The Ivory Towers of Babylon by Ted Torgersen

     In the anti-intellectual climate of today we see that the "dumbing down" of higher education is at once the lapdog of the post-industrial feudalistic hegemony and the running dog of bourgeois complacency, and although this is rather obvious, what is not so apparent, at least on the surface, is that it is also the bugbear of the all but invisible intelligentsia, which has disappeared before everyone's eyes but its own to the point where not only can no one see it, it can scarcely even see itself. The diploma mills compete to turn out, not ranks of scholars or thinkers, but the eager drudges that are the mainstay of bureaucracies everywhere, assuring that society remains unthreatened by new ideas and that the long-legged wolf of consumerism runs unchecked as the lead dog in the world-wide Iditarod of capitalist oppression. Perhaps serious intellectuals should consider adopting The Negro National Anthem* as their own and rally against the intramural complacency that has plagued our universities and colleges for decades. At least the tenured ones need not fear reprisals for insubordination other than the revocation of those human rights that they have already abdicated, consigning intellectuals to the role of invisible strangers, and denying that adherence to outspoken intelligent views was a human right to begin with.

     Though it seems ludicrous in retrospect, Maoist rhetoric, while in itself fiercely anti-intellectual and of the basest knee-jerk simplicity, helps apply a grimly humorous perspective to the plight of the world's intellectual community, if, in any real sense, it can be said to still possess one. The two great social philosophies, Laissez-Faire Capitalism and Stalinist-Maoist Communism, have supplanted religion in modern times, and while the conflict raged, served to mitigate each the deleterious effects of the other on the hapless population of the world. During this time intellectual pursuits and scholarship were suppressed to maintain a unified ideological front, equally on both sides, while maintaining the fiction that it was only a temporary measure. Now that worldwide consumerism is the sole ideology, and The Job has displaced The God as the ideal, there is nothing left to hold back the tide of rootlessness and destruction as it sweeps through traditional cultures and attacks the natural world, all in the name of progress. Thus educational institutions turn out workers rather than thinkers and the goal is a better Job thus more buying power hence more consumerism ad infinitum ad nauseum. Only the mind itself remains unconquered, and by keeping the pursuit of truth at bay with promises of spare parts and money, intellectualism is fast becoming an historical curiosity, for the agenda of oppression can only be opposed by truth, just as darkness can only be conquered by light. We must turn away, like the Garveyites of old, from empty promises, and learn to rely on ourselves alone for the ideas that sustain our mental lives, for race is no longer an issue when our very humanity is at stake.

     We, the current generation of potential scholars, must shake off the lethargy that comes with a surfeit of entertainment and create our own intellectual renaissance. It is long overdue, and we can no longer be content with inspiration from past great thinkers like Henry David Thoreau in his Walden wilderness, or Marcus Garvey gleefully exiled to Ghana, or even V. S. Naipaul, returned, at last, to Trinidad. Learning and the pursuit of knowledge is not a football match between the red team and the blue team, but must be recognized as a struggle with the mechanics of metaphysics, lest our own ivy clad towers of refuge, like castles made of sand, crumble into a sea of mediocrity. A new intelligentsia must be cut out of whole cloth, or like Pallas Athena spring full blown from the minds of our generation. We must create for ourselves what no one will create for us.

*We Shall Overcome, Ivanhoe Martin • May 2010

Copyright 2014, Ted Torgersen

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