Friday, August 26, 2011

contempt for intellectuals is healthy

When Hitler strove for power and legitimacy, no group - neither business nor the military - wanted the jumped-up pantry boy.

However, there was one class of Germans who greeted him with open arms: the intellectuals. One must remember the prestige of the German intelligentsia back in those days. German universities were the best in the world. Their research was world-class and Nobel prizes were showered on them. After the war, the American universities displaced the Germans.

And once this clique embraced Hitler, the rest of Germany fell into line, according to Niall Ferguson. German society is characterized by hierarchy and obedience. Stanley Milgram's experiment on obedience and power, when replicated in Germany, showed a compliance rate of 80%, as opposed to a compliance rate of 65% in the United States.

Bangladesh probably has a higher level of compliance to authority. Obedience is part of our culture. It has been suggested that the Rwandan genocide was possible because of a culture of obedience. A genocide in Bangladesh is easy to imagine.

In fact, we came close in January 2007, when the two political parties unleashed murder on the streets. Fortunately, the army stepped in and, thanks to the UN and Kofi Annan, the army remained neutral.

However, on August 23, the intelectuals tried to discredit the army by alleging that a soldier had slapped a young whippersnapper on a campus. One fictitious slap spiralled into nationwide arson and unrest. The reason, of course, for the mythical justification was that both the evil leaders of Bangladesh were in jail. Obedience to them entailed a rebellion against the forces of good.

Obedience to evil, then, was the prospect of the period. Eyewitness account informed me how the thugs gathered on Satmasjid Road in Dhaka. Some yanked a driver out of his car and set it alight near road 8A. The next morning, the denizens of Dhanmandi and Rayerbazaar found that every restaurant on Satmasjid Road had been burnt to cinders.

A healthy contempt for intellectuals is essential for civilised existence. Civilisation, observed G.K.Chesterton, is based on truisms, or it is not based at all. And intellectuals, ever since Socrates, have been making out the worse to be the better cause. It is a truism that murdering people on or off the streets is evil, and those who do so should be shunned. It is a truism that murderers should go to jail. It is a truism that one must not burn vehicles and restaurants.

Our obedience to intellectuals has resulted in our obedience to evil. Where will this take us? To what bestial depths shall we descend? Around 80 people are lynched every year because of the lawlessness encouraged by our intellectuals; around 50 student politicians murder themselves in the service of the two women who claim to be our leaders.

Besides, our intellectuals probably receive cash or other benefits from the Israel lobby - which would explain their strange silence on the Palestinian issue - making them minions of Israel as well as America. They are not on the side of the good, but on the side of the evil.

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