Effete Intellectuals Ignore Reality

In some jobs, you work mostly with people. Teachers, nurses, waitresses, customer service specialists, therapists, and stewardesses come to mind. Not surprisingly they are occupations which women often prefer and happen to be good at. (Yes, of course, I know that these are obsolete ‘stereotypes’ but humor me and go back a few years.)

Then there are other jobs in which you work mostly with things. Perhaps crane operators, mechanics, some areas of medicine, and skyscraper window-washers. You get the idea. And yes, they tend to be jobs generally favored by men.

In reality, most of these jobs involve a combination of both things and people. The difference between a plumber barely breaking even and another plumber raking in the doubloons is not how better the latter knows pipes and valves than the former. It is usually a function of how good he is with people; how good he makes his customers feel and the word-of-mouth recommendations with which they reward him. The stewardess needs to know how to operate safety equipment and spends much time working with small appliances in a microscopic galley. (Yes, of course I know that they have different titles today than ‘stewardess’ but humor me.) Nonetheless, the primary part of a plumber’s work is with things and the primary part of the work of a cabin-attendant (see?) is with people.

Then there are the jobs in which one works chiefly with ideas. Tenured professors of German philosophy are an obvious example, but they are not alone. I’m going to omit professionals like physicists and accountants, who work with numbers which serve as analogues of what are usually real world things like moving objects, money, and inventory items. I’ll also omit clergy who, while trained in the world of theological ideas, mostly work with people.

So who does that leave in the working-with-ideas zone? Writers, particularly fiction; gender and race theorists in academia; public intellectuals; political and policy pundits; theoretical economists, corporate DEI officers, astrophysicists, many self-proclaimed artists, and men and women who work directly or indirectly for the government.

In the five years since 2019, some really bad and really stupid ideas have been inflicted upon America. The idea of locking down the population for eighteen months. The idea of allowing designated demographics to riot, commit arson and to plunder major cities for days on end while at the same time banning church gatherings. The idea of decriminalizing shoplifting in values up to $1,000. The idea of releasing criminals back onto the streets without bail. The idea called Universal Basic Income, giving everyone a fixed government payout every month. The idea of providing housing, education, and welfare payouts to those who enter the United States illegally. The idea of exempting certain people who borrowed money to pay exorbitant college tuition from repaying their loans but not other people who borrowed money to buy tractors and start businesses. The idea of printing money and corroding the value of currency. There are many others; pick your favorites. The point is that they all share two features: All will be mocked and denigrated by future generations as the dumbest and most moronic prescriptions of the 2020s; and all were thought up by people who work chiefly with ideas.

You might have thought that some, or all of these terrible ideas might have been the despairing dreams of persecuted plumbers or maltreated mechanics, but no. They are all the brainwaves of people who work mainly with ideas. They are the ideas of the so-called elite; people who sit behind desks, chair meetings of the like-minded, and have no money problems. They are the ideas of people who never work with things.

The reason for this strange phenomenon is because things remind you that you can’t control everything. Things show that you can’t do whatever you want. Whether in organizations or in logic, you can’t rest a large weighty object on a thin frail foundation. A box of children’s Maplewood building blocks would teach an intellectual more than a hundred seminars on “Revisionist Writing and Radical Rhetoric” or “Advanced Methodology in Transnational Theory”. You can’t force a round bolt into a small square hole and if you try to over fasten a bolt too tightly you will strip the threads. Tools tether you to reality.

But ideas are infinitely elastic. You can dream, imagine, and fantasize without limit. People who have power can dream wildly and toy with other people’s lives with no restraints. However, an architect cannot dream up a wild building while ignoring gravity, wind-force, and the tensile strength of aluminum girders. Things tether him to reality.

Our founding father, Jacob, had twelve sons whose families grew into the twelve tribes of Israel. The Land of Israel was divided amongst these twelve tribes when Joshua conquered the land. However, the tribe of Levi received no inheritance. Levi did not participate with the rest in worshiping the golden calf and was rewarded with special duties.

These included carrying the components and apparatus of the mishkan, the Tabernacle, through the desert and serving in the Temple in Jerusalem. The Levites were musicians while sacrifices were being offered. They also worked as teachers of the Torah. Because of their special duties, they were not given a portion of the land for agriculture, so they lived in various designated cities. God decreed that they were to receive ma’aser, a tenth of the produce of the land for performing their work on behalf of the people.

And to the descendants of Levi, I have given all tithes of Israel as an inheritance, in exchange for their service which they perform in the Tent of Meeting.
(Numbers 18:21)

If there was anyone in ancient Israel who might have devolved into dangerous intellectuals not rooted in reality, it was the Levites. But ancient Jewish wisdom explains how they escaped that fate. First, since the size of their 10% share depended upon how prosperous the remaining tribes became, they were invested in the success of their brothers. They watched weather forecasts and crop reports. They encouraged their hard-working fellow Israelites and passed on tips and techniques with which they became familiar. They were rooted in reality.

Second, their musical duties didn’t allow them the freedom seized by 20th century avant-garde composers like Arnold Schoenberg to utterly ignore all classical ideas of tonality and musical structure and produce, basically, noise. No, the Levites had to produce pleasing and inspirational music. Again, they were rooted in reality.

Finally, like everyone else, the Torah’s commandments helped anchor them in how the world REALLY works. Every time they blessed God before biting into an apple, every time they blessed God after relieving themselves, and every time they fulfilled the commandment to marry and raise a family, they were forced to face reality.

This is one of the great secrets of the survival of the people of Israel through the many centuries that have gone by since Jacob. As nations thrive and prosper and as affluence inevitably gives way to decadence, they experience a cultural shift towards effete intellectualism utterly detached from reality. They produce women who want no husband but who seek their security from government. They produce weak men who wouldn’t know a torque wrench from a smoothing plane from a revolver.

Then, these hollow men, incapable of defending their woman on the street, or their country on the battlefield without dialing 9-1-1, rise to prominence, prestige and power. These women, untethered by family, attempt to persuade other women to imitate their baleful examples. With boundless arrogance, they confidently set about reshaping their societies in accordance with their unrestrained visions. They bring their countries to economic and military ruin and eventually help to ease them off the stage of world history. Only Israel endures, along with any nation that emulates Israel’s commitment to the Biblical blueprint that always reminds us of how the world REALLY works.

One of the things that roots me in reality is reviewing previous Thought Tools. A surprising number of them reveal why so many details are given in the Bible for a Tabernacle that was, after all, temporary. At the moment, three years’ worth of Thought Tools are available in book form, at a sale price, along with a few other chosen books.
Take a look if you, too, desire a reality check.

This Thought Tool is dedicated in memory of Sgt. Yarin Peled, a combat medic who was murdered on October 7, 2023. She had volunteered in the Magen David Adom ambulance corps from the age of 18, and was committed to saving lives.

And with prayers for the safe release of those hostages who remain alive, and hopes that among them will be Ofer Calderon, age 53. He was taken hostage by Hamas on October 7, 2023, along with two of his children, ages 12 and 16. They were subsequently released. Ofer’s grandmother and niece were murdered on that day.

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