Thomas Sowell

Since the American economy and society advanced with little or no role for the intelligentsia, it is hardly surprising that anti-Americanism flourishes among intellectuals. "Nowhere at present is there such a measureless loathing of their country by educated people as in America," Eric Hoffer said.

Some of the outrageous comments from intellectuals and academics, that the 9-11 terrorist attacks were somehow our own fault, bore out what Hoffer had said many years earlier.

Eric Hoffer never bought the claims of intellectuals to be for the common man. "A ruling intelligentsia," he said, "whether in Europe, Asia or Africa, treats the masses as raw material to be experimented on, processed and wasted at will."

One of the many conceits of contemporary intellectuals that Hoffer deflated was their nature cult. "Almost all the books I read spoke worshipfully of nature," he said, recalling his own personal experience as a migrant farm worker that was full of painful encounters with nature, which urban intellectuals worshipped from afar.

Hoffer saw in this exaltation of nature another aspect of intellectuals' elitist "distaste for man." Implicit in much that they say and do is "the assumption that education readies a person for the task of reforming and reshaping humanity -- that is equips him to act as an engineer of souls and manufacturer of desirable human attributes."

Eric Hoffer called it "soul raping" -- an apt term for what goes on in too many schools today, where half-educated teachers treat the classroom as a place for them to shape children's attitudes and beliefs in a politically correct direction.

This is creating the next generation of "true believers," indoctrinated with ideologies that provide "fact-proof screens from reality" in Hoffer's words. It is the antithesis of education.

Eric Hoffer was ahead of his time. It is a literary treat to read him in order to catch up with our own times.


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate