Over at Brainstorm Mark Bauerlein has a great post on the self-congratulatory nature of liberal professors. Here we go:
The other day, Gerard Alexander opened an op-ed in the Washington Post with a broadside complaint:
“Every political community includes some members who insist that their side has all the answers and that their adversaries are idiots. But American liberals, to a degree far surpassing conservatives, appear committed to the proposition that their views are correct, self-evident, and based on fact and reason, while conservative positions are not just wrong but illegitimate, ideological, and unworthy of serious consideration.”
An hour later, I read this sentence in an article in the Chronicle Review:
“It is because we liberal-arts professors have a personal stake in our relative economic status; we have carefully studied the actual dynamics of history and culture; and we have trained ourselves to think in complex, nuanced, and productive ways about the human condition that so many of us are liberals.”
It’s by Jere Surber, a philosophy professor at University of Denver.
Forget the denigrating claims in the piece about conservatives’ contribution to culture, or the cherry-picked selection of left-oriented revolutions and movements in history, or the debatable claim that liberals have a more “open perspective” upon values. Forget the worshipful citations of Obama on “the right side of history.” Ponder, instead, the utter complacency, the self-congratulation, of the posture.
How nice it must be to believe that your beliefs are the inevitable result of reason and fact. How comforting it is to think that “there really isn’t any other intellectually respectable way to interpret the broad contours of history and culture.” In the marketplace of opinion, adversaries can be troublesome, intimidating, annoying, and dangerous to your point of view. And the prospect that they may be right and you wrong can make them unbearable. Much easier to assume that people on the other side aren’t just wrong, or misinformed, or misguided. They’re not even respectable.
Some people go to bed at night with the thought that it is entirely possible for them to wake up the next morning, grab the paper from the driveway, stir their oat bran cereal, check e-mail, and realize in a flash that everything they believe, have faith in, take for granted, and regard as natural and reasonable is flat-out wrong. They know that the world they inhabit can come tumbling down at any time. They recognize, too, that politics and ideology are cloudy matters, and that liberals and conservatives both have been on the right side of history and on the wrong side.
They also know that to attribute an ideological make-up entirely to “practical deliberation, factual investigation, and rational and moral conviction” is to give oneself a great big pat on the back — nothing more.
Did Surber have to illustrate so fully and perfectly Alexander’s portrait of condescension? Couldn’t he have introduced a slight whisper of doubt, uncertainty, or irony about himself and his compatriots?