"the minority are not good": Emerson

I have for a long time been convinced that we should place less reverence and more respect into the concept of the ‘scholar’. It may seem absurd but I credit this condition to the prevalence of anti-intellectualism that is such a strong force in America.

I have only now begun to study Ralph Waldo Emerson who is considered to be America’s Scholar. His most important essay is “Self-Reliance”, so I understand.

Shortly before the Civil War Emerson spoke often against the strong materialistic inclination that was so evident within the culture. Men “expiate their own shortcomings” by educating their children, Emerson told his student audience. He said that colleges, instead of functioning merely “to make you rich or great,” should “show you that the material pomp and possessions, that all the feats of our civility, were the thoughts of good heads” but it is Anglo-Saxon “vulgarity” he said, to believe “that naked wealth, unrelieved by any use or design, is merit”.

Further Emerson asked, “Who is accountable for this materialism? Who but the scholars…The world is always as bad as it dares to be, and if the majority are evil it is because the minority are not good.” He further noted that the “intellect is the thread on which all worldly prosperity is strung.” For those who think that the intellectual life is solely for tangible wealth he said: “All that is urged by the saint for the superiority of faith over works is as truly urged for the highest state of intellectual perception over any performance.”

Emerson, I suspect, would exclaim, in spades, that it is the scholars who are responsible for the sorry state American culture has become today. I think that if we did not, through ignorance, place scholarship on such a high pedestal we could give scholarship the respectable middle-class avocation it deserves. Scholarship should become the shield that the middle-class populist embraces as a means for putting this sorry culture into a more respectable state.

I wouldn’t place any of the blame on intellectuals. The nature of the democracy is that everyone is equal. It is a decicion by the majority. In this instance we can see that those who are elected are reflective of the majority that elects them. For instance look at bush. I won’t get into anti-americanism. You could also look at canadian politics (rarely criticized here) Jean cretchien stole a crapload of cash from canadians in the sponsorshipp scaldal…right from our back pockets. I calculated it once it was like around 100 bucks from every canadian! I myself am a supporter of plato’s ideals and enlightened despotism.


Have you ever come across Joseph II? He’s an old European monarch and one of a group of enlightened despots, that is, absolute monarchs with a vaguely socialist agenda which at that time constituted quite radical politics.

I sort of model my politics on his, though mine are far more complex and contemporary.

Also, blaming intellectuals does no good because if you actually enter into an argument with them you get burned…

I think the problem is exactly the opposite. I think we place too much importance on intellectualization. That is not to say that we should not encourage people becoming more open minded, and de-culturizing them of their biases, and basic cultural assumptions. However, it is exactly intellectualization that is deterring us from “seeing the truth”. Because we are attempting to intellectualize what cannot be put into thought or concept. Until we realize that, we’re going to continue to cycle through frustration and fear. We have to realize there is nothing to realize, except to realize that there is nothing to realize. We have to realize the meaning of meaninglessness.

Of course everyone will probably look at what I just said and say, that sounds like a lot of contradictory bullshit. And rightly so… such is the game of life.