Thursday, February 23, 2006

The trouble with elitism

I have developed a visceral distaste for the columns of Henry Bowles III and I'm starting to realize why: Bowles's arguments are premised on elitist platitudes that take a distrusting view towards the reasoning power of the majority of people. In an article on protests against military recruiters' presence at a campus job fair from January, Bowles criticizes the recruiters for being at a college campus for this reason:
....To keep the military away from our brightest students [because y]oung males are easily manipulated during the period of their lives when they exist outside the female domain, after the mother and before the wife. They are above all eager to demonstrate masculinity. With its promises of order, fraternity and cohesion, the military taps into this angst. A real tragedy occurs when a young man, susceptible to the military's appeal and nonetheless intelligent and creative, signs up to become cannon fodder.

Bowles goes onto suggest that there are better potential military recruits elsewhere:
Less intelligent people are better equipped for most military positions, and have far less to lose.

The only semi-positive thing I can say about this article is that Bowles openly admits what a lot of university student supporters of the war in Iraq are thinking.

Otherwise, Bowles expresses a belief that humans are automatons equipped with zero ability to judge for themselves whether or not they want to be in the military. If the intelligent male joins the military, he will emerge brainwashed, Bowles seems to suggest, and therefore is himself devoid of any faculties for critical thinking. "Less intelligent people" will be susceptible to the same thing, but it does not really matter, because they have "far less to lose." Bowles first of all fails to explain what distinguishes the intelligent person from the less intelligent person if both are to be brainwashed in his view, but more dangerously suggests that there is some solid group of people in this world who are better equipped to serve in the army simply because they are worth less (one would imagine that the "intelligent and creative" people who Bowles refer to are from a class of people who could afford to go to private boarding schools as Bowles did). Such a viewpoint contradicts every ideal of a democratic society and reveals Bowles's elitist distrust of the individual's reasoning capacity on which such a society is premised.

In the article that I mentioned earlier about Jewish identity with Israel, Bowles again expresses his distrust of individual thought. He makes the baseless assertion that
"Jewish youths, particularly in the U.S., are so well-propagandized that they can hardly think critically on the issue." Of course, as letters to the Daily from today and yesterday emphasize, there is a strong Jewish dialogue on the subject of Israel. Just because Bowles has made no effort to connect with this dialogue does not mean it does not exist. What is notable about Bowles's assertion is again its complete distrust of the power of people to reason and truth-seek. By revealing such a strong suspicion of other humans and in conjunction with it such a strong belief in automatism, maybe Bowles is pointing to his own inability to understand discourse between humans as something other than a struggle between propoganda outlets.

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