The Closing of the American Mind

Arguably, the most important rule of intellectual discourse and logic is cause and effect. To ignore and suppress this particular rule of logic – which is essentially what mainstream discourse and thought does in America – is the basis and foundation of irrationality and stupidity as well as the cause and impetus for aggression and narrow-mindedness, which in turn are the twin causes of all the world’s problems. 

Moreover, problems such as climate change, inequality, health crises, and war do not emerge out of the sky and out of the blue. These problems are man-made and anthropomorphic in nature, and there is a clearly identifiable, direct, and singular cause for such problems. Yet, in the American mainstream, everything is upside-down, wrong-headed, reversed in terms of directionality and logic and rationale, and essentially based on a lie. 

In turn, what is mainstream should be buried underground, and what is buried underground should be brought to the mainstream. Yet, the opposite is true in American public discourse and in the American public sphere. Hence, the notion of a “post-truth world” and ‘misinformation’ and ‘disinformation’ and so on and so forth. But a world that is “post-truth” and is based on lies and disinformation and misinformation and the stonewalling of others is unsustainable over the long run. It is worth noting that extremism in all its different hues and shades is an entirely modern phenomenon and a troubled reaction to what is essentially a modern cosmology as well as a modern ontological and metaphysical outlook. Averroes and Avicenna, for instance, have now been replaced with ISIS and the Taliban as a result of Western colonialism and the ‘Cold War.’ And in America, Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy have been replaced with Donald Trump and Joe Biden. 

As mentioned before, the pioneer of American ‘revisionism’ and the re-examination of American mainstream discourse was the American historian and scholar Charles Beard. What Beard intelligently noted in his “History of the United States” was the connection between class inequality and war on one hand, and technology and industrialization on the other hand. Hence, modernity and a modern cosmology and modern ontological and metaphysical outlook are based on the confluence of what Beard highlighted, namely, the confluence, interconnection, and nexus between inequality, war, technology, and industrialization. Beard noted that with technology and industrialization came the influx of rural Americans of different races into American cities which in turn exacerbated the ‘class conflict’ or ‘class warfare’ that is evinced by political and social phenomena such as collective bargaining, labor unions, urban riots, and so forth. 

Beard also argued that in America, there are generally three schools of historical interpretation which in turn seek to explain everything. The first school is based on the idea of “Manifest Destiny” or “American Exceptionalism” which suggests that God has favored America over all other countries. Second, there is a school of interpretation which is based on a pseudo-science of ‘Anglo-Saxon’ or ‘Germanic’ superiority. And third, there is a school of historical interpretation which is based on “an absence of hypotheses.” This “absence of hypotheses” prompts an “impartial presentation of related facts” which in turn aims to foster as broad and comprehensive of a picture of reality that is possible. Thus, in stark contrast to mainstream intellectuals and figures who overtly or secretly espouse either the first or second schools of historical interpretation, Beard espoused the third school of historical interpretation. And based on this third school of historical interpretation, Beard arrived at the conclusion that America – since its founding and inception – has been a place where both government and society have been shaped by class divisions which in turn have pitted very narrow economic interests against everyone else. 

Beard also argued that the rise of “Jeffersonian Democracy” and the politics of the American Midwest and American South against the narrow economic interests of a “Northeast Liberal Elite” which was first figure-headed by Alexander Hamilton was essentially a byproduct or outcome of the basic legal and political framework of America that was shaped by very narrow economic interests. And in the initial period of the American republic, it was “Jeffersonian Democracy” which won out against the narrow economic interests of the “Northeast Liberal Elite.” Only when ‘political democracy’ and ‘universal suffrage’ came into picture did the “Northeast Liberal Elite” tilt the balance of power against “Jeffersonian Democracy” in the early 20th century. Whether America is headed for a repeat of history in the coming months and years is something which has yet to be determined. 

Also, the class hegemony of a “Northeastern Liberal Elite” over everyone else in America which is aimed at expanding and preserving the narrow economic interests of a very narrow group of people is deeply intertwined with a political and social phenomenon which can be dubbed as “The Closing of the American Mind.” Arguably, class hegemony and the expansion and preservation of very narrow economic interests cannot be sustained without closing the minds of those over which this particular class and set of interests seeks to exercise hegemony. And with globalization and technology, those who are subject to this hegemony are global in scale and scope. 

And as Allan Bloom wrote in a book titled “The Closing of the American Mind,” the absence of philosophical thought in both academic and public discourse and the deliberate removal of philosophical thought from academic and public discourse in America is something with severe and broad-reaching consequences and implications for America. As Bloom wrote:

“This is the American moment in world history, the one for which we shall forever be judged. Just as in politics the responsibility for the fate of freedom in the world has devolved upon our regime, so the fate of philosophy in the world has devolved upon our universities, and the two are related as they have never been before. The gravity of our given task is great, and it is very much in doubt how the future will judge our stewardship.” 

But if history were to end at this moment and the judgment that is to be made by history which Bloom referred to were to be rendered at this very moment, the judgment would not favor Washington, especially when one considers the way in which things have turned out from both a domestic standpoint and an international affairs standpoint. 

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