illinois politics and the determined indifference to his wrongness about the surge, wide swaths of the media and the academy have concentrated on stoking passions rather than appealing to reason.
Some will speculate that the outbreak of hatred and euphoria in our politics is the result of the transformation of left-liberalism into a religion, its promulgation as dogma by our universities, and students’ absorption of their professors’ lesson of immoderation. This is unfair to religion.
At least it’s unfair to those forms of biblical faith that teach that God’s ways are hidden and mysterious, that all human beings are both deserving of respect and inherently flawed, and that it is idolatry to invest things of this world — certainly the goods that can be achieved through politics — with absolute value. Through these teachings, biblical faith encourages skepticism about grand claims to moral and political authority and an appreciation of the limits of one’s knowledge, both of which well serve liberal democracy.
In contrast, by assembling and maintaining faculties that think alike about politics and think alike that the university curriculum must instill correct political opinions, our universities cultivate intellectual conformity and discourage the exercise of reason in public life. It is not that our universities invest the fundamental principles of liberalism with religious meaning — after all the Declaration of Independence identifies a religious root of our freedom and equality. Rather, they infuse a certain progressive interpretation of our freedom and equality with sacred significance, zealously requiring not only outward obedience to its policy dictates but inner persuasion of the heart and mind. This transforms dissenters into apostates or heretics, and leaders into redeemers.

Peter Berkowitz

1 thought on “Quote of the Day”

  1. I’ve long tried to understand why these groups work as they do – because some of it is me, why did I think that way? I think Berkowitz is spot-on and perceptive. It probably also has to do with loneliness and community. These people tend to dismiss most of the ways we define our community – and therefore our commitment but also pleasure in relation to others: place, religion, family, even non-bookish hobbies. These have little vitality for academics. They often don’t have children; when they do their relationships are often tattered (as an outsider, I observe some and feel the greatest ache I know for other’s sadness and inability to communicate). They hate where they are; they hate the people around them (outside academia and, of course, anyone above them since they have limited ability to deal with authority figures having so seldom taken responsibility themselves). They reject even the most minimal of religious beliefs – so their passionate belief that they are “scientific” arises from their willingness to dump thousands of years of belief, theology, and even much about our culture. (Not that they are all that happy with Darwinian applications to literary theory, etc. since that would mean there was a given and time, place, family might have some importance to understanding ourselves.) When you add to that the theories of post-modernism which have taken away the “meaning” of what they are doing – at least in the social sciences and humanities – you end up with “Nada”.

    Politics gives them an identity. It borders on the bizarre – some of them act as if voting for Obama puts them on the side of the Abolitionists, for instance. It gives them an artificial morality to think they vote left – “for the people” – as they demand larger and larger salaries from the taxpayers of a state where their wages are well above the average. (Singing old Wobbly songs does not mean you are doing anything substantial for the workers – but then I have trouble thinking that being a leader of the AFL-CIO does either.) Actually, I think they aren’t fools and realize that they are ignoring the depradations of the Ches of the world, the importance of our relationships with the next generation, etc. That makes their assertion of their virtue via an assertion of the importance of climate change or their hatred of the war in Iraq or. . . more strident and harsh. It needs to be unanalytical, unreasoned – if it were, the whole thing would fall apart. Orwell understood the utility of the 15 minutes of hate that focuses a group that has little to love; GWB fulfilled that need. It could be Obama is offering up Rush to take his place – I can’t imagine that, back in Texas, they can keep using Bush.

    On the other hand, my husband just finished a conversation with one of his colleagues who was inquiring about my mother-in-law’s health (she’s just gone into rehab, which will not be easy for a woman of 90). He was also thanking my husband for a recommendation for his beloved daughter – he and his wife are model parents and if his religious beliefs are a bit extreme for me, they certainly have enriched his life and the lives of others in his parish. All academics are not like that. But these two are rooted, believe in strong family lives, are active in their religious communities – and, of course, think post-modernism is pretty much full of shit.

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