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Soul Slaughter- John Samuel Tieman

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Axar.az presents an article “Soul Slaughter” by John Samuel Tieman.

I

Anti-Intellectualism

Why are we afraid of intellectuals? Intellectuals made the polio vaccine. Intellectuals put a man on the moon. An intellectual wrote, “Yes, Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus”. When did we become intimidated by all that? Benjamin Franklin and John Adams revised Thomas Jefferson's draft of the “Declaration On Independence”. When did we stop being proud that three of the finest minds in history wrote and revised one of our foundational documents?

There was a time when I viewed anti-intellectualism as simply annoying. That was before COVID. And before a candidate for governor in my state, Missouri, promised to burn books if he is elected. Anti-intellectualism is no longer simply annoying. It's dangerous. It threatens lives. It threatens the republic. It slaughters souls.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines anti-intellectualism as the “opposition to or hostility towards intellectuals, or to an intellectual view or approach”. It is characterized by contempt for advanced education, the liberal arts, science, intellectuals and scientists.

From a psychological perspective, anti-intellectualism is a reaction formation. A reaction formation is a defense mechanism in which people express the opposite of their true feelings, sometimes to an exaggerated extent. An ''incel'' with difficulties concerning long-term relationships becomes misogynistic. A homophobe may actually have homosexual longings. And someone, who is insecure about their own intelligence, may be anti-intellectual. In the political sphere, it is grounded in a contempt for intellectuals involved in public life.

Donald Trump campaigned and governed as anti-intellectual. “The experts are terrible,” Trump said during his 2016 campaign. “Look at the mess we’re in with all these experts that we have.” While Trump belongs to a long U. S. tradition of skepticism about the role and motivations of intellectuals in political life, his version is toxic.

During the COVID-19 crisis, some of the finest minds in the world came together and made vaccines that saved lives. We should be grateful. But during Trump's presidency, his contempt for science and scientists was dangerous. For example, Trump urged Americans to take hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria medicine that is used to cure rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. A recently released French study found that nearly 17,000 people across six countries may have died because they relied on hydroxychloroquine rather than approved treatments. The U. S. Food And Drug Administration revoked the use of the drug after several studies. The “New England Journal of Medicine” found that hydroxychloroquine not only had no benefit with regard to COVID, but that it led to a significant risk of death. The French researchers said that their study looked at only six countries between March and July 2020. Deaths are likely much higher than 17,000.

Anti-intellectualism is being weaponized. Bill Eigel is a Missouri State Senator. He comes from St. Charles County, which borders St. Louis County. He's a long-shot candidate for governor. To garner attention, he took a flamethrower to cardboard boxes. When a video of the event did indeed garner social media attention, Sen. Eigel explained that he would burn books, which he deemed objectionable, on the lawn of the governor’s mansion.

I wonder what authors Sen. Eigel would burn? Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Hermann Hesse, Franz Kafka, Thomas Mann, Erich Maria Remarque, Victor Hugo, Theodore Dreiser, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Helen Keller, Jack London, Upton Sinclair, Joseph Conrad, Aldous Huxley, D. H. Lawrence, H. G. Wells, James Joyce, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Leo Tolstoy, Oscar Wilde – these are twenty-one of the many authors whose books Hitler burned.

Folks might think me alarmist. I hope they're right. But – I read a lot of historical analogies these days. I usually don't indulge these. Nonetheless, I am a historian. So indulge me. I don't think America today is like 486 C. E. in Rome. The barbarians are not at the gates. No, I think it's like 1932, and we're sipping espresso at a pleasant cafe – in Berlin.

II

Anti-Child / Anti-Teen

There's this Hasidic tale. Rabbi Zusha was on his deathbed. He was weeping. His students tried to comfort him. They reminded him that he was nearly as wise as Moses, almost as kind as Abraham. He replied, ''When I pass from this world, the Heavenly Tribunal won't ask, ''Zusha, why weren't you more like Moses or Abraham?'' No. They will ask, ''Zusha, why weren't you more like Zusha?' '' The true self, the most creative self, can only function within a dialogue that brings a person to their fullest potential. That's a challenge.

How do children and teens develop a true self? They find models. They find reflections. The psychoanalyst, Donald Winnicott, speaks of “mirroring”. In a few words, one of the ways that a child develops is through the process in which they find their feelings and concerns reflected in the wider world. This mirroring promotes a feeling of being understood. It creates a language for emotions. It brings self-worth, a feeling of intrinsic value.

Think of it this way. A child or a teen wants to be a schoolteacher. Models abound. There's his or her own teacher. There are books. But what if a child, or a teen, has same-sex attraction? Where are the models for that? Where are the books?

Now consider, for a moment, the kinds of books that are banned. In 2023, my state, Missouri, banned over 300 books. Some banned books garner attention because the choices are sensational in their silliness. Works by Shakespeare, Lincoln's “Gettysburg Address”, “The Complete Guide to Drawing And Painting” by “Reader’s Digest”. But look closer. You quickly run into “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe, “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson, “Flamer” by Mike Curato, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky, and “This Book Is Gay” by Juno Dawson.

What kind of books have been banned? They're not only anti-intellectual. They are not only anti-LGBTQ+. They are anti-child. They are anti-teen. They are anti-growth. What is prohibited is exploration. Of importance here is the primary understanding that the honest expression of the true self is fundamental to healthy development.

These attacks are upon young people who are developmentally vulnerable. No one will develop truly unless that person can see reflected their struggles, their doubts, and their aspirations. The book banners want to thwart true development, true growth. They want to alter and shape young people by saying, in effect, there is no true development except development into a white, Christian, middle-class heterosexual.

Think about it. They don't just hate the books. They attack the vulnerable, the children who are developing, the teens who are questioning. They hate the teens. They hate the children. Think about that.

III

Soul Slaughter

Anti-child. Anti-teen. Anti-intellectual. What do people get out of being anti-child, anti-teen, anti-intellectual? I would suggest soul slaughter. Look at it this way. What do you get out of burning a book? Now look closer. Those aren't simply the ashes of a book. Those are the ashes of the author's soul, and all the souls of those who will never read that book..

Many people are anti-change, anti-growth. These folks just want the world to stop. It's confusing. My home, Missouri, almost doesn't have winter anymore, so bad is global warming. A recent president was Black. Major television channels are in Spanish. I think I was the only passenger who noticed when, on a trip to Prague, our pilots were female and our flight attendants were male. Homosexuals marry. For some, change is terrifying.

One way to thwart change is simple. Slaughter the souls of those who would grow.

Date
2024.03.25 / 09:53
Author
Axar.az
Comments
See also

Town And Gown - John Samuel Tieman

Education And Psychology - John Samuel Tieman

Trump-ism - John Samuel Tieman

What To Watch In 2024 - John Samuel Tieman

Vote R for Racist - John Samuel Tieman

Schools and Number Trouble - John Samuel Tieman

Articles, Madness and Guns - John Samuel Tieman

Why I hate Trump - John Samuel Tieman

Education and Psychology - John Samuel Tieman

War - John Samuel Tieman

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