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Anti-intellectual My Butt

John W. Pinkerton


Recently I watched a fellow on PBS bemoaning the rise of “anti-intellectualism” which he seemed to define as average folks not paying much attention to “experts.”

Now, he seemed like a nice fellow.  He even tried to make himself seem more reasonable by conceding that it's not the role of the expert to make decisions, but their role is to provide facts so that the average man can make decisions based on their facts.  I noticed his body seemed to be contorting into awkward configurations as he said this indicating that although he knew what he was saying was probably true, it wasn't what he was really thinking: “Just do what I tell you to do.”

I'm not sure what his area of expertise was, but for the moment, he seemed obsessed by explaining why folks shouldn't question his expertise.  He did seem intelligent, and I'm sure whatever it was was 90% on the money.

He seemed to draw a hard line between the “experts” and regular folks.  He said something like, “There's a reason I'm behind the podium, and the students are seated before me in desks.”

I'm pretty sure that if we managed to get this fellow a little tipsy, we would find a liberal elitist emerging.

Now I didn't blow off this fellow's lecture completely, being that he seemed like such a nice fellow.  I thought about the experts we shouldn't ignore: doctors come in number one on my list.  I must admit, I've tried to substitute my hill doctoring skills to myself, and that hasn't worked out very well.  The more I make these mistakes, the more I realize that I should just shut up and do what the doc says.  On the other hand, I consider myself an expert in human nature and contend that I can spot a doctor of questionable character a mile away.  Between Linda and myself, we spotted one, and it saved Linda an operation.  I know doctors who sometimes have God complexes hate it when one gets a second opinion, but sometimes it's worth it.

Lawyers come in number two of my list of experts to whom we should pay attention.  Common sense and the law too often are like oil and water, and consequently, we need someone who can maneuver through this jungle of the unknown and the unexpected.  But there is a reason that lawyers  in general have questionable reputations.  I advise you to keep one eye on the lawyer, one eye on your wallet, and one eye on the lawyer next door.  I know that I've assumed an extra eye; that's a Buddist thing.

Although he mentioned doctors and lawyers as folks we should pay attention to, I think that he was speaking in a broader sense about folks like scientists.  Heck, I'm a big believer in science---gravity, the world is round, Earth is not the center of the universe.  Science helps explain the physical world seen and unseen.  However, and I know you knew that there would be a “however,”  science evolves.  We find out we were wrong and get a big “nevermind” and move on to the next best hypothese.  I think scientists in general are pretty honest folks, except when they're not.  I have this image in my mind of “scientists” who claim to be experts on the Earth's climate sitting in gloomy rooms with their slogan caps on backward emailing their brethren that they can change the world.  “We read your emails, you lying sacks of...stuff.”

Now, there are several other “experts” we could take a closer look at, but let's just limit ourselves to the group which are the really piss ants, the bureaucrats.

Often when we think of bureaucrats, we're talking about people who have degrees---undergraduate, masters, doctorates, post doctoral, etc.---of course they're “experts”---that's a given…or not so much.

I suspect a lot of these folks ain't too happy with the way their lives have gone.  They feel a little cheated by the system.  But they have an out---rules, they can make rules.  They really don't have a clue, and they certainly don't understand the unintended consequences of their “rules,” but I'm pretty sure at night before going to sleep, that they thank the Lord that they made a rule.  At least their lives are not wasted.

Our country was founded by a lot of anti-intellectuals.  Jefferson and Paine, Washington and Franklin, were smarter than a whip,  but they didn't put aside their beliefs out of respect for the British Empire's expertise in how to run a nation.

The world needs “experts” to give us some good solid facts.  The world needs the “nonexperts” to keep a skeptical eye on these “facts.”

I suppose I'm a pretty primitive guy…being a Southerner and all.  But, you know, sometimes we primitives just awake in the morning, test the direction of the wind, and judge how much manure we smell.   Some times we just know a priori.  Whoops, bet you didn't know I knew those words.  Anti-intellectual my ass.