The following was written a while back in the wake of the allegations that Dominique Strauss-Kahn had raped a hotel maid during a visit to New York City. I let it sit for a while thinking that it might be good to let the story develop a bit.
It turns out that waiting was a good idea. Prosecutors declined to prosecute Mr. Strauss-Kahn due to issues regarding evidence and witnesses. Of course, that doesn't mean that he is a pillar of moral rectitude.
In any case, I think the larger point as to the moral basis for what is presented as "sophistication" and "intellectualism" is worthy of your consideration. My belatedly offered thoughts continue after the jump.
It is occasionally inferred and in rare moments of honesty openly asserted that broad swathes of America disdain "intellectuals". Today (actually not today, but many months ago -Ed.) potentially marks the occasion that might justify such hostility towards the "intellectual class".
It is/was alleged that the former head of the International Monetary Fund raped a hotel maid in New York City. France is aghast that our legal system would be concerned over such a minor affair. They also thought that our fuss over admitted child rapist Roman Polanski was over blown as well.
Now I do use words like "alleged" and "might" for good reason. Messr. Dominique Strauss-Kahn has claimed the encounter was consensual. His supporters have said that he feared that his opponents in the then upcoming French presidential election might have been willing to pay a woman to falsely accuse him of sexual predation. And as the Duke lacrosse team learned a while back, it is possible for someone to make false allegations of rape.
What was interesting were the defenses of Mr. Strauss-Kahn that emanated largely from the "intellectual" corners of society. The best...or perhaps worst...summation of those defenses has been prepared by conservative economist, professor, actor, pundit Ben Stein. To save you the time, Ben's article is distilled down into 10 bullet points by the Ben Stein Watch.
Mr. Stein's thoughts would be considered laughable, were the specter of a rape victim not present.
Accusations that America is affected with an unhealthy level of Protestant influence seem grossly out of place given that France is unwilling to extradite Roman Polanski for sentencing on his admitted acts of child rape. France's uncivilized sheltering of Mr. Polanski renders complaints about the hospitality afforded Mr. Strauss-Kahn moot.
When I first started writing this, my secondary objective was to make a modest joke about Mr. Strauss-Kahn, a notable socialist in France, head of the quasi public International Monetary Fund, and his US$3,000 per might hotel suite. Such humour is the sort of low hanging fruit that this space routinely exploits. A socialist, in charge of money, and spending $3,000 per night for sleeping accomodations is the lowest sort of low hanging rhetorical fruit.
As a palate refresher, I will note that there are people that are experts at locating hotel rooms that don't cost a lot.
As am I.
My primary objective in writing this post was to arrive at the conclusion that the justification for why it appears that scorn is heaped upon "intellectuals" and "sophisticates" is readily found in the reactions to the treatment of Mr. Strauss-Kahn. Those reactions essentially excuse the behavior of the French socialist while simultaneously questioning the integrity of the then unnamed immigrant who lives well below Mr. Strauss-Kahn's social station.
"Do as I say, not as I do."
A perspective that has resulted in the slaughter of hundreds of millions and motivated an endless series of revolutions and reformations.
The battle against hypocrisy is nearly timeless. It could be argued.....hell, I will....that the original Reformation within the Christian world was largely motivated by people that witnessed hypocrisy on a near daily basis and who had no adequate means for countering it. The original Reformation was then subject to further religious reforms as people sought to place the powerful and the powerless on a more equal footing.
We are fortunate to live in a time where no one can hide their offenses (for long) behind a religious office. We are unfortunate in that some religious leaders are unwilling to place responsibility for those offenses where they belong.
That motivation expanded beyond religious concerns to matters of state and governance and eventually wound up motivating the French and American Revolutions. Human history after Europe's 'Enlightenment' is a consistent stream of ordinary people demanding that they be given equal treatment regardless of social or political station.
Why is there disdain for "intellectuals" and "sophisticates"? Perhaps because those words are perceived to imply less about knowledge and wisdom. Instead they are more commonly associated with excusing incivility practiced by the rich and the powerful. "Incivility" for my purposes ranges from rape to failure to pay income taxes to lobbying Congress for "special" tax breaks and other subsidies.
Who wants to be associated with any of that? Is there any legitimate interest in using one's position to place either another person or perhaps the rest of the country at a disadvantage?
This is one of the primary animating forces within the Tea Party movement. The last time we checked, government agents were supposed to work for us; not for special interests, not for personal gain. As I suggested before....
No normal citizen could expect such lenient treatment from the IRS when they experience a legitimate tax debt. Trust me. I had one. We weren't in the same league as Mr. Rangel and Mr. Geithner. Yet when I asked to receive the same treatment that Messrs. Rangel an Geithner received, I was told that the IRS cannot guarantee equal treatment for all taxpayers.
Pitchforks were made for situations where public servants forget who they work for.
The Tea Party folks largely believe, rightly IMHO, that government should act in the interest of individual liberty. That means ensuring that the least among us has a standing that is equal to our great captains of industry and other leaders. Corporatism, the collusion between large corporations and government, inevitably results in placing individual citizens and smaller businesses at a distinct disadvantage.
Claims to "sophistication" or "intellectualism" aside, those who attempt to place themselves as our intellectual superiors are generally the sort of inferior and self-centered riff-raff that civilized folks wouldn't elect to the office of Dog Catcher.