State of Fear

Two days on the road and we arrived in Central California. Jen's family is here so we will have a small Christmas get-together (about 30 people). I finished reading the new book from Michael Crichton -- State of Fear -- a few minutes ago. It is a work of fiction but set in present times and deals with the current 'crisis' regarding the Environment. It is wonderful to see a book that has footnotes on most pages, several Appendices and about 23 pages of bibliographic References at the back. Dr. Crichton spent three years researching this and has come to some very interesting conclusions, ones that I agree with entirely. Basically, the Earth left what is called the Little Ice Age in the late 1800's and we are now entering a warming period. The Little Ice Age lasted about 400 years. Previous to that was a warming period which allowed for the archeological findings of wine grapes growing in Greenland. Here is one quote from the book -- the character was brought in to introduce a new idea. We have been warned against the growth of the Industrial-Millitary Complex. Here is a new one - the PLM - the Political-Legal-Media complex. Here's the quote:
"Fifty years ago, if you wanted to lead what was then called 'the life of the mind,' meaning to be an intellectual, to live by your wits, you had to work in a university. The society at large had no place for you. A few newspaper reporters, a few magazine journalists could be considered as living by their wits, but that was about it. Universities attracted those who willingly gave up worldly goods to live in a cloistered intellectual life, teaching timeless values to the younger generation. Intellectual work was the exclusive province of the university." "But today, whole sectors of society live the life of the mind. Our entire economy is based on intellectual work now. Thirty-six percent of workers are knowledge workers. That's more than are employed in manufacturing. And when professors decided they would no longer teach young people, but leave that task to their graduate students who knew much less than they did and spoke English poorly -- when that happened, the universities were thrown into crisis. What good were they anymore? They had lost their exclusive hold on the life of the mind. They no longer tought the young. Only so many theoretical texts on the semiotics of Foucault could be published in any single year. What was to become of our universities? What relevance did they have in the modern era?" He stood up, as if energised by this question. The abruptly he sat down again. "What happened," he continued, "is that the universities transofrmed themselves in the 1980s. Formerly bastions of intellectual freedom in a world of Babbittry, formerly the locus of sexual freedom and experimentation, they became the most restrictive environments in modern society. Because they had a new role to play. They became the creators of new fears for the PLM. Universities today are factories of fear. They invent all the new terrors and all the new social anxieties. All the new restrictive codes. Words you can't say. Thoughts you can't think. They produce a steady stream of new anxieties, dangers and social terrors to be used by politicians, lawyers and reporters. Foods that are bad for you. Behaviours that are unacceptable. Can't smoke, can't sweat, can't screw, can't think. These institutions have stood on their heads in a generation. It is really quite extraordinary." "The modern State of Fear could never exist without universities feeding it. There is a particular neo-Stalinist mode of thought that is required to support all this , and it can thrive only in a restrictive setting, behind closed doors, without due process. In our societies, only universities have created that -- so far. The notion that these institutions are liberal is a cruel joke. They are fascist to the core."
This particular character is prone to ranting but I cannot think of anything wrong with the preceeding quote... A bit over the top in its presentation but that is the character, not the thought. Check it out -- it's bound to annoy people but that alone makes it worth reading.

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This page contains a single entry by DaveH published on December 24, 2004 6:13 PM.

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