Okiefunk: Where Are Oklahoma’s Intellectual Freedom Fighters?

The following is written in response this comment by a commenter named “Dustbowl” on the post linked to above.

Comment from: Dustbowl [Visitor]

I hesistate to post this, but I frankly get tired of talking to “born again”, non-thinking people. Go find a brick wall and try to convince it to think and reason. The experience is about the same. People are mostly sheep. I call them sheeple. They would rather read People magazine over reading a good book. They would rather have someone in politics tell them all the happy talk over facing the facts. Our government has created huge moral hazards and imbalances which reward the sheeple. Until education and reality overwhelms religion and extreme patriotism (fascism), nothing will change.

All I feel that I can do in this Fire-red state is keep learning and be true to myself. I’m getting tired, really tired.

To explain the Okie political conundrum please read “What’s The Matter With Kansas?” by Thomas Frank. Another good read is “The End of Faith” by Sam Harris.

Sorry for the pessimistic post.

Might I suggest that the reason that conservatives don’t listen to you Dustbowl is that you talk down to them?

I personally don’t blame them. Once upon a time (during the glorious Socialist heyday of Oklahoma history), progressives appealed to rural folks through religion, calling them to see that Jesus himself was a socialist in his philosophy and that the Christian gospel was opposed to capitalism and competition.

Today though, so-called progressives rip on rural folks, calling them “hicks” and “rednecks.” It is no wonder that Republicans (in many cases closet fascists) are taking over, because they at least pretend to represent rural values (they don’t, but that’s another conversation).

I’m not saying that you necessarily need to appeal to the religious spirit of folks (even though it is not a bad strategy) to bring people to a more progressive political understanding, but I am saying that at the very least you need to respect that many folks in Oklahoma are religious and approach their personal and political lives through the lense of faith. Religious and non-religious folks have lots of common ground if you look for it. I’m convinced of that.

Also, with regards to the substance of the Okiefunk post I’ve linked to above, I do want to comment on this excerpt…

University of California Professor Robert Bellah, the noted sociologist of religions, recently said, “It’s as if the Scopes trial is never over—we’re back in the 1920s. It’s unbelievable. And, again, it’s so depressing because you could not find anything like this in any other advanced country in the world. What has happened in this country?”

Well, what has happened in Oklahoma is that not enough intellectuals (professors, doctors, teachers, writers, corporate managers, medical professionals, lawyers, etc.) have the guts to stand up for what is right and moral and life affirming.

I ask those enlightened Oklahoma people who are sitting this out on the sidelines: When will it be too late to speak up? What are you waiting for?

This really rubs me the wrong way. Why is that DocHoc thinks that only the professional class are “intellectuals”? This smacks of elitism to me. I’ve learned just as much (or even more) from the ordinary working class folks I’ve met in my short life than I have from the supposedly “educated.” Besides education in America today is a joke. It does not teach students the skills of critical thinking (why else is the science education establishment so scared of different ideas?), and if I had it to do all over again I’m not sure I would have even went to college, let alone pursue graduate-level education. Look at the brilliant minds of the past: the founding fathers and mothers, Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Abraham Lincoln, Henry David Thoreau, so many others. Some of them did have formal education, but most had little or no formal education. What they did have was common-sense and a drive to learn on their own.

I think there are still many such true intellectuals, true free thinkers out there, but many of them are not college graduates. Formal education is worthless unless the student truly is a free-thinking student.

But setting aside the elitist B.S. I want to address the fundamental issue — Count me as an aspiring intellectual who sees that pure materialism (the belief that evolution is the only truth) is neither “right, moral or life affirming.” Evolution by itself is survival of the fitest, and was used with gusto by the capitalist oppressors of the Industrial revolution to justify the exploitation of the poor, since oppression was fair in the evolutionary equation as poor folks were seen as evolutionary losers. And evolution/materialism was used by Hitler, Stalin and Mao to justify their genocides.

The truth is that truth itself is complex. Evolution may be the best scientific understanding of the origins of life, but science is itself only one way to perceive truth. Those of us who are spiritual see that materialism by itself is a hollow way to see the world. Materialism in its right place however (that is subservient to the ethical and spiritual dynamics of life) is a good thing, as it forces human beings to live within the boundaries of sane and sustainable ways of life.