Are You an Intellectual?

You may be an intellectual (or anti-intellectual) if you have certain symptoms. To test the proposition of your intellectualship you must pass some simple tests.

First, look at your library. Do you have one? Does it contain a dictionary of 2662 pages? Does it have at least one thesaurus? Essential guides to writing? Foreign language dictionaries? A classical dictionary and at least one reference to Greek mythology? Rhyming dictionary? Books on quotations?

How about prized college class texts? Class notes of favorite courses? Do you have a set of encyclopedias? And a multivolume set of masterplots? a collection of Modern Library literature?

Even though you may not be a scientist, have you made yourself scientifically literate? Have you read scientific studies, waded through, and not avoided the specialized data and its expression with some modicum of comprehension? Rather than avoid the tough language, do you tackle the ingredients lists on foods and drugs and sundries with adequate understanding, able to heed the warnings expressed or implied?

Have you gone through life teaching yourself what you have needed to know with the ever-changing situations, at every stage along the way?

Is it your intention to be comprehensive and correct? To make contributions through cyberspace? through different genres?

Having mentally inventoried your library, reference holdings, you might have converted yourself into a reliable cultural, media, and social critic. You have become curious, inquisitive. You do not accept simple answers to simple questions. You are a stickler in matters of good, correct form because you are literate and articulate in what good form is.

How often have you used one of the dictionaries in the past week? If a word is bothersome, do you feel the need to check it against the standard authorities and do so?

How does the non-fiction type stack up against the fiction type of literature?

Is your sense of humor lively, contextually responsive, without being cutting or misanthropic, and being empathetic?

Such self-discipline in public affairs — in matters of language and learning, literacy and self-expression, backed up by the personal library and the education that occasioned it — is not the norm.

I know people who hold such intellectual behavior against the person, as if that person were some odd life-form marked by excessive self-indulgence and moral decay. Within families, such a difference in education and background can be thoroughly disrupting.

It is my belief that Pres. Obama’s performance represents an intellectual performance that his Republican opponents and those illiterate demonstrators for the Tea-Party found worthy only of being despised and rejected. There can be an intellectual Great Wall of China between political parties, and I think we are going through such an experience now.

In this day and age, it is rough on anti-intellectuals. Because of that, they have formed their own political party. This is, thankfully for them, the nation of the big political tent. Their’s is a force to contend with. I have wanted to hang on them pejorative labels, and, in that, I have been hateful. Then I empathized with them—now don’t go overboard here, buddy! They must be heard. They must be answered. But not in the style they prefer. Would you, should you, do you talk baby-talk to your infant? I say, “No!” I would respect the anti-intellectuals only with the best and correct form and with a style worthy only of the best in discourse. What they do with it is up to them. It is their responsibility. I must perform according to my responsibility as I see it.

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