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Commentary :: Social Welfare
Responsibility of Intellectuals - Redux
11 Mar 2007
On this 40th anniversary of Noam Chomsky's seminal article 'Responsibility of Intellectuals', I provide a plebeian view of what such responsibilites might entail from the view point of a rather pedestrian plebeian, me.
Responsibility of Intellectuals - Redux
As seen by a Plebeian.

Zahir Ebrahim
March 03, 2007

(c) Project HumanbeingsfirstTM. Permission granted to use freely as per copyright notice.

Document ID: PHBFZE20070303 URL for this article: Discussion blog: here.

What indeed is the responsibility of intellectuals to the people? We already know what the intellectuals have themselves proclaimed it is - without adding the word "peoples" to their description. Let's quickly review. My favorite description comes from Vaclav Havel:

"I too think the intellectual should constantly disturb, should bear witness to the misery of the world, should be provocative by being independent, should rebel against all hidden and open pressure and manipulations, should be the chief doubter of systems, of power and its incantations, should be a witness to their mendacity. For this very reason, an intellectual cannot fit into any role that might be assigned to him, nor can he ever be made to fit into any of the histories written by the victors. An intellectual essentially doesn't belong anywhere; he stands out as an irritant wherever he is; he does not fit into any pigeonhole completely." (Vaclav Havel: 'Disturbing the Peace', A Conversation with Karel Hvizdala, quoted by Mark Chmiel in 'Elie Wiesel and the politics of Moral Leadership')

In Havel's self-apportioning of responsibility to intellectuals, himself being one, there is no mention of why the intellectual must have such responsibilities. Why does he or she needs to be an 'irritant', why must he or she 'rebel against all hidden and open pressure and manipulation', and be the 'chief doubter of systems, of power and its incantations'? Why may the intellectual not be an exponent of Machiavelli in the service of the powerful, of 'power and its incantations', telling 'Nobel Lies' to serve the ruling interests? After all, those who run 'systems' also need intellectual and doctrinal backbone to carry them out, don't they?

Please read the rest of the article at

Feel free to demand moral compassing from our intellectuals and to deploy it in ones' Moral-Activism.

Thank you.

See also:

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