King's Evangelical Divinity School

17 May 2010

When Intellectual Elites Argue, Perhaps There's Hope for the Rest of Us?

Like it or not, liberal intellectual elites ultimately dictate what represents acceptable thought and behaviour, influencing the very way we think. These elites are more often than not shaped by the university arena, which influences generation after generation of politicians, judges, police chiefs, teachers, senior managers in public services, intellectuals, future university lecturers, and so on. The battle of ideas within universities is, of course, much to be commended. It drives knowledge forward and contributes strongly to human advancement. Problematically, though, narrow and prescriptive intellectualism can all too often become somewhat arrogant and pompous. A case in point is how in recent times our intellectual arenas, in their conviction that they know best, have been the progenitors of thought control and the dampening of free speech, not merely echoing but shaping the politically-correct Zeitgeist of the age. This worldview has trickled down and shaped how society thinks and responds to various issues. Unfortunately, it has served to enslave the average man and woman in the street who pay the very real price for thinking and speaking outside what is publicly perceived as acceptable and politically correct.

Inevitably, though, as with all variations of totalitarianism (and make no mistake, thought crime - the attempt to control the very way we think - is totalitarian by nature), the progenitors of thought crime invariably turn upon each other. I am referring to the recent case in an Irish university of a British scientist accused of sexual harrasment for passing on a paper detailing the sexual behaviour of bats to a female colleague, as reported by The Times. Who knows what the truth of the allegation is? What matters, however, is that when free speech in the university sector is threatened, academics and intellectuals bristle and polarise as they square up to each other, which is precisely what has happened in this instance. Sadly, too many fail to do so when their pontification has trickled down and affected very real everyday lives, resulting in criminal convictions for expressing unpopular or distasteful views. But ultimately, I suppose, it will take more instances of intellectual elites having to experience first hand the consequences of their actions, their shaping of societal views and their having to juggle intellectual freedom and free speech with tip-toeing around political correctness, before more of them begin to question and challenge the current Zeitgeist their colleagues helped create. Only then can we expect society to change, thus lessening (hopefully) the rod upon the backs of everyday men and women enslaved by intellectual self-indulgence from academics living in ivory towers.

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