On British intellectuals

As far as the Brits are concerned, intellectuals begin at Calais and gravitate to Paris, where the fact that they are lionised in its cafes and salons is seen as proof that the French, despite their cheese- and wine-making skills, are fundamentally unsound. Given this nasty linguistic undercurrent, a Martian anthropologist would be forgiven for thinking that Britain was a nation of knuckle-dragging troglodytes rather than a cockpit of vibrant cultural life and home to some of the world\’s best universities, most creative artists, liveliest publications and greatest theatres and museums.

So, not lionising intellectuals, not actually taking them seriously, means that we have a vibrant intellecual life as a nation?

Why, it\’s almost as if doing our own thinking, rather than palming it off to those who would tell us how to think, leads to lots of useful thinking going on.

A reasonable and general rule for life perhaps: those who would tell us how to think, what to do, can bugger off and we\’ll get on with it ourselves.

4 comments on “On British intellectuals

  1. To the man-in-the-street, who,
    I’m sorry to say,
    Is a keen observer of life,
    The word “Intellectual” suggests straight away
    A man who’s untrue to his wife.

    There’s always time for Auden.

  2. Whilst we don’t always warm to a smart-arse, an ‘intellectual’, people still pursue answers to difficult questions, and surreptitiously seek them out. It’s one of the reasons the internet (at least for us proles) has become the greatest resource of this or any other age.

  3. “The twentieth century was one in which limits on state power were removed in order to let the intellectuals run with the ball, and they screwed everything up and turned the century into an abattoir.”

    Neal Stephenson, from ‘In the beginning was the command line’.

  4. There is a fundamental difference between French and British intellectuals – there is a tradition that French ones praise and admire the working class, especially those involved in agriculture. British ones despise the views of the working class, leading to the observation that the Labour party has “historically been run on behalf of the working man by toffs who haven’t met many working people and wouldn’t like them much if they did”

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