About five years ago, as an overachieving junior scholar-activist at the University of Maryland, I was in the midst of a rigorous application process that required me to complete pages of biographical inquiry, a series of short essays, several rounds of interviews, and a project proposal for societal change. This was for the Truman Scholarship, a prestigious national award given to “college juniors who show leadership potential and have an interest in government or public sector service.”
My project proposal was to transform the national education system into one befitting of a democracy. I cited Chomsky’s writing on the Trilateral Commission and the liberal elite’s stated goal to make education less democratic in order to stave off unrest like that which occurred in the 1960s and early 1970s and argued that rather than seeking to prevent social upheaval through indoctrination, a democratic society through its system of education should seek to promote free thought and self-critical analysis with the aim of strengthening democracy.
Needless to say I did not win. I did not make it past the gatekeepers — political science professors (do I dare call them liberal elites?) at my own university who insisted that I was too anti-government for such a scholarship and that, among other things, I was an “uneducated radical.” I have only just begun to appreciate the irony of this evaluation.
I suppose that if I had been educated like those old white men on the other side of the conference table, I would critique the police in London for showing too much restraint in dealing with the so-called rioters as the Washington Post and the New York Times appeared to do on Aug. 10 and 11 respectively. Our lovely (dare I call it liberal elite?) media went on to question where the parents were of these youthful rioters, who complained of racism and a lack of opportunities for social advancement. Boo hoo! was the response to this along with the killing of an unarmed black man by white officers, and silence was the response to the subsequent beat-down of unarmed protesters seeking redress. In short, the liberal elite stands for nothing but the status quo, and they want you, the naive, vagabond “uneducated radicals,” to join them in their cynical stand for injustice.
Moreover, as I write this on the 48th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, this same elite wants you to think the man who called the U.S. government the “greatest purveyor of violence” while denouncing the war on Vietnam was merely a great civil rights leader.
Perhaps if I had studied like a good boy, I would have more respect for authority and would not question my own government’s use of force against not only peaceful protesters in the 1960s and beyond, but also against such enemies of the state as the homeless and disabled Dwight Harris who was slammed face first onto a steel grating by two officers without provocation. I might have determined that the BART police’s unprecedented decision to shut down wireless communications to cover the shame of another unjustifiable killing was just another necessary step to curb a serious “excess in democracy,” to quote the 1975 Trilateral Commission report, whose American contributor was the late political scientist Samuel Huntington, former head of the Department of Government at Harvard (an educated radical?).
It’s too bad that as part of my education I did not sit in on monotonous lectures delivered by Huntington’s ghost at the University of Maryland (not quite Harvard, I’ll admit). I preferred the living, breathing form of Dorith Grant-Wisdom, who was laid off last year for daring to specialize in Latin America and the Caribbean, a region that “nothing ever happens in,” according to Huntington’s contemporary Henry Kissinger. If I had schooled myself in Huntington’s philosophy, I would not have to question the underpinnings of our government’s direct military involvement in six Muslim countries or the legality of the FBI’s counter-Muslim activities, for it would be the consequence of the inevitable “clash of civilizations” that pits culture against culture in a cynical world of us vs. them. I would merely have to take a side. And I certainly would not have the gall to propose the democratization (liberalization?) of education, which would lead future generations to challenge such a myopic world view.
In summary I am proud to be an “uneducated radical” if educated in the realm of academia and manufactured public opinion is code for sharing the views of the elite. What I once took as an insult I will now take as a compliment and will thank the bearded, crusty old professor who bestowed it upon me with a liberal sprinkling of condescension.