Being Intellectuel

* Türkçe’si için …

* Discussion of The Treason of the Intellectuals by Julien Benda.

In our age, “Intellectual” concept and its obligations have been dramaticly changed in  the last 100 years. In ancient times, “Intellectual” – so-called educated person who is not only expert in his field, but also he is sensitive to social issues and be an idealistic person. “Intellectual” is never satisfied to be educated slave of authorities; he always  strives to surpass himself and enlighten to his environment.  He believes that absolute peace may only come true, if and only if all individuals in society are enlightened. He works for this, and he can sacrifice his own wealth, comfort and even his life. Educational opportunities was not so avaible as today in ancient times; it was really to expensive with books, teachers and other stuff. Only riches (nobles, bourgeois…etc) could utilize the educational opportunities; rates of literacy and higher education was too low. It was almost a miracle to be educated and pass upper-class for sub-classes. In all of these difficulties, peoples, who could have the chance of education (Noble, or bourgeoisie), could easily afford their personal or social ideals. This might be because intellectuel people was too rare that their extreme universal (some as unrealistic)  desires could be favored by authorities who didn’ t want to waste these rare intellectuels so easily. In past times, educated people were growing up in rich families and fortune, so they’re born to be satisfied in material wealth, and  they’re much more interested in morale, spiritual and ideals. They used their time and minds for the universal and ideal thoughts rather then to earn more money or get better possition (there were exceptions of course, but they’re not called intellectuel anway). For this reason, intellectuels in past was relativly much more free and individual in their intellectual activities.

But in recent centuries, “intellectuel” consept and the thing it represents have fundemental changes with geographical discoveries, industrial revolution,  rapidly evolving technology, globalization and some ideological developments. Now “Intellectuel” become something different then the “intellectuel” we know.

Julien Benda wrote that political desires in our age gained an superiority upper hand compared to the other passions in his book (Betrayal of the Intellectuals (1927)). Although the book written in 1927, the essence of “Intellectuals” he wrote about, keep up to date. In the last century, political ambitions are now even more aware of their own, even they reach to moral areas that could not reach before, they conquered the people’s heart, so they won won a mystic and sacred quality that could not win previously. All of them equipped with an ideology that allows them to claim their actions have supreme value on behalf science and part of a historical necessity. Today, political passions reached a maturity point in every aspects. This is essentially the age of politics and will take a long time to surpass.

According to Julien Benda, passions are basically reduced to two desire; materialistic desires (land, wealth, political power … etc), and desire of feeling different or upper from other people. In other words, passions can be divided 2 as to provide interests and increase dignity. Currently the most desirable things are passions that can provide both things. For example, patriot wants to provide material advantages to his homeland and also be higher then the other nations. Therefore, the colonization (and the conquests in past) progressed to such an ambitious and passionate, because it provide both material advantage  and superiority than nations of the exploited countries. For this reason, if political ambitions can combine these 2 desire (interest and dignity), they can be seen useful, pratical and in winning position. Some other streams that only one desire (interest or reputation) are underestimated and seen worthless.

Throughout the history, there have been “Intellectuels” who have the braking function to these human’s “realistic” and pragmatic ideas which causes destruction and the pain. Perhaps they couldn’t prevent the pains and massacres, but at least, they prevent these “uneducated people” (leader, dictators, kings, their supporters etc …) to be seen as great people. But nowadays some of the “Intellectuals” are not restraining them, unlike, they want and eager to be stimulus. Today, the people called “Intellectuel” assimilate these political ambitions, add their fields of activity and even participate in the game.They create almost a religion from these political ambitions, and bless these 2 desires (interest or reputation).

So what happened to the “intelliectuels”? all the time they had stand against to authorities who are cruel and blind to pain in sociality, why they suddenly become a educated slave of “system”? Of cource, these related with the fast change social and political order, in addition to fast grow population. Now, to be educated is not as difficult as previous ages. Of course, there is still a financial burden, but this is relativly so less compared in ancient times. In modern times, compared to ancient times, no matter what class they are in, people easily take their basic education, and literate rate is increased dramaticly. In addition to relatively very high literacy rate, the number of people who have high eduction (collage, university) is too much compared to the old times. Moreover, thanks to development of technology and the Internet usage, it is very easy to share information in any area of expertise. With these huge development, change of meaning of “Intellectuel” consept was unavoidable.

Right now, people (relatively) easily get education, but they can’t be as idealistic  as “Intellectuals” in the old ages, for some reason ? Throughout history, while intellectuals (educated people) have been always idealist, revolutionary and against to people who cause desturction to innocents, the new “intellectual” generations began to prefer in harmonious with the imposed system. One of the reasons is the material originates, of course, the other is enthusiasm of to increase their prestige by to be added a strong community. In todays, majority of educated people consists of the middle and lower classes, and they prefer to use their educational opportunity to reach more prosperity and upper class. As it is written before, they pursuit to those 2 basic desires (financial interest and prestige of winning), they spend (or waste) all their time and capasities for those. Of course, there are exeptions, but they are being too less in those crowded. Too many educated people obstacle the freedom for real “intellectuels”. Because too much population means too much “competition”, and  if person do not attend the competition, he can’t get enough wealth for ideal activities; but what a pity that his ideals don’t approve to compete better place in system he protest. Particularly, as a person “Intellectuel” depend to financial needs (food, shelter, health care, the intellectual needs), so being real “Intellectuel” is too luxury for ordinary people, he have to make great sacrifice for his ideals. Everyone can not make these sacrifice, and very large majority of “Intellectuels” become educated slave of the system for reach more elite class and live more wealty. They use all their capacity for this purpose.

In our age, the educated slaves of the system are called “intellectuel” just because they are educated, they are an expert in special field. But real meaning of the “Intellectuel” is not being educated or expert in special areas. In addition their education, real “Intellectuel” develop himself personally; They consider and work for long term benefit of society and humanity. In old times, people are blessed if they are harmonious and one with universe, but now they’re are blessed if they are against and dominate the universe. Material possessions and practicality gain prestige, while spirituality and universality is looked down. In general, there is a worship to power, not questioning what it is that power, to take interest from that power without thinking others. If there is no short-term interest, everything is empty and work is futile effort for them. They are educated but not “intellectuels”, because they not enlight the people. They are like a flies around honey, they only pursuit to power, they live for only those who hold power at that time. In this point of view, there will not be a single day without war, conflict and pain.

Most of thinker, I mean real “intellectuel” agree one thing; absolute peace only possible if absolute moral consepts are realised. So what is the absolute morality ? Most people claim that absolute moral is impossible, and everyone get some moral  conception according to his culture and societ. But there is definitely an absolute morality. We are not talking about local etiquette and perspectives,such as; it is immoral to use car for women in some cultures; this thing is not an absolute morality, this just local perspective. Absolute moral means that understanding, sensible understands, living freely without harm anybody… etc. The real Intellectuals have worked for peoples, individuals, their enlightenment and tried to explain the concept of absolute morality. For this cause, they sacrificed, are sacrificing and will sacrifice their everything, while the so-called “Intellectuals” pursuit political and personal ambition with spreading suffering, destruction and wars to enviroment.

Therefore, every educated person should think carefully about what he/she really are, and what he/she really are doing ? Of cource, every person can’t be expected to sacrifice themself for their “intellectuel duty”. But at least one, he/she may not be an unconscious slave of the system, while pursuit their desires and purposes. He/she may prefer long term adavantsges rather than short term interest. One of the things that separates human from animal is his time perception. We should live and work for much better future, not like animals who lives for only now. In this way, we can be a real “intellectual”. And if all people in society realize absolute moral values  and ideals, world peace can be possible.


2 thoughts on “Being Intellectuel

  1. Passion, acquaintance, prize, fail to unify visitors over a general hatred intended for things.

  2. A VERY perspicacious view of the “Intellectual” or more appropriately “educated” – meaning educated in both Physical and Social/Emotional Sciences. I think reflecting Western and Eastern Philosophies of The Meaning of Life. The West concentrates on Material and Status benefits of understanding Life centered on self; the East concentrates these benefits on Society as a whole. That is why Politics in the west is centered on Personal Rights, whereas Eastern Philosophies r centered on Societal Rights and individuals subserve their rights to Society instead – something difficult for the West to comprehend and impossible to accept. So, to the west sharing is a prison, and to the east serving others is a NOBLE right, indeed DUTY.

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