Professors and other professional intellectuals and quasi-intellectuals (journalists, opinion writers, novelists, bloggers, and so forth) are paid to think about things – or, at least, somehow or other rewarded for doing so, or (more accurately) for *appearing* to do so. And each of them is charged with devising original insights, that, as original, warrant our attention, and then perhaps our deliberation.
There’s no other reason to have these people around.
If they don’t have real problems to think about and solve – as do, e.g., hard scientists and engineers, lawyers and mathematicians, businessmen and traders, logicians and economists, philosophers and theologians, tradesmen and farmers, and a fortiori wives and husbands, mothers and fathers (aye, and grandparents too, I can now say) – they will start to think about things that are not in fact problems and do not therefore call for any deliberation as if they were. This they will do because they are charged with devising original and valuable insights. It is hard to come up with anything original or valuable to say about problems that have already been long worked over by lots of other thinkers. It is much easier to be original and valuable – or, at least, “valuable” – if you are thinking about something few people have bothered to think about.
And the only things that relatively few people have thought about are things that are not in fact problematic.
All the things that are really problematic have had thousands of thinkers swarming all over them already, often for a thousand years or so. They are wholly cooked. There is nothing more to say about them. There are, rather, only some rather dire, ugly decisions to be made. That we keep talking about these things indicates only that we are afraid to make the decisions we must make, if ever we are to arrive at settled minds.
So you get lots and lots of pretty doggone smart people poking around in topics that don’t really warrant any poking; and when you poke around in anything with a critical eye, indeed even a merely conscious eye, you are bound to discover some problems, or some things that can be construed as problematic if you squint at them in the right light. So you jump on those things, and publicize their problems. You justify thereby your compensation as an intellectual.
This situation is exacerbated by the fact that, to be noticed at all, and thus to be profitable to a professional intellectual, the novelty he discovers and publishes must be more noticeable than most of the other new noticeable things out there. So it’s an arms race. It can only get worse, and the rate at which it is getting worse can only increase.
The bottom line is that we have too many smart people chasing too few problems. Most of the big problems of human survival – warmth, food, shelter, and so forth – have been already long since solved. Where such things are defectively achieved, it is because men have defected from the insights their fellows had already long since won, and for themselves implemented – or because of their own inherent characterological defects (is there a difference between these alternatives?).
Most of the people thinking and writing about the picayune “problems” that remain would do better by just sinking themselves into having and raising kids. When you are engaged in that – whether as parent, or as grandparent – there is little enough time left over for the Great Issues of the Day, forsooth.
And then, answer me this: is there any Great Issue of the Day that, to your way of thinking, outweighs the great issue of the day for the nearest toddler? If you think so, then I submit that you are mad. Nothing human is more important than the healthy, flourishing life of an infant.
On his next few moments, all our futures depend.
Feed and protect your children, and the children of your own; or else, you are as nothing.