Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, formerly Pope Benedict XVI, likes to tell a story from Jewish tradition. When the Enlightenment was in full swing, the story goes, a young man full of evangelical fervor for the new learning set out to argue with an old, distinguished rabbi. When he burst through the rabbi’s door, the young man found the old man pacing around the room, reading a book and deep in meditation. As the young man was about to launch into his harangue, the rabbi merely glanced at him, held up a finger, and said “yes yes, but… what if it’s true after all?” He then went back to pacing the room while the young man, stunned, sank to his knees from the force of sudden doubt.
Y’all need to understand that the vast majority of people inside the academic-industrial complex have been there their entire lives. For most of them, this is one of the keys to their entire psychology. Unlike the young man in Ratzinger’s story, they’ve never met the rabbi. They’ve never had any doubts. They’ve never heard the other side’s argument. Indeed, they are metaphysically certain the other side doesn’t actually have an argument, just a collection of prejudices.
I know that seems difficult to accept. But think about your own college days, if you had them. If your college experience was what all the brochures say it is — you know, with the glorious rainbow of diversity on the front cover and the attentive students in intimate classrooms — you probably did experience a whole variety of new viewpoints. But for the vast majority of us, I’d wager, we pretty much hung out with like-minded people, pretty much all the time. Stoners hung out with stoners, party kids hung out with party kids, pre-med guys did…. whatever the hell they did for all those hours in the library while the rest of us were partying and smoking out, and comp-sci guys spanked it alone in their rooms.
Professors did that, too. Only they were the ones who actually showed up to those weird club meetings advertised at the most obscure corners of the notice board at the student union. And then they went to grad school, which is basically one of those club meetings 24/7/365. And then they became professors, whose paycheck, lifestyle, and very identity depends on being in that club. So where are they going to get exposed to contrary perspectives? At work? Most people don’t talk politics at work, but for professors, work is politics, and vice versa. Through the internet? We all know that the internet just reinforces preconceived ideas (not to mention making us objectively dumber) — think of all the clowns who are still out there in this, anno domini 2015, claiming that Obama grew the economy, cut taxes, and shrunk the deficit.
Surely they’re not going to get it from their intellectual pursuits. I touched on this in the “Radicalism” post, but Theodore Dalrymple says it so much better, with such biting irony:
According to [leftwing intellectual George Lakoff] people view the world through the lens of their metaphors, which he thinks provide them with the framework of their thought. Since the 1980s, liberals have allowed conservative metaphors to take over their own metaphoric framework, so that all discussions or arguments about social policy are carried out on conservative terms. Liberals waste their time and effort in arguing from the evidence (conservatives, of course, can have no evidence); they should instead be working to get conservatives to accept a different metaphoric framework.
Note the bit in parentheses — indeed, conservatives can have no evidence, because Lakoff’s theory is explicitly designed to deny them any. Stripped of all its polysyllabic mumbo-jumbo, Lakoff’s “frames” idea simply states that liberals have evidence, conservatives have rhetoric.
In other words: Conservatives are suffering from “false consciousness,” which is what leftists have been saying since the middle of the Nineteenth fuckin’ Century. The phrase itself comes from Georg Lukács and his apes, Antonio Gramsci and Herbert Marcuse, but the idea has been central to Marxism from the start. I want y’all to take every word in this next sentence 100% literally: Marxists know their beliefs are the objective, scientific truth. When Marx writes about capital-H History requiring this or that, he really means it — there is an anthropomorphic Force out there called History, and it has conscious designs, and things will unfold just as Marx says they will. The fact that it hasn’t all gone according to plan isn’t due to a flaw in Marx’s theory — remember, it’s not a “theory,” it’s stone-cold scientific fact — but because some other Force has gotten in the way. Just as the cult leader’s prayers have kept the world from ending on the exact date he specified, so “false consciousness” has impeded — but not cancelled! — the inevitable glorious revolution.
Again: I am NOT kidding. Yes, this is infantile. Yes, this “argument” has more holes than Swiss cheese, and more stolen bases than Rickey Henderson. Yes, these people are doing exactly what they accuse bitter clingers of doing, and yes, they damn sure know it. Because yes, this is a religious dogma, full stop, and they damn well know that, too.
Consider what that means. Think what would happen if they actually met the rabbi, like the young man in Ratzinger’s story. We’re not told what happened to him, but it’s easy to imagine it. His whole life would have to change. Maybe he didn’t become a believer — that ambiguity is one of the wonderful things about the tale — but he most definitely would have to reorient his entire life. He’d doubtless lose all his friends. How could he stand to be around them, with their dogmatic certainty, and their unshakeable belief in their own superior intellects? How could they stand to be around him, a brilliant young scholar who couldn’t even handle a superstitious old crank? He’d have to leave town, change jobs, and maybe even change his name, lest the tattered remnants of his once-brilliant reputation shame him wherever he went….
That’s IF they ever met the rabbi, mind you. Most of them don’t, and never will, and everything about their daily existence is designed to make sure they won’t.
And that, my friends, is another reason profs believe their own bullshit.