I was utterly convinced that an intellectual could never be anything but an intellectual, was simply not capable of being anything else, that his intellectuality would, sooner or later, erode his faith or erode whatever he'd masked it with . . . For example, intellectuals like to dress themselves up as peasants . . . but it never works. The intellectual's constitution is impervious to such things - it permits only one object of worship - oneself. Generally speaking, an intellectual in the contemporary version is an exceptionally resourceful and, essentially, pitiful being.
Two classes of people make up the world: those who have found God, and those who are looking for Him - thirsting, hungering, seeking! And the great sinners came closer to Him than the proud intellectuals! Pride swells and inflates the ego; gross sinners are depressed, deflated and empty. They, therefore, have room for God. God prefers a loving sinner to a loveless 'saint'. Love can be trained; pride cannot. The man who thinks that he knows will rarely find truth; the man who knows he is a miserable, unhappy sinner, like the woman at the well, is closer to peace, joy and salvation than he knows.
During the Bosnian war in the late 1990s, I spent several days traveling around the country with Susan Sontag and her son, my dear friend David Rieff. On one occasion, we made a special detour to the town of Zenica, where there was reported to be a serious infiltration of outside Muslim extremists: a charge that was often used to slander the Bosnian government of the time. We found very little evidence of that, but the community itself was much riven as between Muslim, Croat, and Serb. No faction was strong enough to predominate, each was strong enough to veto the other's candidate for the chairmanship of the city council. Eventually, and in a way that was characteristically Bosnian, all three parties called on one of the town's few Jews and asked him to assume the job. We called on him, and found that he was also the resident intellectual, with a natural gift for synthesizing matters. After we left him, Susan began to chortle in the car. 'What do you think?' she asked. 'Do you think that the only dentist and the only shrink in Zenica are Jewish also?' It would be dense to have pretended not to see her joke.
There are few genuine conservatives within the U.S. political system, and it is a sign of the intellectual corruption of the age that the honorable term 'conservatism' can be appropriated to disguise the advocacy of a powerful, lawless, aggressive and violent state, a welfare state for the rich dedicated to a lunatic form of Keynesian economic intervention that enhances state and private power while mortgaging the country's future.
I cleaned the shit off my pink high-tops and drove home, stopping for an espresso at the coffeehouse across from the college. Men and women were hunched over copies of Jean Paul Sartre and writing in their journals. Most wore the thin-rimmed tortoiseshell glasses favored by intellectuals. Their clothes were faded to a precisely fashionable degree; you can buy them that way from catalogs now, new clothes processed to look old. The intellectuals looked at me in my overalls the way such people inevitably look at farmers. I dumped a lot of sugar in my espresso and sipped it delicately at a corner table near the door. I looked at them the way farmers look at intellectuals.