July 9, 2014

Anti-Intellectualism In American Life - Excerpts And A Comment

The further I read in this great, Pulitzer Prize winning book the more amazed am I that the principles of the Enlightenment – the improvement of society through reason; the challenging of ideas grounded in tradition and faith; and the advancement of knowledge through skepticism, scientific method, and intellectual interchange - have not by now been completely rooted out and discarded by mainstream America and the politicians that prey upon, serve, and ultimately rule them. [Perhaps this is in fact the real American story, that Enlightenment principles remain in place at all.]

Maybe we are experiencing the last chapter in the current conservative, Christian, Republican effort at such an eradication and societal takeover.  For the holders of this vision seem to be ever-more numerous, determined, and entrenched in power. If they ultimately succeed, and current events in the US continue to strengthen my belief that they might, a new and much more brutal Dark Age will soon and surely follow.

Anyone know of a novel or work of nonfiction, written by whomever, describing the conservative, Christian, Republican utopian vision of America’s future? I want to start drafting my survival/escape strategy in case I live to see their ideal society come about.

Book excerpts:

“The (eighteenth century New England) awakeners were not the first to disparage the virtues of mind, but they quickened anti-intellectualism; and they gave to American anti-intellectualism its first brief moment of militant success. With the Awakenings, the Puritan age in American religion came to an end and the evangelical age began. Subsequent revivals repeated in an ever larger theater the merits and defects of the revivals of the eighteenth century.

“As later revivalism moved from New England and the Middle Colonies and from the Congregational and Presbyterian denominations out into the saddlebag and bear-meat country of the South and West , it became more primitive, more emotional, more given to “ecstatic” manifestations. The preachers were less educated, less inclined to restrain physical responses as an instrument of conversion; and the grovelings, jerkings, howlings, and barkings (of early evangelical preachers and their crowds) increased.

“The Reverend Charles Woodmason, an Anglican minister who traveled extensively in the Carolina back-country during the 1760’ s and 1770’ s left a chilling picture of the savagery of the life he found there:

‘Few or no Books are to be found in all this vast Country, beside the Assembly, Catechism, Watts Hymns, Bunyans Pilgrims Progress— Russells— Whitefields and Erskines Sermons. Nor do they delight in Historical Books or in having them read to them, as do our Vulgar in England, for these People despise Knowledge, and instead of honouring a Learned Person, or any one of Wit or Knowledge, be it in the Arts, Sciences, or Languages , they despise and Ill treat them— And this Spirit prevails even among the Principals of this Province. … The Gentlemen of the Law, seem now to engage their Attention … they want for to demolish all the Learned Professions. Human Learning being contrary to the spirit of God.’

“But men and women living under conditions of poverty and exacting toil, facing the hazards of Indian raids, fevers, and agues, and raised on whisky and brawling, could not afford education and culture ; and they found it easier to reject what they could not have than to admit the lack of it as a deficiency in themselves.”

From Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, pages 74-79.

Here’s a very good reading list of other more recent books on the so-called culture wars in the US: http://s-usih.org/2013/01/an-emerging-historiography-of-the-culture-wars.html

If you haven't already done so please read Hofstadter's book if you read nothing else on this great problem in the US, one that has far-reaching implications for all the world and civilization.

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