The Cognoscenti Syndrome

 

There is a group of people I think of as the Cognoscenti, people who are well educated, very informed and of rapidly diminishing relevance. Their ranks include writers such as Chris Hedges and Glen Greenwald. These are people who have honed an almost Puritanical value system, readily finding fault in any direction. They are scathing in their attacks on Republicans and Democrats alike to the point where they become nihilists.

They don't endorse. They prescribe. This is where they fail. They're unable to advocate for anything that might resonate with the public whose interests they argue are being trammeled. Donald Trump was bad but Joe Biden is scarcely better. This is where their elitism comes in. 

74 million may have voted for Trump but, hey, they didn't know any better. The mob that stormed the Capitol. They were just victims of the system venting their frustrations. All the racism, bigotry, xenophobia, misogyny, white nationalism - inevitable side effects of their oppression by The Man.

The Cognoscenti believe what ails America won't be put right at the ballot box and they're probably right but the problem is that they stop there. They may wish for some sort of political upheaval but they stop well short of advocating it, much less taking concrete steps to promote it. Crossing that line, after all, has consequences and the courage of Nelson Mandella does not course through their veins. I grow tired of these armchair revolutionaries.

Comments

  1. Fame destroys many good preachers.
    I hope Monbiot does not fall into the same trap.

    TB

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm a great follower of Monbiot, TB, and yet I have found him a bit over the top recently. He's nothing if not an optimist and, while we need as many optimists as we can get these days, optimism freed of realism is cheerleading. Perhaps it is an admission that we need a tide change in attitudes across the national strata - individual, community, corporate and governmental - but there's little appetite for it.

      The Guardian has an interview with Bill Gate's this morning. He goes on about equity noting that the affluent countries produced the lion's share of greenhouse gas emissions but the smaller countries will bear the lion's share of the consequences. How can that be made right? What sort of remedial equity would be involved? It would, at the very least, require the developed countries to rapidly decarbonize their societies and their economies, something Gates admits is a non-starter. He believes a carbon-neutral civilization by 2050 is a pipe dream but we (the affluent and latitudinally advantaged) will get by somehow.

      Ask your fellow Canadians whether they would support a 15% reduction in the country's economy in order to provide assistance to the Third World. You might wind up with a black eye.

      Yesterday I did a post about Andrew Bacevich's take on what's poisoning America - the combination of militarism, racism and materialism. These forces are undermining the Republic and its democracy and yet they seem unstoppable. America is, as we're reminded, exceptional but are we not plagued, to a lesser degree, by our own social afflictions?

      I don't believe we're ready for significant change and, absent that willingness, I fear that the urgings of Monbiot and others will fall mainly on deaf ears.

      Delete
  2. I have found over the years of reading Chris Hedges, for whom I have a lot of respect, that he really does leave one without hope. I have tended to steer clear of him for that reason in the last while.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree. I try to give him a somewhat wide berth these days. If there was ever a time for constructive criticism and vision, this must be it. Those who put forward suggestions that aren't remotely plausible can cause pointless despair that progresses to resignation.

      Delete
    2. " he really does leave one without hope"

      Nietzsche would say that hope is 'putting one's fate in the hands a of a higher power'.

      While the cognoscenti and the literati dabble during an existential crisis
      and yield the field to the digerati,
      perhaps hope is the enemy.

      Delete
  3. Monbiot offers solutions like them or not.
    I found his book 'Heat' https://www.monbiot.com/books/heat/ hopeful.
    Hedges offers friction.

    Re, Ask your fellow Canadians whether they would support a 15% reduction in the country's economy

    Perhaps we just did due to Covid; it did not go down too well!
    FWIW, the hurt was felt by the retail / mall sector who's main purpose is to add to GDP figures !

    TB






    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What I tried to say about Monbiot, TB, is that his solutions, while admirable and inspiring, presuppose the existence or potential future existence of a broad based altruism that I think is fanciful. I just don't see that mass epiphany being realized in today's Western society. We're in for harder times. That appears to be the bottom line consensus and how apt is it that it will inspire in us an as yet unknown generosity to those in need.

      Delete
  4. The Guardian (monbiot incl.) has joined the NYT & most of the media and become 'part of the problem', alas.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can't think that any news organization that delivers focused, accurate information can be a problem, NPoV. Some of Monbiot's suggestions may be unrealistic but at least they get some people to think about issues otherwise ignored. That's quite different from Hedges' "they're all garbage" treatment of the issues of the day.

      Delete
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