The biggest applause line in last week’s Republican debate was Marco Rubio’s stump speech crack, “welders make more money than philosophers; we need more welders and less philosophers.”
This ignoramus can’t even get his grammar correct; it’s ‘fewer philosophers.’ And since there are probably only 10 authentic philosophers in the entire country, what is he attacking, and what discordant chord is he striking?
When the most electable Republican candidate for the most powerful office in the world feels it necessary to attack and ridicule the smallest and least influential group of people in America, something strange is going on. So, as philosophers say, let’s unpack that sucker.
What is the most threatening thing to slick politicians like Marco Rubio? It’s that enough of the American people start looking at things, questioning and thinking about things to begin to change fundamental attitudes and outlooks. They and the powers they serve can’t have that.
I couldn’t help but think of my brother-in-law Tony, a truck driver who put himself through college taking classes at night for seven years. Unable to fulfill his dream of being a teacher after he got his degree, he continued lifting and lugging loads.
Tony continuously strove to be the good American worker. He was always willing to lend a helping hand to a neighbor for some chore despite being bone tired. Like many Americans who vote against their interests, he leaned toward Republican philosophy, if you can call it that. Even so, he managed to read two books a month, and could talk about politics, economics, or Rubio forbid, philosophy.
A few months ago, my sister woke to find Tony dead in bed. He was 54. Unable to find good use for his good brain, his good heart simply gave out on him.
America doesn’t need more welders and truck drivers; it needs people who understand this rotten culture and crumbling civilization, and can receive and grow insights essential to start a new one. This is where philosophy comes in.
Besides right-wing politicians like Rubio, do so-called leaders like Obama and Hollande have an adequate response to the horror in Paris? I can almost hear the scoffs. I’d rather talk to a welder, or a truck driver.
Do well-paid media pundits have an adequate response? Hardly. As Upton Sinclair famously said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”
When even so-called progressive voices call for an all-out invasion of Syria by NATO forces, another war to rid the world of a borderless enemy that is as much inside as outside all countries, the world needs true philosophers more than ever before in human history.
An adequate response to the human crisis, which is actually a crisis of consciousness itself, can’t be for Americans only. We live in a global society now, and the response must be genuinely global. Not inter-national, which upholds the supremacy of the defunct nation-state.
Can any group of people make sense of the self-fulfilling prophecy of the global war of terrorism that Bush and Cheney declared, Obama acquiesced to and Hollande now mindlessly repeats?
Even the pre-canonized Pope Francis is at a loss to offer any understanding of these horrendous crimes. And without understanding there is only demonization, which leads to more killing, more war, and more terrorism.
I’m not speaking of understanding in the sense of sympathy for the pathetic psychopaths who carried out the attacks, but in the sense of seeing that they too are human, and that war and terror only produce more terror and war.
The militaristic, global war philosophy and strategy has not only completely failed; it has been self-fulfilling, and produced total insecurity. Criminalizing terrorism would defeat terrorist ideology by reducing terrorists to sociopathic criminals committing crimes against humanity, rather than elevating them to nation-state equals.
Instead of looking at terrorist atrocities through the ambulance-chasing media lens of jihadism, put the atrocities in the same category as the twisted slaughter of random citizens that takes place every few months in schools or theatres in the United States. In America the knee-jerk reaction is to deny evil by defaulting to blaming guns and mental illness. With jihadism, the knee-jerk reaction is to see the pathology as unvarnished evil and look at it through the lens of war.
This is philosophy 101. And here’s a little secret about doing philosophy. Philosophy teachers aren’t philosophers, anymore than philosophy majors or even doctorates are. There is no degree which academia can confer that makes one a philosopher. Philosophers are partly born, and mostly self-made.
As Rubio exemplifies, America treats philosophers as if they were bacteria or viruses invading the body politic, requiring attack by every antibody available.
In fact a society that gives no place to true philosophers is a society that gives no place to any human being. And a society that judges a man or woman’s worth by how much money they make isn’t worth a damn dime.
Of course that’s precisely the kind of society Rubio and his followers want, one in which welders and their robotic replacements are interchangeable, where no one listens to philosophers and no one thinks for themselves.
Philosophers don’t want followers. We want to be what the Romans (you remember Rome, the American Empire has imploded much like it did) used to call primus inter pares—first among equals.
That means finding out for oneself the truth or falseness of insights that cutting edge thinkers (aka philosophers) propose.