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Thread: Marxism and the intellectuals (part one)

  1. #1
    Elite Member JamieElizabeth's Avatar
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    Talking Marxism and the intellectuals (part one)

    Column by Stephen Browne - Jan 8, 2007

    In the April 2000 issue of The American Spectator, Ben Stein asked about Communism, “What is the attraction of this evil system for Hollywood and for “intellectuals” generally that keeps them from facing the truth about how vicious Communism is? Or why Ivy League types with elegant family names would simply overlook what Communism is. There is something here for study.”
    With respect to Mr. Stein, I suggest that the answer may be in fact deceptively simple.
    It is far more a tactic of the Left to impugn the motives of the arguer rather than address the argument and gentlemen intellectuals are usually reluctant to defame the character of a fellow intellectual. If we are not fanatics for a Holy Cause most men of good will would rather regard a fellow human being as deluded than corrupt. It’s not supposed to be personal.
    So perhaps I’m not a gentleman, but living in post-Communist Europe (Poland, Bulgaria, and Yugoslavia for thirteen years) has not inclined me to be charitable to those who denied, excused, or actively supported with their words and deeds the murderers of the families of people who have become dear to me. In other words — it’s personal.
    What I am suggesting is that the answer lies in a corruption that goes to the bone, and it has a name. It’s called cowardice. This cowardice has three dimensions: physical, intellectual, and moral.
    Cowardice is, of course, not the same as fear. Everybody fears, often the most trivial things. Cowardice I define as failure to master one’s fear in order to do what must be done to protect and preserve something of value.
    Many young men of my generation dodged the Draft during the Vietnam War. Faced with an inarticulately justified war, what reason was ever given to master the perfectly natural fear of going half a world away to face armed strangers intent on killing you?
    But some went further than that and embraced the communist side.
    The thing is that, for a long time it looked like the communists would win, not only in Vietnam but in the whole world — and many simply wanted to be on the winning side.
    Like James Clavel’s delightful character Lady Tchung Mai-mai (in Tai Pan), when it was explained to her that there were two kinds of Christians and that if the Long-Skirt Christians won they would burn us but we wouldn’t burn them if we won, she immediately replied that we should definitely be Long Skirt Christians because that way, if we lost we wouldn’t burn.
    In the Anthropology Department of my university I had a Marxist-Lenninist professor who had been an Army Ranger in Vietnam. I have always wondered if he had reached the conclusion there that the Communists were going to win everywhere in the world and adjusted his loyalties accordingly. (I understand he has since renounced Marxism in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Empire.)
    Intellectual cowardice is more subtle and certainly not limited to the Left. The most difficult emotion to live with is, for many, uncertainty. There is a powerful desire, in those who live a life of the mind, for a Theory of Everything, a model that explains literally everything and lays down Laws and Truths for all situations. While almost any model can be perverted in this fashion, from organized religion to Objectivism, some seem to be necessarily the Font of Truth — or nothing.
    Some people cannot tolerate any Mystery in reality and when reality intrudes on their model they will attempt to change reality with a gun — by preference wielded by someone else. I am certainly not the first to notice that Marxism, in spite of its secular trappings, is in fact a particularly odious form of religious fundamentalism.
    Part of this intellectual cowardice is an inordinate fear of making hard decisions, of having to pass judgment on something and face the possibility of being wrong (a tragedy of the first magnitude for many intellectuals). In this complex world of ours, our most cherished values often come in conflict: for example, our democratic tolerance versus cultural practices that are heinous to us.
    Tough. Life is full of agonizingly difficult choices and though I’ve looked my birth certificate over very carefully I have yet to find a guarantee that life would be simple or easy.
    The easiest way out of this painful, and scary dilemma is to deny that any value or set of values is objectively more valid than any other. Poof! Problem defined out of existence.
    The most revolting example of this that I have ever come across was during my Anthropology studies. It is an article of faith in social science that all cultures are equally worthy and possess equal rights to pursue their own traditional ways. So, I asked, what about Thugee? Thugee (origin of the English word “thug”) was a Hindu cult whose acts of devotion to the goddess Kali was to join parties of travelers, befriend them, and at a given signal to strangle and rob them.
    Now understand, these were not just simple robbers and murderers. Most of them were capable of living exemplary lives in their own villages. They appeared to suffer no pangs of conscience, assured that what they were doing was an act of religious devotion and not simply crime. When caught by the British they seemed to believe that they were suffering just punishment for violations of their incredibly complex taboo structure.
    Well yes, I was told, leave them alone. The first time this happened I thought I had backed the professor into a corner and made him mad. But it happened again with another professor. These were people I liked and admired and learned a lot from but who had, in the name of scientific objectivity, signed on to a point of view that lead them to support moral obscenities like this — and to teach it as a worthy ideal.
    This is an extreme example but if one can’t deal with this, how is one going to deal with relatively trivial issues such as the existence of Santaria in Florida, where their animal sacrifices at country crossroads leaving piles of entrails lying around creates a public health issue.
    This is the point at which intellectual cowardice becomes moral cowardice.
    Stephen Browne is a writer, editor, and teacher of English as a Second Language and martial arts. He has been living and working in Eastern Europe since 1991, though currently he is at the University of Oklahoma pursuing advanced course work in journalism. He is the founder of the Liberty English Camp, held annually in Lithuania, which brings students from all over Eastern Europe for intensive English study using texts important to the history of political liberty and free markets. He also keeps an up-to-date blog.

    This articel was difficult for me to understand, personally, but thought that it might make a few good points. Since you were just speaking about what Cowardice means in the past aritcle about the US soldier.
    Last edited by JamieElizabeth; January 10th, 2007 at 01:54 PM.

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    Elite Member crumpet's Avatar
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    I honestly believe him when he says many people use 'morality' to cover up for being cowards who are afraid to face things head on.

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    Hit By Ban Bus! pacific breeze's Avatar
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    So leftist intellectucals -- both dirty words as far as this columnist is concerned -- would rather impugn the character of people who disagree with them than look at the facts. Then this so-called writer/paragon of moral and intellectual bravery spends the rest of the column doing just that. *sigh* Apparently, if you don't agree with his political views, you are a coward.

    And beating this communism horse is so old. Nobody gives a shit about communism any more except diehard neocons desperate for something to fill their columns with. Bashing "leftist intellectuals," most of whom did NOT support communism in the first place is lame beyond words. There are much more important things to be concerned about now, but then that would mean looking at some of the mess his neocon heroes have created in various parts of the world in the name of "democracy," i.e. enriching themselves. Can't have that.

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    Elite Member JamieElizabeth's Avatar
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    Agreed, PB. These columns use good topics, but why they are still stuck with the Communist BS, is beyond me. The philosphophy they ascribe to is based from a woman who escpaced Soviet Russia. It is outdated, though, nothing else has gone into its place. Well, except, teh opposite, which is considered to be Democracy. And that's what these collumnists say they support. They'll try and point out where, why, and how Communist is bad.
    Last edited by JamieElizabeth; January 10th, 2007 at 02:31 PM.

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