Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Life on the Academic Animal Farm

“Do not try to teach a pig how to sing.” That was a piece of advice given to me when I was a young man, by a witty and cavalier drag queen, someone who never had the benefit of reading George Orwell’s Animal Farm. The closest thing to intellectualism in our lives, circa 1991, was that we hung out in the smelly Bronx park in front of the historic cottage where Edgar Allan Poe had lived.

Nonetheless, there’s a lot of wisdom in his advice. There is something frighteningly bestial about people who think they are very clever but who can do little more than grunt and snort. You know this type: someone dumb who gets together with other dumb people and somehow gets his hands on resources, influence, and power.

Evil geniuses are scary, but at least they’re interesting. And, as the great philosopher Hannah Arendt once noted, often exceptionally evil people are not the ones who do the most damage. It’s the simpletons who can really do serious harm.  (more...)

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