In the run-up to, and during, these elections, there has been an unfortunate re-assertion of the insistence that candidates must only be “academically” qualified. This is a hangover of the British insistence that its graduates from Eton and Oxford with nothing more than a Classics background, could run the empire.
They had inherited the prejudice from the 18th century “Enlightenment” in Europe. This produced a class of individuals believing that because they had been to “school” and, perchance to University, the knowledge that they picked up from books and late night argumentation is superior to that of the rest of the folks that acquired their knowledge from experience and the “school of hard knocks”.
These supercilious souls would like to be regarded as “intellectuals”.
One WI iconoclast broke with his class in the sixties and spoke of the tragedy of “Doctor Politics” in the West Indies. Freshly armed with their degrees from the “Mother Country”, the early batch of politicians that “fought” for independence – on our behalf, they assured us fervently – convinced us that they knew exactly what was needed to create our ‘Promised Land’.
In our case, one putative “father of our nation” had his speeches on the nation collated as “A Destiny to Mould”.
The irony of any one man seeking to “mould” the destiny of an entire nation – one comprised of “six races” to boot – evidently never struck that leader. He was firmly convinced that he was an “intellectual” and of course, he knew better.
Most of his Marxist contemporaries shared his orientation about a “vanguard party”, filled with intellectuals, of course, whose mission was to lead the backward ‘working class” out of bondage.
The said working class obviously could not think for themselves. Today, we witness the same arrogance in the pontifications of those whose ideas are all from books and none from experience. Very few of them have ever thought to engage themselves in attempting to put their theories to the test of action, getting into the trenches with the ordinary folks that they exhort to throw their bodies into the fray.
But the common folks – who these so-called intellectuals deride as “the great unwashed”- have something going for them – common sense. They have experienced the failures of the “great ideas” so many times in the past half-a-century, that they simply snicker and move placidly along as the latest “emancipator” mounts onto his/her soapbox.
“Commonsense” implies practical and real capabilities and ways or organising ones’ lives based on actual and inherited experiences. It is always in tension with the abstractions of the “great minds”: it is the nearest thing to “democratic reason”.
But this, not surprisingly, is scoffed at by those that “know better” – not least because there is very little power and prestige accreting to them from such a point of view.
Then also there is the common folk’s possession of tradition as a frame of reference to evaluate the claims of the new three-card hustlers. While tradition and convention are almost always derided by the latter group, as “fetters” to the new dispensation that would usher in the brave new world, these selfsame traditions uphold and give meaning to the social life of the community.
Very often, it is these traditions that generate the seeds of their own transformation – but at a pace that does not destroy the social capital accumulated so laboriously over time.
Finally, there is the faith of the ordinary man, which the “intellectual” will never know because his entire training has unfortunately been geared to subvert and undermine this rock on which mankind ultimately rests. Faith trains the common folk to appreciate that ultimately morality, justice and the good life can never be based solely on theories on bootstrapping from other ideas. There have to be ideas consummated in action; and this is where the “intellectuals” have absolutely no experience.
Let us evaluate those that have placed themselves for selection to public office, not only by mere book learning but also by a demonstrated application of all learning to serve the public weal.
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