Leaders or representatives? - R.H. Joseph

Apparently there are those who take issue with my rebuke of the American people for the depressingly banal state of our culture.

Though I say it is the malleable herd that is ultimately responsible for the religious primitivism and anti-intellectualism manifest at the highest levels of government others aver it is our "leaders" who should be held accountable for the current state of affairs.

(By the by, it is religious primitivism that is under attack in this country, not the celebration of any particular mythology. To understand the backlash initiated by informed, thinking beings in America, attend to Iran's recent history and compare it with the grass roots momentum generated by religious ideologues in support the "Ten Commandments Judge.")

Anyhow, in order to assign responsibility for the ascendancy of mediocrity in our government it is important to focus upon the distinction between leaders and representatives.

I neither require nor desire a leader. I am an intelligent, rational man fully capable of bearing the burden of civic responsibility. I require a representative.

Those such as I read extensively from a wide variety of credible sources and contemplate the data. (Our president, the Commander-in-Chief of the most powerful armed force on the planet, explicitly stated that he abjures such behavior.) Only after I have reached an informed opinion do I look for individuals to represent me in the various legislatures.

In my view, those like President Bush who choose to remain intellectually passive in the midst of tumultuous events, content to let others lead them, are shirking their responsibilities as citizens.

Worse still, devoid of informed opinion the herd becomes ripe for exploitation.

Consider how they were so recently led into war. Consider how effectively the word "traitor" was employed to demonize those who brought forth hard data challenging the propaganda campaign of the Bush league. Consider how the word "terrorist" is now employed to describe Iraqis who attack an invading military force.

Those who wait for "leaders" to articulate the world view that is to be received as gospel accept these blatantly manipulative misrepresentations at face value. Would it be fair to say the relinquishing of the responsibility to learn, to think, is literally un-American?

Though I suspect our founders presumed others were as responsible as themselves, America has become a nation of sheep, not shepherds. We seek leaders, not representatives.

What good is a free press if the president and his constituency fail to read newspapers?

"The press is biased!" scream the sheep.

No we're not. Journalists are merely well informed. It stands to reason that opinions of the knowledgeable appear biased to the determinedly ignorant.

(Note: There is a difference between stupid and ignorant. The stupid have no choice. Isn't it ironic that those who allege they alone represent the wishes of a deity in whose image they are said to be created would abjure use of the single organ separating them from the beasts? If humans refuse to think, what are we?)

Similarly, it is no accident the intellectually passive cling to religion and decry what is being taught in America's institutions of higher learning.

Religion is the inculcation of received opinion; orthodoxy defined as conforming to established doctrine. Is it any wonder those who take refuge in mindless obedience find the challenges posed by relentless intellectual inquiry an assault upon their world view?

The obedient demand leaders, the curious, representatives.

It is interesting that in virtually every meritocracy, from professional sports to industry to academe, we reward boldness and innovation. Yet, those who seek leaders in an abrogation of their civic responsibilities invariably elect panderers, politicians who will tell them what they want to hear.

Attend to the pathetic behavior of these elected officials as they continually accommodate their positions to the latest opinion polls. Like those who elected them, they are followers. Unfortunately, through effective manipulation of the disengaged by those who fully appreciate and exploit their intellectual inertia, they have been placed in positions of leadership.

So it is that when intellectual mediocrity at the helm spawns an uninspired course for the ship of state, some attempt to cast blame solely upon the officer corps.

It is our ship of state, not theirs. We are responsible for its course and if we allow the insignificant to attain command positions the fault is ours; we are responsible.

R.H. Joseph is a longtime employee of the News Daily. His column appears on Wednesdays. He may be reached at (770) 478-5753, ext. 252, or by e-mail at rjoseph@news-daily.com.