Saturday, June 12, 2010
The Purpose of This Blog
I have no doubt few people—if any—will read this blog. That's actually a bit of the point. There'll be no effort on my part to advertise this blog, or broaden its readership. The idea is to be both public yet obscure.
I'm most interested in developing ideas that help explain the world. I figure that's the purpose of the public intellectual: To create an intellectual framework that helps us all understand the world we are living in. A framework that will hopefully allow us to make a better world.
Today, however, the public intellectual is forced by the marketplace to say the popular thing, instead of the true thing.
The society we live in—the Industrialized West—purports to be free, but it's really not. You're free to say anything—but only if it fits with the prevailing ideas. And if it breaks with the prevailing ideas, then it can only do so if it is "charmingly" controversial—controversial without teeth.
If his ideas don't fit the prevailing beliefs, and if his ideas are aggressively controversial, then the marketplace will shout down the public intellectual. The pundits parroting the prevailing orthodoxy are more numerous, and they are louder. What's more, the public intellectual who voices heterodoxy will find himself with no means of subsistence—no one will want to listen to him. None of the networks will pay him to come on the air and "comment of the day's events". No one will pay to read his latest book—so no-one will publish him.
So what does the public intellectual do? He trims his sails. He might toy with heterodox ideas—he might even go right up to the edge of heterodoxy. But he is careful never to step over that edge—because to step over it is financial and social suicide.
Thus is the public intellectual neutered.
I think that that's part of the reason our society is in such turmoil—the public intellectuals are too fearful of pissing off the mob or pissing off the oligarchs to say what has to be said. They're too afraid of losing their perks or positions.
Since I'm no one in academia, and since I don't depend on the mob for my living—since no oligarch hires me to sell their point of view, and since I'm an expert in nothing—I have the opportunity to say what I really think.
This is a gift beyond price. If I'm shouted down, it won't matter—I don't expect to be heard anyway. If people don't want to pay me, it won't matter—no one's paying me anyway.
I am truly free. And I fully intend to use that freedom.
So then: To business.