Yesterday I received int he post the book “The Age of American Unreason” by Susan Jacoby, I started to read and was immediately struck in the introduction by her quotes from Hostander’s examination of American anti-intellectualism. The passage struck me in two ways, the first was in relation to Zizek’s work on Violence wher from page 8 “SOS Violence” where
“Nikoli Lossky, one of those forced into exile, had enjoyed with his family the comfortable life of the haute bourgeoisie,supported be servants and nannies he
simply could not understand who would want to destroy his way of life. What has the Losskys and their kind done?
Zizek points out the level of violence that was imposed on his servants and nannies such that they may life their “comfortable” intellectual life. This struck me in the same way the Jacoby started to rail against the anti-intellectual movement of the dumbing down of society her incredulity that a remarkable percentage could not accept the doctrine of the scientific principle of the earth orbiting the sun of the biologism of DNA. In essence why should people accept this scientific doctrine as being correct, is there not space to allow another perspective of a perceived reality? And in a sense by use of “Dumbing Down” is she not pointing the figure at the working man, should it not be dumbing up?
The coincidence was that I was reading this chapter whilst watching “Phenomena” with John Travolta” where Mr Travolta becomes a genius due to a brain tumor and suddenly is able to speak Spanish, feel earthquakes, win at chess etc. This is perhaps a cultural issue from the US where there is a desire for knowledge, for genius with no effort, a critique of the education system (he was always in detention), the education has failed the individual and the only way to fantasise about gaining knowledge is via films such as this (and many other is this genre). In the film there is a diatribe about the attack on those who are regraded as the intelligentsia (Doctor – bourgeoisie) against those who feared the knowledge (the working man). Thus again pointing the finger “downwards” rather than “upwards”.
Are these two examples of the same function of violence by those who wish to maintain their privileged status whilst the working man toils?