I remember when I was ten or eleven years old renting Frankenstein because I wanted to know what an old horror movie was like. I was actually a little shocked when the monster hung Fritz! They could do that in the 30s? As I mentioned earlier, I became a hardcore classic film freak almost entirely because I wanted to look into the world of the past. I read a lot as well. History and politics didn’t come until a bit later; certainly not in college, where I bounced around the spectrum of political views. Funny how a lady warned me that if I’m the questioning type in my 20s, I’d be conservative in my 30s. How prescient!
There was a point in my life where I looked down upon philistines, and I feel bad about that. It sure felt good to be well read and well watched. But, do I know the first thing about astrophysics? Do I know how to perform open heart surgery? How to split an atom? How to remove a cataract? Perform CPR? Develop the cure for a disease? If I’m so fucking smart, why aren’t I rich? What makes me the arbiter of what an intellectual is?
Recently, I was having a conversation with a guy online about the bands we like. His first comment to me was something along the lines of “who listens to AC/DC after the age of 13?” And I thought, “what kind of smug asshole would condescendingly claim that a well loved rock ‘n’ roll band is something that one can only enjoy in his or her early teens before moving on to more ‘sophisticated’ stuff?” And then it hit me; he’s currently at where I was between the ages of 14 and 22, before I stopped giving a shit what other people enjoy. I somehow thought that music was an “intellectual” pursuit; that somehow sounds could be divided into “substantive” and “surface level.” How foolish. I’m not going to lie and say it’s 100% subjective to whatever someone’s taste is because, if a person likes stuff like Nickleback or Kid Rock, I feel reeeeeally sorry for him or her, but, at the same time, to claim AC/DC is for 13 year olds, while Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath are “substantive” music for adults, says more about that person than the music.
Led Zeppelin have a considerably more diverse body of work than AC/DC – heavy blues tunes, progressive epics, acoustic songs – but, lyrically, they deal with sex, Tolkien and historical themes. Sabbath, as awesome as they are, just deal in mysticism, science fiction and drugs. Who is the one that decides what counts as “substantive” and what isn’t? Why is the Velvet Underground considered smart people music, while Deep Purple is not? Why is the Velvets song “I’m Waiting for the Man”, which is about waiting around to get drugs, or “Sister Ray”, which is about “sucking on a ding dong”, considered “deeper” and “more intelligent” than the Deep Purple song “Mary Long”, which attacks those bastions of Christian conservatism, Mary Whitehouse and Lord Longford?
Is Metallica a smart or dumb band if the lyrics to their song “The Thing That Should Not Be” were inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft? Is Iron Maiden a smart band for writing a song about the works of Edgar Allen Poe (“Murders in the Rue Morgue”) or Frank Herbert (“To Tame a Land”), an epic song inspired by an epic poem (“Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner”) or a song about a historical figure (“Alexander the Great”)? Who determines which is the “smart” music and which is the “stupid” music? Is the glammy bubble-gum rock of T. Rex with all the nonsense lyrics smart or dumb? Is the fuzzed out hard rock of Grand Funk Railroad smart or dumb? Who makes these arbitrary rules?
I’ll go so far as to extend this “it’s all relative” idea to the films I watch. I would imagine that 99.999999% of people would consider Au Hasard Balthazar or The Spirit of the Beehive to be smarter, better and more artistically rich than say, Armageddon, but personally, I’d rather watch I Drink Your Blood or The Brotherhood of Satan. And, as far as books go, I’d rather read the sword and sorcery of Robert E. Howard’s Conan or Michael Moorcock’s Elric, than more Balzac. That is when I’m not reading Thomas Sowell, Mark Levin or Jared Taylor.
It all comes down to what you find entertaining and enriching. I knew a girl who said all she likes to watch are movies with ripped dudes who blow stuff up. I appreciate that kind of honesty, and I’m with her on that, though I prefer the older shoot ’em ups. Maybe I can get her into some John Wayne or Clint Eastwood, eh?
I think a true intellectual is concerned more with asking questions, than with impressing people with his so called intellect. That’s why I say that those poor, uneducated, unenlightened, ignint folk ask the best questions. They’re blank slates and, since they haven’t been indoctrinated, they feel in their gut the things that liberals know are objectively true, but wallpaper over with politically correct rhetoric. I mean, it took me a while to stop rationalizing that my car was stolen in Detroit because of what the corporations and/or unions did to the city, and not just because the guy who stole my car is a plain and simple, no good thug. Detroit didn’t steal my car; some hood rat did. You want businesses to come in and reviltalize the city? Stop the crime and make it so people feel safe there the way Giuliani did in New York. No deep thought required there.
I’m currently reading Christina Hoff Sommer’s tome Who Stole Feminism?, and it’s painful to see meaningless jargon substitute cold, hard analysis. In class after class, feminists analyze history, film, art and literature through a relativist prism, resulting in the students learning absolutely nothing, but coming out feeling as if they’ve been awoken to some great, new reality. One example she gave was when, instead of analyzing the aesthetic qualities of The 39 Steps, a class talked about the aggressive nature with which the male character kissed the female character, and, as a result, concluded that it was made from a “malecentric” viewpoint. Was the portrayal of the Third Reich in Triumph of the Will “femalecentric”? They learned nothing about Hitchcock’s directing, but “learned” a ton about how men allegedly want to aggressively kiss and rape women. How depressing, and this book was written more than twenty years ago.
If I had it my way, universities wouldn’t have any art, film, history, humanities or other courses that don’t directly prepare students for the professional world. That way, when they go to the university, they know that they’re paying to learn something that is practical and applicable; also college would cost a lot less. A lot of professors would be out of work, but that is a small price to pay for the long term benefits. What real purpose do they serve that a book isn’t just as good, if not, better for? But, if they are going to force the humanities onto students, then it’s absolutely a crime to re-contextualize these classic works under a new framework in order to push an agenda.
It reminds me of when I’m debating politics with one of my buddies. He’ll go on and on about “military industrial complexes” and “consumerism” and “manufacturing consent” and “the 98%” and a bunch of leftist gobbledigook (note: I’m not saying these aren’t legitimate concepts, but they need to be studied within context, not just spewed at random during a discussion) that makes him seem smart. And then I’ll respond with, “look dude, I have no idea what any of that means (because it doesn’t mean anything out of context). What policies do you want to discuss?” Then, of course, he’ll skirt the question and go on about “minimum wages” and “paying your fair share.” This is what we call demagoguery, and it certainly is not intellectual.
Your best bet is to go to school for something useful and then be an autodidact. Hell Frank Zappa even said, “Drop out of school before your mind rots from exposure to our mediocre educational system. Forget about the Senior Prom and go to the library and educate yourself if you’ve got any guts.”