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"Conceit": The Mask of Intellectualism

It is not to say that one must never pursue knowledge or even exercise the knowledge, he has acquired, by exploring, interrogating and theorising. Is not dat mi 'av problem wid brite people or people who tink seh dem brite. In fact, i wish to think of myself as one of those with exceptional intellectual acumen. But it is this very ability that taunts at me; undermining the world view that I often espouse about the equality of humanity and stomping out the menace in society: social exclusion. You see, my "briteness" that I deliberately exhibit on this blog (to mek unnu know seh me brite), has been to win the acclaim and notice of those who would peruse my blog - a very conceited stance. It is on this premise that I wish to engage the title of this post.

One ought always to test one's motive for doing things. I have recognised that within myself (as is human tendency) there is the desire to have power and to be praised by men or even to be highly esteemed. I, though in principle, am against elitism and classicism and all those other categories that we have constructed to place people into, have in practice categorised persons by my intellectual verbiage. It is obvious to those who have not had the opportunities and exposure that I have had to learning that I am "learned" and they - unlearned. Inadvertently, I have made myself superior. How often do/es academics and/or intellectualism do that in our society!? Many are guilty (as I am) of creating this chasm between those who "brite" and those who "dunce". Yet, we talk about erasing the margins that divide race, gender, socio-economic status and the like. How often has any one of you bought a book - a scholarly piece of work, and found that the superfluous language (big wod foh suh) makes you feel like you are reading in a foreign language? Is it possible that the profundity within the superfluity is still attainable within simplicity? Are those who write concerned that the "common" man understands what is expressed or is their concern really about impressing those within the academy and/or the said common man who will buy the book (because those within the academy get a free copy to tell dem how "brite dem is" and pat dem shoulder).

I would love to contribute and I would even hope that some would consider me an intellectual. But, is intellectualism worth it if all it does is create another margin? I dare to posit that even as we academise and intellectualise, we ought to ensure that what we churn out is accessible. We ought to ensure that our motive is not to magnify ourselves through our knowledge while others are shrunken in their ignorance because of us. I seek profusely after an intellectualism that seeks the highest good of my brethren and sistren dem. I seek profusely for superfluous intellectualism to recognise and par with grass roots intellectualism (becah it 'av reasoning pon every level).

I dare not generalise here! Oh no! For that in not what I intend. My intention is not to bash those who exercise their intellect, it is not even saying that we shouldn't motivate our society to be one that strives for excellence but as we do it, let those who consider themselves strong carry those who are perceived as weak (the ongle way to get into the position to carry the weak is to stoop). A society that is progressive needs everyone to be moving in unison... that takes some condescension. May I never be so bright that I become irrelevant, disassociated or even obsolete. Today, I choose to peel of the mask of conceit - intellectualism.

Comments

  1. Marcus I am heartened by this piece as I have often felt that those with a "little learning' often mask our conceit as intellectual discourse. I too often wonder why intellectual engagement must displace engagement with the "common" folk. Indeed intellectuals often "sit at the feet" of our regular folk in the name of research and then we take what they have told us and convert it to something so pompous we ourselves cannot even understand it - much less the average (i hate the term common folk as it is such an elitist expression) folks for whose benefit we argue we are in pursuit of research. I agree with you that when it comes down to the crux - we just want to show off how much we know or rather think we know and impress ourselves and colleagues - although to be fair it is not the fault of the learned alone but those who give/share their knowledge often have limited expectation of the returns.

    I wish for the day when conferences would take place outside the hallowed halls of elite centers such as academic institutions and city hotels and are held among the people who can challenge the bullshit some intellectuals hold to be truths with the realities of their world. When we come face to face with knowledge that is superior for its practical effect on the lives of ordinary folks we shall realize that it was all conceit on our part as we would not have changed the lives of those among us who need our help most...enough said

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  2. Marcus from another perspective i put to you that we do in fact need people to look up to in areas of educational pursuits and intelligence. i have heard too many times the shock in peoples voices whenever they hear me speak or find out my vocational aspirations and dreams. and to me the desire to be the best at whatever you do (with love as your motive) is something we all should seek. pikney no wa fi read again, and its very frustrating because as nelson Mandela said "education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."

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  3. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/html/20090809T200000-0500_157136_OBS_ACADEMIC_SAYS_LACK_OF_LEADERSHIP_HURTING_JAMAICA.asp

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  4. That is a very interesting article. I think it is timely as well. I share the concern of this academic that we have many people intellectualising (certification) and not many who engage the society for transformation. They, instead create the same conducive environment for social exclusion and disenfranchisement.

    Dr. Lawrence Nicholson posits that, "Certification can be devoid of education. Even on the university campus where there are many PhDs walking around, and MScs, when I see the behaviour of persons who ought to be educated in our society, it does not auger well for the future.

    "The fact that one has a PhD, does not necessarily mean that one is educated to a point where a transformation ought to take place when you engage such a person."

    Excellent piece. Aptly fitted to the above blog posting.

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  5. D.Marcus Williams I love this article and I do believe that until The island Jamaica put aside its class-consciousness then I think we won't go any where. I must say though I am guilty of this act sometimes but then again,I place the blame on society. Growing up in Jamaica I have made key note that Jamaicans extend so-call better treatment to you depending on how you sound(Their proclaim standard english speaking),dress and the names you can make refernce to(Big shots PPl). Not to be negative but I really don't think our society will ever come to your dreams.
    ****Omar****

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  6. Thank you Omar visiting my blog and extending the compliment that you did. I note your honesty about your own class consciousness and contribution to its perpetuation. I believe that your acknowledgment is the first step toward the dream of a Jamaica, void (almost) of class distinctions. The change starts with one person. I look forward to your continued feedback and opinions and even suggestions. Nuff Respec!

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  7. Andre, I acknowledge your contribution and must agree with you whole heartedly. I am not certain, though, that I communicated anything to the contrary within the blog. What I intimated is that if anyone is going to emulate or understand anything that some intellectuals write, then it must be accessible or easy to understand. Could it be that young people hate to read because much of what is written is communicated in jargon difficult for them to understand or in a way that does not interest them? Is it also possible to communicate the same academic/intellectual profundities in a simpler more dynamic way that will captivate these young people? what are your thoughts?

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  8. (Lol) D.M. Williams I really don't share or think of the opinion that kids don't like reading. I strongly believe that what these hurry come up intellectuals prints in black and white really don't make any sense sometimes. Well, this is what works for me, I read and get what ever information i think the writer is try(ing) to convey but not all kids can do that.The expansion span of most kids now a days is limited to books. Therefore, kids are more gear towards sex,cell phones, clothes etc... "books nu in deh pon dem mind". To teach and hold the young kids mind talk their language and explain to them in their language and see how much {A} students we will have.... I can recall a famous radio and TV host telling a similar story with kids not reading and understanding.....He was trying to explain what is a simile to high school students{lol i wonder y at dat stage} and they could not get it, he think he was doing something or maybe he said to his self its because he was explaining it in the queens language, then a student cell phone rang and he heard a kartel song, he went on to say that next day he brought a cd player to class with alot of dancehall music and started to play it and explain the simile in the songs by the end of that session he said those same students could identify more simile than him in all the songs he played.......This goes back to say teach and talk to them in their language and make them understand how to reply in your language on paper(test, Exams,etc),,, Teach mi in Patois anyday

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  9. Marcus, I'm sorry I missed this post when you wrote. You know that what you described as "intellectualism" has really hurt Jamaicans in general and the church in particular in significant ways. Now in our Churches we have overreacted by praising "denseness" as though it were a spiritual gift. So on the one hand we have those who are so brite that dem make no sense, while on the other hand we have those who are really dense and being praised for it. The first seems to reject simple faith altogether, while the second group sees anything reasonable as being contrary to faith. What a bangarang!!!

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  10. The last Anonymous contributor, I acknowledge and really appreciate the case you have built for conveying truth in a way that is accessible and a way that people can relate to (Notwithstanding my personal bias against Kartel's current music). I agree with you that it may not be a case where children hate reading but that the reading material is not relevant to them. Thanks for your perspective on this whole topic... Uncle David, it is real bangarang fi tru! there must be something as profundity in simplicity (in what i call intellectulaism). We must bring back "mind" to religion. This is where you come in. Equip those who will go back to churches to change that ethos you have mentioned. So far you are doing an excellent job.

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  11. I am heartfelt by this peice.
    The problem is what society instilled within us, that there are two kinds "dunce" and "bright" but as one matures you then realise; the one that is said to be 'dunce' may not have being exposed to the learning skills that the one who is said to be 'bright' may have been exposed to. Everyone one acquires knowledge differently, some slower than others.

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  12. Dear Anonymous, I am glad that this post has touched you. I Hope that my posts will challenge and force people into action so that there will be social change. I have realised that intellectualism, used incorrectly, can be used as a tool of social exclusion and marginalisation. I choose to be on the other side of that milieu.

    Guidance!
    DMW

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