Americas, USA, Opinion, Politics, Editor's Choice

The Overwhelmingly Relatable Anti-Intellectual

Recent articles have suggested that anti-intellectualism is on the rise, spurring fear that the “dumbing down” of America is occurring, especially with the results of the recent elections.

It’s easy to see an increase in radically anti-intellectual ideologies as a worrying change in public opinion, when in reality it is a historical ideology that has always been popular, but is finally being exposed because of the age of communication. Anti-intellectualism is hatred and mistrust of intellectuals and intellectual pursuits. The ideology is often used to oppress dissent, as academics are the first threat to totalitarian power. It has shaped many wars, leaders, and social classes in the modern world. Appealing to the common-folk, it is often misconstrued as a way to fight societal and economic power imbalances.

Since the dawn of civilized society access to education has been limited by status. Desire to work was the virtue that was to fill the void of discovery. From peasants, to military, to the new middle-class, anti-intellectualism is most commonly found in groups that are not allowed access to education. These ideas originate from government and elite-spread propaganda — hard work is success for those that we need to stay the “workers” in our society. Often these people are the majority of a population, those that would pose the greatest threat to the power structures.

Many studies have found that those who graduate college are more liberal than their peers. Liberals in politics use progressive and intellectual platforms to appeal to educated adults, ignoring the needs of the true proletariat. Political elitism within liberal parties fails to connect with the working class, and often classifies them as stupid for their lack of education. Intellectual elitism, corruption, greed, and promises of higher taxes alienate poverty-stricken communities from liberal ideologies. The privilege of education makes intellectualism an inaccessible lifestyle for many, causing deep political and religious divides.

Views of conservative ideologies as primitive or regressive only underline perceived, and real, contempt for the under-educated. Statistics show that around 72% of the uneducated population of the United States is more conservative. The more anti-intellectual individuals in the population are more easily convinced of the value of nationalism, the threats of immigration, and accepting of the demonization of other groups. They are alone in their struggles, recognized occasionally but helped rarely, and their reality is that anything can threaten their way of life; their poverty promotes fear and hatred of anything that may topple the precarious balance of debt, labor, pride, and admirable efforts for an unachievable success.

The Clinton Foundation scandals, DNC conspiracies, and Trump’s impressive ability to appeal to the “common” man are an impressive display of anti-intellectualism’s defeat of liberal elitism. Considering the absolute failure of liberals to appeal to the public, especially those who make up so much of it, the outcome is understandable. Anti-intellectuals are often champions of the forgotten people – right now they are Middle America, primarily white, impoverished, and not easily appealed to by elitist career politicians. While Trump shared his self-made success stories, and created common enemies for the working man, the Democratic Party drowned in evidence of corruption while attempting to convince everyone they were not the enemy.

If anti-intellectualism is the enemy of progress, access to education and economic equality are the cures. A champion of the people, anti-intellectual Trump only threatens to worsen the divide between the educated and blue-collar America. Coupled with racism, patriotism, lack of experience, and a general careless management of his temper, Trump poses as much of a threat to intellectuals as he does to his supporters. His cabinet picks and potential policies are enough to keep the economic elite in power while the rest of us argue amongst ourselves and spread disinformation in the name of our ideologies.

Historically, wide-spread feelings of anti-intellectualism, bipartisan rifts, and nationalism have led to the rise of some of the most fearsome dictators. In contrast, the same sentiments have elected the most ineffective and passive presidents. Intellectuals will cry that anti-intellectualism is the enemy while they ignore the struggles of their disenfranchised neighbors.

Intellectualism may be fundamental for progress, but the privilege of education is not universal. So those who sit and philosophize are the enemies of those who must toil day-in and day-out to provide the educated elite with their desires. If you’re surprised by anti-intellectualism in politics you haven’t been paying attention; when was the last time you tried to make intellectualism accessible?

About Emma Saxby

Emma is an egalitarian, activist, freelance writer, photographer, and artist residing in the United States. She studies nuclear engineering, plasma physics, international politics and culture. Emma spends a lot of time hiking, geeking out about Star Wars and keeping up with current events.

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