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Our dumb intelligentsia

Thursday, October 13, 2016 10:01
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Adam Perkins has an article in Quillette – Elite Opinion vs the Wisdom of Crowds: The Intelligentsia’s Tendency to Get Things Wrong. Nothing we don’t know but a good summary of how the intelligentsia screws things up as a result of being too detached and insulated from the culture they purport to understand and diagnose. I’m not so sure about the wisdom of crowds, but the piece is worth reading.
The intelligentsia have a reputation for being out of touch and it’s easy to see why, given their stereotypical tendency to live in sheltered, affluent neighbourhoods. Therefore it should be no surprise if we turn on the TV news and see prominent, well-paid economists displaying a more relaxed attitude to uncontrolled, mass migration than those of us who live in disadvantaged neighbourhoods where the most dysfunctional migrants usually end up being accommodated. Likewise, it is only natural to expect heavily-guarded high court judges to have a more lenient attitude towards criminals than those of us who live in rougher, less protected localities.
But the detachment of the urban elite is more than just a matter of living somewhere posh — it is also a matter of culture, as noted by George Orwell in 1941: ‘This is the really important fact about the English intelligentsia — their severance from the common culture of the country’.
It all seems painfully obvious, a natural consequence of social detachment. Stimulus and response. Without the stimulus a competent response becomes difficult or impossible. Crowds may experience the stimulus where the intelligentsia do not. 
We have plenty of expressive language to nail the problem but language isn’t much of a stimulus either, not if it doesn’t conform to expectations and comfort zones. Reason is rarely a reason to change one’s mind so we are perpetually saddled with influential people who talk the talk but don’t walk the walk as one pithy cliché puts it. No point telling them though.


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