Some time ago, I posted or commented about the fact that the liberal establishment was failing politically because it no longer shared the practical concerns as most Americans and was therefore irrelevant to most voters.
Chris Hedges has an essay on Treason of the Intellectuals over at Truthdig. It is typical Hedges: succinct, passionate and to the point.
The power elite, especially the liberal elite, has always been willing to sacrifice integrity and truth for power, personal advancement, foundation grants, awards, tenured professorships, columns, book contracts, television appearances, generous lecture fees and social status. [ ] And they will, should their careers require it, happily sell us out again.
The man on the street knows the .5% is out to screw him. He accepts that. What really pisses him off is the pseudo-supportive claptrap from the lefist camp: sympathy but no empathy; lip service rather than a helping hand; theories based on ignorance of what his life is really like.
…it is only when we are not in pursuit of practical aims or material advantages that we can serve as a conscience and a corrective. Those who transfer their allegiance to the practical aims of power and material advantage emasculate themselves intellectually and morally.
I take issue here with Hedges’ lumping ‘practical aims’ and ‘material advantages’ together as precluding a useful and honest role for liberals. There is a place for a stance of pure ‘concscience’ but by itself, it is limited. Someone has to use it as guidance and motivation for action. The problem isn’t that liberal intellectuals are liberal or intellectual – it’s that that’s all they are. Noam Chomsky has a lot of balls and speaks truth to power, as does Hedges, but Cesar Chavez accomplished more ‘on the ground’. Chris et al have put themselves at some risk career-wise, but striking miners put their lives on the line. Until the Liberal Establishment is willing to do that – inspired by a sense of decency and common humanity – it is doomed to remaining meaningless to most people.
And bottom line:
Those who doggedly challenge the orthodoxy of belief, who question the reigning political passions, who refuse to sacrifice their integrity to serve the cult of power, are pushed to the margins. They are denounced by the very people who, years later, will often claim these moral battles as their own. It is only the outcasts and the rebels who keep truth and intellectual inquiry alive. They alone name the crimes of the state. They alone give a voice to the victims of oppression. They alone ask the difficult questions. Most important, they expose the powerful, along with their liberal apologists, for what they are.