Thought Archive

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Power and the Intellectual.

The dictatotial Power - one that rules over many nations - usually has very ambivalent relationship with the Intellectual. Whereas, the duty of justice-seeking Intellectual could be -in famous quote from Edward Said - "to speak truth to Power", it is doubtful how much can be achieved in a closed and repressive society by this stance. In truth, the Power does not rely on the Intellectual for active support, in which as a propagandist he (or she) is inept and shameful, but it relies on him (or her) by what he (or she) is. When he is physically in support, pay or lip service to such a regime, its legitimacy is shored up a bit, although one should not overstate one's own importance to Power.

The survival of any dictatorial regime depends not only on security apparatus or repression, but mostly on explicit or implicit support of the majority, and active support of few groups. Fear of losing the implicit support of the masses and fear of mobilizing these masses against the Power are main challenges that need to be prevented. That is why any regime, even one relying on ideology of God-given righteousness like in Iran, craves legitimacy, for open dictatorship will only rely on brute and hated force.

The Intellectual, through his mental capacity, has analytical powers to assess situation and arrive to conclusions on justice in society. He may even express them openly to Power but on conditions, in which this expression will be in the language not understood by masses. The Power, concerned about progress, education and science needs Intellectual for his mental powers, and his powers of analysis, but precisely these qualities can make him go out of control and should be feared. The Intellectual is like a feared but craved pet lion in Shah's private zoo; a source of pride but with a bite. Domesticated Intellectual could be a source of great value and is very sought after species.

The masses on the other hand may not be feared until their grievances are articulated, for then they may unite and rise up. If the Intellectual crosses a line from "speaking to Power" towards "speaking to Masses", he ceases to be harmless. He may become a Reformer, or worse - a Revolutionary.