May 21, 2013
Gated Intellectuals, Fortress America, and the Politics of Occupy
Posted on Mar 21, 2012
By Henry A. Giroux, Truthout
Overlaying the festering corruption is a discourse in which national destiny (coded in biblical scripture) becomes a political theology drawing attention away from the actual structural forces that decide who has access to health insurance, decent jobs, quality schooling and adequate health care. This disappearing act does more than whitewash history, obscure systemic inequalities of power and privatize public issues. It also creates social automatons, isolated individuals who live in gated communities along with their resident intellectuals who excite legions of consumer citizens to engage in a survival-of-the fittest ritual in order to climb heartlessly up the ladder of hyper-capitalism. The gated individual, scholar, artist, media pundit and celebrity—walled off from growing impoverished populations—are also cut loose from any ethical mooring or sense of social responsibility. Such a radical individualism and its shark-like values and practices have become the hallmark of American society. Unfortunately, hyper-capitalism does more than create a market-driven culture in which individuals demonstrate no responsibility for the other and are reduced to zombies worried about their personal safety, on the one hand, and their stock portfolios on the other. It also undermines public values, the centrality of the common good and any political arenas not yet sealed off from an awareness of our collective fate. As democracy succumbs to the instrumental politics of the market economy and the relentless hype of the commercially driven spectacle, it becomes more difficult to preserve those public spheres, dialogues and ideas through which private troubles and social issues can inform each other.
The gated intellectuals, pursuing their flight from social responsibility, become obsessed with the privatization of everything. And not content to remain supine intellectuals in the service of corporate hacks, they also willingly, if not joyfully, wage war against what is viewed as the ferocious advance of civil society, public values and the social. Gated intellectuals such as William Kristol, Thomas Friedman, George Will, Dinesh D’Souza, Norman Podhoretz, Charles Murray, David Brooks, and others voice their support for what might be called a gated or border pedagogy—one that establishes boundaries to protect the rich; isolates citizens from each other; excludes those populations considered disposable; and renders invisible young people, especially poor youth of color, along with others marginalized by class and race. Such intellectuals play no small role in legitimating what David Theo Goldberg has called a form of neoliberalism that promotes a “shift from the caretaker or pastoral state of welfare capitalism to the “traffic cop” or “minimal” state, ordering flows of capital, people, goods, public services and information.”(4)
The gated intellectual works hard to make thinking an act of stupidity, turn lies into truths, build a moat around oppositional ideas so they cannot be accessed and destroy those institutions and social protections that serve the common good. Gated intellectuals and the institutions that support them believe in societies that stop questioning themselves, engage in a history of forgetting and celebrate the progressive “decomposition and crumbling of social bonds and communal cohesion.”(5) Policed borders, surveillance, state secrecy, targeted assassinations, armed guards, and other forces provide the imprimatur of dominant power and containment, making sure that no one can trespass onto gated property, domains, sites, protected global resources and public spheres. On guard against any claim to the common good, the social contract, or social protections for the underprivileged, gated intellectuals spring to life in universities, news programs, print media, charitable foundations, churches, think tanks, and other cultural apparatuses, aggressively surveying the terrain to ensure that no one is able to do the crucial pedagogical work of democracy by offering resources and possibilities for resisting the dissolution of sociality, reciprocity and social citizenship itself.
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