When intellectuals abandon “the universality of truth” for political reasons, they are guilty of intellectual treason. During Benda’s own day, politicians were wearing convincing but false masks of intellectualism; think of Stalin in Russia, Hitler in Germany, Mussolini in Italy, and the choir of intellectuals who surrounded them. Suitably abased, knowledge yielded to political force blind to truth.
As viewed by Kimball, Benda’s warning has modern applications: “Those who for centuries had exhorted men, at least theoretically, to deaden the feeling of their differences … have now come to praise them, according to where the sermon is given, for their ‘fidelity to the French soul,’ ‘the immutability of their German consciousness,’ for the ‘fervor of their Italian hearts.’ In short, intellectuals began to immerse themselves in the unsettlingly practical and material world of political passions: precisely those passions, Benda observed, ‘owing to which men rise up against other men, the chief of which are racial passions, class passions and national passions.’ The ‘rift’ into which civilization had been wont to slip narrowed and threatened to close altogether.”
All around us today are pseudo-intellectuals, traitors to wisdom and common sense, fairly worshiping at the throne of some political genius, some over-powering political doctrine, some false devil of the utopian political imagination. Not content merely to divide people into warring groups, they grow violently disruptive, as did the Sturmabteilung of Hitler’s day. Who among us remembers that the largest proportion of Hitler’s Brownshirts were communists, or that Stalin was a “breaker of nations” because he had perfected the art of political division, or that Kim Jong-un’s father and grandfather were worshiped in North Korea as gods, as was Caligula in Rome, or that in Benda’s France, the most influential of the intellectuals – but for Camus and some few other heroic exceptions – were worshipers of political action, fellow travelers in Stalin’s bloody race to power? Such were the traitorous intellectuals then -- and now.
Yes – now. In America, atomization into irreducible classes – blacks, women, presumed oppressed groups, the underprivileged or, as the modern atomizers would have it, the white privileged and everyone else – have been justified by intellectuals in academia and the media because, without such divisions, a desired political action would be impossible. Such was the condition of Europe during the rise of fascism and communism, both offshoots of socialism.
|Author Don Pesci|
urge was not resisted.
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