FOR THIS WINTER OF TREACHEROUS POLITICS, incurable war, uncertain
economics, and violent weather, Caveat Lector offers a small
attempt to appease the wrath of the elements and the lunacies of our
species with the one elite that republics of old have delighted in:
that of the mind. Do I hear a few readers goggle at what I've just
said? But surely they remember Athens, Rome, Florence, Venice, France….
A personal (if not exactly a humble) opinion
alert: "Democratic elitism" is, I believe, one of the few positive
justifications for a democracy. I define "democratic elitism" as the
allowance for the best - the most intellectually, morally and culturally
alert - to rise in any field despite accidents of origin, and the
republic of the mind
as the purest instance of such "elitism." For us Americans, other
elites - of power and money, of vulgarity, self-deception, and fear
(the eternal political pusillanimity and pious hypocrisies of the
"American dream") - often trump other elites, whatever we pretend
to honor, like fairness, honesty and love. But this begs the question:
have we ever been a democracy in anything but name? Are we not rather
a plutocracy of peculiar and broad-based efficiency?
I keep waking up in the middle of the night,
hearing a hissing sound, as of the sharpening of a guillotine's blade.
A dream - and therefore, alas, wishful thinking.
For the time being, followers of the mind's
republic must console themselves with the reminders of the wild hope
of an earthly paradise