Monday, June 27, 2005

Intellectual Discourse and Politics.

Born out of the depression, shaped by WWII and forged by the Cold War, the New York Intellectuals had a profound impact on American public and international policy. They were a band of academics, all hell bent on helping to create social equality in the United States. I've had the fantastic opportunity to watch "Arguing the World," a PBS documentary highlighting the life of four scholars that were a part of the New York Intellectuals.

This documentary highlights the way in which radical thinking can be born on college campuses, evolve into palatable ideas and later be integrated into mainstream thought. Incredibly, these four men began as Trotskyites and some later changed their political philosophy as a result of Stalin's brutal reign.

As these men age and become faculty members, their political views further evolve, causing considerable clashes with the Students for a Democratic Society, the next generation of radical thinkers on college campuses.

This is a fabulous documentary, one that everyone interested in politics, activism or the uprising of socialism in New York's Jewish community during the 1930s should watch. I encourage you to all rent the DVD, which is available now.

This movie got me thinking -- Is intellectual discourse threatened by nationalism? Should intellectual thought be squelched if it is not in keeping with the current political climate? Do you think that university professors are predominantly liberal? Finally, how have your political views evolved as you have aged? Are you of the same political persuasion as you were when you were young? If not, why? What changed?


Blogger boabhan sith said...

Hell yes the university professors are predominantly liberal.


3:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As always, very interesting Vavoom. I do believe that sometimes people are afraid to really think deeply about its country's foreign agenda too much without sounding, "unpatriotic". I think that profs represent a broad spectrum of politics from liberal to conservative.

4:54 PM  
Blogger thc said...

Of course not.
Of course they are. It's been documented.
As I grew older and smarter I grew more conservative.

8:36 PM  
Blogger Mentally Challenged said...

My political views have changed. Starting in the mid sixties my political views were primarily liberal. Now my political views are primarily conservative, though some liberal views are still held.

What changed was that my religious perspective changed and it had the particular effect on me of changing
my perspective on life to a more conservative one than had prieviously been the case.

9:04 PM  
Blogger Moose said...

I would say that intellectual discourse is threatened by nationalism. It is considered unpatriotic to think anything other than the norm. Therefore if other ideas do exist, they are less likely to be voiced. We NEED different points of view. Show me someone who says they have the right way to do everything, and I’ll show you a delusional individual.

10:25 PM  
Blogger Xenia said...

I do think that most professors are liberal, but I think that goes with being willing to see multiple sides of a topic. Not that all conservatives are closed minded (though maybe...) but more that they like things to stay within the traditional expectations. When I was young, growing up very sheltered in my small town, I had a very romantic view of being liberal. As I age, I find it is harder to adhere to these ideals as the selfishness of our society starts to creep into my everyday life. But even though it is much harder to be a good "liberal" than I thought it would be when I was 19, I still struggle everyday to be as open to other people and other philosophies as I possibly can. Maybe that sounds silly, but I really feel that the way that bleeding heart liberals try to make sure that everyone is a welcome part of society, is closer to the true spirit of our countries stated goal than the general public really wants to be. We want to talk like we are open and everyone is equal, but we don't really mean it.

11:51 PM  
Blogger RT said...

Well, I can't say much about how things are on college campuses because it's been forever since I've even seen a campus, much less hang out on one to test the atmosphere. But, personally, I think intellectual thought should be encouraged, not squelched. Especially in a learning environment like college.

As for my political views changing, oh heck yeah! While I still consider myself a Republican, my views on a lot of things have changed just because I know a little bit more about it now.

12:55 AM  
Blogger Camphor said...

Can we keep this to monosyllabilic words please? Like we hear on TV? Just so I can keep up?
No, really, sometimes I think all the evils in the world are rooted in the sensationlism - and TV.

Intellectual thought is a whoel lot better than the "current politicla climate"... it cannot and shoudl not be squelched, unless you want your country to stagnate, and well, I wish people would realise that.

Nope. There are very few who are liberal, but that's just the experience I have had. I'm sure there are better professors out there whom I have never met.

I'm 19. Aged? I'll try this one, though because there ehave been changes in my political viewpoints. For instance, I've become less "nationalist" and more liberal. Civil rights was always a touchy point with me, but... I have strnger views about that now... Is a change from relatively liberal to all out liberal a change worth notign in a teenager?

6:19 AM  
Anonymous Daniel said...

For me the questions do not revolve around the liberal v. conservative dichotomy. I grew up in a very liberal, leftist family. I still consider myself to be a liberal n the classic sense, e.g. open to ideas, change, etc. though I have since l
"left the left."

I'm not at home in the right either, so for now I get to snipe and carp at both sides.

When one asks if profs are "liberal" I want to say "hell no" because many who I have had any many more I know aren't all that interested in other perspectives and ideas. So, at least by my definition, they don't qualify as liberal. Many, many do, however, qualify as leftists, as that is the ovearching ideology they employ.

Also, I do not think that questioning policy, criticizing government and the administration thereof, and pointing out weaknesses, abuses and crimes is at all unpatriotic. Being unpatriotic is believing that anything your country does is either suspect, stupid or illegal, just because some winger (pick the direction) says so.

To illustrate my point:

When Democrats criticize the effort in Iraq as haphazard and without a concrete goal, that is patriot.

When marchers (or certain Senators)equate the US with Nazis, that's unpatriotic.

11:27 AM  
Blogger dreadcow said...

My experience at college was that teachers are ridiculously liberal. I've only met about two liberals in my entire life that made me look at things differently. They had actually thought out their arguments. In my experience, liberals base all their politics on how they feel and the concept of utopia. You know my thoughts on world peace: it will never happen. Utopia is the same. I believe the vast majorit of liberals are in a dream world of feelings; they don't live in this world.

When I was a younger I was considered radical. I started getting politically involved when I was about 14. I was also a Libertarian. When you're in high school you don't find too many kids who share conservative values.

As I've grown up I remain pretty Libertarian. I don't associate myself with the party anymore because they opposed the Iraq war and I don't like their stance on abortion. I did vote for Badnarik in the last election, however. I consider myself a "small l" libertarian.

I think as people get out of high school, college, etc. the more they have to grow up. Having to work and fend for yourself makes you live in the real world. It seems to me the older you get the more conservative you are. Unless you're Ted Kennedy. In which case I'd say you have a mental disease.

I will say one thing good about liberals because I rag on them so much. Paul Wellstone was a bad ass. Not because of his commie ideas, but because he stuck to his guns and was never swayed by anyone. The man had balls and I always respected that.

12:32 PM  
Blogger Raine said...

Bravo, Daniel. Well said, sir.

I think "intellectual discourse" is what liberals think they are engaging in when it is actually "liberal discourse."

Studies have proven that university professors are predominantly liberal across all departments, business and religion included. How can you have meaningful discourse if the teachers come at you from primarily one viewpoint?

12:42 PM  
Blogger An80sNut said...

I'll definitely check out the book. I have to say that I avoided news and political talk early in my life. The only time that I felt motivated back then was when John Anderson was running as the third-party candidate for President in 1980. I still believe in a third party. I do my best to listen to the right and left but have slowly found a course that fit me. I can't say that my views have changed too much there other than that I'm more and more motivated for clarity.

Yes, I do believe that college professors lean to the left. But we put ourselves in places of importence to impart what we believe is education.

5:56 PM  

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