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The Obligation To Be Intelligent

November 3, 2017 Featured Today No Comments


Intelligence is very much like water. It does not have much pizazz but just as water is necessary to sustain life, intelligence is necessary to sustain a moral life. Intelligence in action is quiet, hardly noticeable, and certainly not newsworthy.
By contrast, protest has all the opposite features. It is clamorous, attention-getting, and eminently newsworthy. Protest, apart from the object against which it is directed, also has great appeal to the protester. Protesting often flatters the protester as bold, adventurous, righteous, and a champion of freedom. The personally exhilarating aspects of protesting, therefore, may obscure whether or not the protest is truly an expression of intelligence.
People in America have a constitutional right to protest. But they cannot be protesting all the time. Intelligence, on the other hand, is something that is always with us and can be called upon at any time and under any circumstances. It is also a universal faculty and is a basis for universal agreement. This is because the natural object of intelligence is truth which is the common unifier of all men. Just as scientists can use their intelligence to agree on the orderly movement of planets, so too, intelligence can guide people in living an orderly life.
It is only too evident that many forms of protest are loosely, if at all, connected with intelligence. An LGBT transgendered activist is currently protesting the fact that the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal has referred to this person as “born a male.”
We think of self-immolation, streaking, hunger strikes, various forms of violence, or the refusal to honor the Stars and Stripes at an athletic contest.
A situation exists now in which National Football League players are protesting President Trump’s protest that they should not be seen as protesting the American flag. At this point the primary reason for protesting is lost on the battlefield of competing protests. Death threats have been reported.
The key point here is that protests, laudable and righteous as they may seem to be, must always be subordinated to intelligence. The notion of being subordinated to anything may not appeal to every protester. After all, the protester may regard himself as representing a higher vision. He may even enjoy the role of being an insubordinate.
Philosophy, which is not nearly as newsworthy as protesting, if it is to be of any value, must subordinate itself to truth. Paradoxically, it is only by subordinating oneself to truth that one can find freedom. If the key is to unlock the door, it must be subordinated to the structure of the lock. If the liberal arts are to liberate us, we must first learn about the nature of the human being and what people must do in order to achieve peace and prosperity. A worthwhile form of protest, then, would be to protest the separation of protesting from the overarching significance of truth. This, however, is a form of protest that has yet to capture the interest of the Mass Media.
We have a right to protest, but, more significantly, we have an obligation to be intelligent. It is the use of intelligence that ensures that a protest is justifiable. This means nothing to the hordes of professional protesters who are bused in to join a protest, blissfully unconcerned about the rectitude of the protest. A protest can easily take on the form of a “happening,” calling attention to nothing other than itself. It is unfortunate that such protests can give a bad name to protests, and society does need worthwhile protests.
The words of the distinguished social philosopher Yves Simon come to mind: “That society is blessed whose aspirations coincide with truth.” Legitimate protests can assist in the realization of those aspirations.
A protest that is severed from truth is highly susceptible to being incorporated into an ideology. Abortion advocates have created an ideology that disconnects itself from truth and attacks those who defend life. Hence, expressions such as “curb your dogma” and “get your rosaries off our ovaries” disparage Catholics while placing abortion in a narrow ideology that rejects any intelligent discussion of the issue. They speak of “rights” but not of truth.
I recall the difficulty I had trying to make the case for the use of intelligence to a group of ideological feminists who were more passionate about their “rights.” They would insist, for example, that they had a “right” to wear any kind of attire they so pleased and would not compromise their hard-fought freedom by capitulating to anyone who told them how they should dress. I would try to explain that intelligence has the wonderful advantage of anticipating consequences. A woman may dress in a provocative way and then be offended by those whom she provokes. But the use of intelligence looks beyond mere rights so that unwanted results do not transpire.
A person has a right to own a bicycle, I would say. But this right all by itself does not safeguard it from being stolen. If you leave your bicycle on the front lawn, unlocked and unattended, someone will eventually steal it. Intelligence would direct you to hide the bicycle in a proper place when you are not using it. The use of intelligence in this regard is far more beneficial than the assertion of rights. Ideologies, unhappily, sometimes have no room for either intelligence or truth.
Intelligence is inalienable. Even in a highly restrictive society where protests are not allowed, we can still utilize our intelligence. It is a faculty that cannot be taken from us. Alexander Solzhenitsyn never surrendered the use of his intelligence, even while living under the most degrading circumstances in the Gulag. He committed his intelligence to posterity through the written word. Therefore, it is especially unfortunate when we deprive ourselves of its use.
The comparison between intelligence and water, made at the outset, bears a comparison between a line from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, “Water, water, everywhere and not a drop to drink,” and the present inapplicability of intelligence: “Intelligence, intelligence everywhere, and no one wants to think.”

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