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Whither art thou, my Intellectual?

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While going through the daily dose of evening browsing, came across a news about a “Writers resist” protest in US (read here) , which sounded eerily similar to the “Intolerance Brigade”, (read here) protest in India a while back. In both cases, the protagonists are writers, novelists, or some other famous names from arts or science, broadly classified as “The Intellectuals”.

We have often tried to classify who is an intolerant among us, but then a question suddenly pops up, who really is an intellectual to judge that?

A person, who has undergone a certain type of knowledge gaining process, it may be formal or informal, and has then achieved a certain level of mastery in that? A person, who learns the craft of blacksmith, may or may not have undergone a formal process, and is a great master in his work area, i.e. the knowledge of practically dealing with melted ore. Can this guy have a good claim on the title too? There is no fine line between mental work and physical labor, because both processes are ultimately governed by the mind. We can keep adding to this list and it would be endless.

There really is no threshold, beyond which, one particular human being crosses the imaginary boundary to jump over to the other side, of intellectual nirvana, and claim victory over other’s intellect! Some businessmen can be considered intellectual, because they ‘succeeded’ in their area of work. But success here is relative to the rules of this game designed to succeed (which in most contexts is money, but could also be name and fame). Someone laid down some criterion to make & sell things in a certain way to get more of an abstract thing called money, which you can exchange for more and more of other stuff. Now, say a person, a fisherman, who is an absolute expert in catching fishes, but is not rich with money. Is he not successful?

And what about the people who maybe earn a lot of money, but they don’t tell everyone about it? They live modestly, quietly, simply- if no one knew about their personal life, would think that person is a simpleton, never striving for anything, not ‘smart’ enough to do something more with life? Just a random thought anyway.

People have a need to categorize others in their mind immediately. They want to put a person in a nice, neat bucket so they can feel at ease and comfortable. When a person can’t classify a person into these nice, neat buckets they are uncomfortable which is why, as a society, we struggle so hard to deal with gays, bisexuals, and transgenders. They don’t fit in the categories that our brains are conditioned to think in. I think this kind of thinking/categorization leads to inequalities across multiple issues, intellect being one. It’s easy to say a person is dumb or smart even without knowing anything about them – just on some predefined thoughts in your mind.

So, if purely mental knowledge, practical knowledge, social goodwill and monetary success are not the definitive parameters. is there even a point in characterizing humans like that? At a fundamental level, it is not even right to say one living organism is in some way superior to another form of life. A complex nervous system is just a biological difference.

In the end, people who speak about true equality (which apparently everyone of all ideological leanings, wants in their own way!) should also understand that putting down another person for his/her thought process, or putting someone on a pedestal as compared to the rest of humanity, based on some ever changing subjective and arbitrary principles, is itself an insult to equality. The sooner everyone (or even a good chunk) realizes that, and really understands the term “respect”, would be a better-than-average day in human history. There is no intellectual, there are only varying minds.

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