Scene 1: A café patronized by college professors and other left-liberals in a neighborhood next to the University of Arizona in left-leaning Tucson, where my wife and I live. The media of choice among the patrons are the New York Times, PBS, and CNN.
Scene 2: A café patronized by the working class and other conservatives in a deindustrialized town in Northwest Pennsylvania, in Trump territory, where my wife is from. The media of choice among the patrons are Fox News and talk-radio.
Eavesdropping on the conversations reveals the difference between the two groups.
Actually, there is no difference in mindset. Both have blind spots, both don’t have all the facts, both are sure their side is right and the other side is wrong, both dwell in an echo chamber and both exhibit tribalism.
Tribalism is exhibited by the Tucson intellectuals by means of the virtue-signaling signs they place in their front yards. The most popular is, “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor.”
Although the message is written in English, Spanish and Arabic, no Latinos or Arabs can be found in the neighborhood. Deplorables can’t be found, either, which is just as well because they would be unwelcome.
Gaining in popularity are signs in support of Black Lives Matter. Ironically, Latinos and Arabs don’t see the movement in the same light as virtue-signaling white liberals, but suggesting this would get one shunned in the neighborhood.
Tribalism is exhibited in the front yards of the Pennsylvania proletariat by Trump signs, by Make America Great signs and by the American flag.
It seems counterintuitive to suggest that intellectuals are just as misinformed as deplorables. After all, intellectuals are learned and deplorables are not. They have bookcases full of books while deplorables do not. And unlike deplorables, intellectuals can recite literature, can name every important philosopher in history and can expound on epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, logic and aesthetics.
Intellectuals can even explain Karl Marx’s dialectic and its relationship to Hegel’s dialectical methodology. And they can detail how thesis, anti-thesis and synthesis will bring about the replacement of capitalism and the state with social justice and good fellowship in a pure condition of communism, where the state will be unnecessary.
Such topics do not come up at the Pennsylvania café.
Intellectuals and cafes are a dangerous mix, as history has shown. Ideas have come out of them that have caused widespread misery and killed tens of millions of people. Amazingly, some of the ideas are still extant, such as the belief that Marxism by a different name can produce social justice and good fellowship.
If intellectualism and ignorance were in a race to see which could cause the most harm in the shortest time, it would be a photo finish.
The Pennsylvania deplorables aren’t intellectuals. Nor are they ignorant. They might not know what Schumpeter said about trade, but they can see firsthand what globalism has done to their community.
And deplorables might not know that today’s sophisms about white privilege, redistribution and reparations for blacks go back to the political philosophy of John Rawls, who said that equality of opportunity could not be achieved until everyone in society were brought to the same starting line without arbitrary or inherited advantages. Deplorables might not know this but they can see up close and personal how Rawlsian redistribution has created dependency, reduced industriousness, eliminated mutual-aid organizations and shredded the social fabric in their community.
Deplorables know other things: how to drive a nail, sweat a copper pipe, hang a door, unclog a sewer, and rewire a house. Intellectuals, on the other hand, know how to stick signs in their front yard.
Not wanting to throw my vote away in the last presidential election by voting against my principles, I didn’t vote for either Donald or Hillary. But given a choice between the Tucson café and the Pennsylvania café, I’ll choose the one where patrons know how to change a lightbulb.