Monday, 4 January 2016

Why are so many clever and creative people so fundamentally wrong? Unask the question: the proper question is to ask why they are motivated to expend such effort on propagating their wrongness

So many of the cleverest and most creative people nowadays are wrong about the most fundamental things that it is tempting (and I have in the past responded to that temptation) to try and explain why the intellectual elites are so very wrong about almost everything.

But I now see that this question falsely assumes that we should expect clever and creative people - I mean people such as writers, artists, musicians, performers, directors and actors, scientists, philosophers, academics, lawyers, theologians... - to be correct about fundamental things, or at least more likely to be correct than the average person.

Yet there is no reason to assume that clever and creative people are correct about fundamental things - since there is zero evidence to suggest or support that idea.

Clever and creative people have no greater insight into fundamental truths than anybody else; probably because fundamental truths are precisely what a person does not need to be clever in order to understand.

Therefore, the proper assumption should be that the intellectual elites are simply part of the modern cultural mainstream, just like (almost) everyone else.


When it comes to culture, clever and creative people are passive absorbers; just like almost everybody else.

This means that in a Good or insightful culture, the intellectual elite's work will be Good and insightful; but in an evil and deluded culture, such as the modern secular West - then the clever and creative people will (almost all of them) peddle evil and delusions.

(Why not? In the modern West, most of the dumb and unimaginative people also peddle evil and delusions, just like the intellectual elite - it is just that dumb people aren't very good at it.)


But the interesting aspect is that when the mainstream culture is as shallow, insufficient and incoherent as ours is; then the intellectual elite are galvanised to greater energies.

The elites lack any special insight, therefore they absorb as axiomatic whatever culture feeds to them; but they are clever enough to perceive that it does not make sense.


However, this shallow, insufficient incoherence of what they passively regard as axiomatically true; does not lead elites to reject the mainstream culture but instead to redouble their efforts to make sense of it.

Hence the vast outpourings of silly-cleverness and evil-propagating creativity which characterise the modern mainstream mass media culture: this is the sound of an intellectual elite doubling-down on wicked nonsense.


Note: This is, of course, almost the opposite of how the intellectual elite would like to see themselves.

When Shelly described 'poets' (implicitly the intellectual elite) as the 'unacknowledged legislators' of the world; he was fuelling this elite fantasy that culture is created and shaped by clever and creative people such as themselves - who are the only 'real' agents who lead change, while the masses merely follow where the 'poets' lead.

But if clever creative people are merely parroting, but not devising, their fundamental assumptions; then such 'poets' are redefined as merely diligent administrators: bureaucrats who operationalise and implement principles derived from elsewhere.

This seems obviously correct, once described. The Goodness and wisdom we find expressed so perfectly in Shakespeare is really just mainstream Tudor wisdom - as revealed by the fact that it is mixed with gross Tudor errors and evils. The mainstream culture Shakespeare's era had many deep  insights into reality - although it was somewhat contradictory, as evidenced by the vicious religious wars; our modern culture is mostly composed of wicked inversions and lies, shallow distractions, superficial sensations and temporary intoxications - with only relatively few fundamental truths remaining and made explicit. 

And this is exactly the mixture (mostly wrong and silly, yet with flashes of depth and wisdom) purveyed by modern masters of their arts, and by the bulk of clever contemporary commentators.