Burroughs Adding Machine

Social justice, arts and politics, life in New York City

Against intellectualism

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Things I’m thinking about: commerce depends upon preying upon the dumb. I want to say that I’m not an elitist, but sometimes I am. Why apologize for being smart? Why pretend we’re all equal, intellectually, when we’re not?

Let’s face it: I know that people are smarter than me, and I don’t fear them or take offense. If someone I respect mentions a theory or author I don’t know, my instinct is to note her or his name for later. Happened just now with the writer John Bellairs. Who is he? What did he write? Thanks for sharing, Trevor, I’m curious to find out.

The movement in America against intellectualism is so strong, and so apparent, that I feel guilty when I crave literature–a simple essay, a good book.

I recently read an essay entitled “The Fender Bender,” about an American citizen who happens to also be an “illegal” alien (an idiotic phrase–people can not be illegal). The author’s name was Ramon Tianguis Perez (a pseudonym, for obvious reasons), relating a narrative about dealing with a simple traffic accident. It gave me pause; expanded my already liberal mind to consider the challenge of interacting with police if you don’t have official documents–a driver’s license, a checking account.

Yet for all my intellectual curiosity I’m still drawn to The Real Housewives of Orange County; I want to waste time on the sofa learning how to decorate cakes with fondant. Tell me you don’t want to click on the links in the previous sentence. Totally irrelevant information when people are hungry in other parts of the world, when my country attacks and murders civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq.

What right do I have to enjoy shallow TV? How do we, as citizens of the wealthiest and most powerful entity in the world (except for the Catholic church) work to help the poorest countries in the world?

I’m depressed by the idea of complacency.

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Ricco Villanueva Siasoco is a Manhattan-based writer and non-profit manager. More

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