Monday, February 17, 2003

Suspension of thought 

Perhaps I could use a little distance from this place, for then I could write something like Tightly Wound does about academia as "Bugs in Amber". (Her last archive isn't up yet, so I've linked to the front page.) After commenting on my clothes -- and I do try to upgrade, but when you shop the Salvation Army, new fashion is Guess! -- she proceeds to get to the heart of it.
Those professors and a lot of the ones I ran into subsequently didn't notice that things change, but it wasn't because they were thinking deep thoughts, it was because they were repeating the same thoughts that they had in grad school (or earlier) over and over until the thinkers became completely paralyzed--trapped in one mindset and preserved like bugs in amber, unable to recognize or react to the outside world.

How else can you explain the disproportionate number of academicians who cling to the rhetoric of class warfare and who still believe that Marx holds the answers when human nature and real world regimes have proven this false? ...

The "explosion" of critical theory in the last couple of decades is simply the application of popular late-nineteenth and early twentieth century philosophies and causes--Marxism, Existentialism, Nihilism, Feminism--to literature. The ideas are recycled, the concepts are nominally "freshened up" by adding a dash of race or sex, and voila! Post-Colonial theory, Queer theory, and New Historicism magically appear.

What is caught in amber, though, are leftist intellectuals trying to hold down history while they work at social engineering. As Brink Lindsey pointed out last year commenting on Francis Fukuyama, our modern intellectuals want to arrrest history.
[Fukuyama] speaks for an emerging coalition of neocon and Luddite left intellectuals � but are such views really in line with the broad currents of conservative or liberal opinion? I don't think so. I was speaking recently with someone very prominent in conservative circles, and I asked him if he would oppose genetic engineering to improve intelligence, looks, etc. if it didn't involve destroying embryos any more than current in vitro fertilization techniques. "Of course not," he replied. "The essence of human nature is the desire to improve your condition. You can't oppose that." But Fukuyama does -- in the name of defending an imaginary, static "human nature," he sets himself against the essential dynamism that defines our humanity.
And it's that dynamism that overwhelms the thought process of the academia that Big Arm Woman gleefully has left in the rearview mirror.