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The world is a dangerous place to live not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.
~ Albert Einstein
Einstein’s aphorism above in an utterly singular manner extrapolates why professor Allan Bloom had to write his magnum opus, “The Closing of the American Mind,” at the critical time in history he did. Bloom exposed the tragedy that the social/political crisis of 20th century America was in reality an intellectual crisis in large part caused by the contemporary university failing its students. Bloom’s original prophecy has since metastasized into a universal crisis of morality approaching biblical proportions.
If Lenin boasted, “Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted,” then the 100 years the academy has incessantly labored to deconstruct the canon of Western civilization and replace it with a existential progressive revolution, a Marxist zeitgeist, Social Darwinism, Nietzchean nihilism and relativism – from the 1880s to the publication of his book in 1987 – makes professor Bloom a truly heroic figure of Homeric proportions for even attempting to uproot the evil seeds this diabolical trinity had planted in American intellectual life and worldwide.
In other words, Bloom was essentially a missionary or prophet to the academy who, like the Jewish prophets of antiquity, exposed and condemned their apostasy when they first uncritically accepted by faith, codified, then deified Marx, Darwin and Nietzsche as the new Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.
The academy responded with predictable revulsion and ridicule. Benjamin Barber of Rutgers University called Bloom’s book “one of the most profoundly antidemocratic books ever written for a popular audience.” Another Luddite accused Bloom of being the leader of a “new cult of educational fundamentalism.” Martha Nussbaum, Bloom’s own University of Chicago colleague in the Philosophy Department, had the brazen temerity to write, “How good a philosopher, then, is Allan Bloom? The answer is, we cannot say, and we are given no reason to think him one at all.” (I sent my initial column on Bloom to the entire Philosophy faculty at the University of Chicago without a single reply to date).
My first essay in memory of professor Bloom received 43 negative entries on a secular humanist blog, which prompted me to write my own apology (No. 44):
Exceeding gratitude to my antagonist, Mr. Ed Brayton, for posting another work of mine on his popular and interesting website; however, with the exception of No.18, most of the comments fell prey to Bloom’s erudite and irrefutable syllogism, which I placed at the beginning of my article ironically to avoid the very intellectual paradox I am now forced to contend with, particularly the B clause:
We can’t avoid thinking. The thoughtless are always going to be the prisoners of other people’s thoughts. American intellectual life has given us an easy way to believe anything we want.
As a Christian conservative and academic, my tribute essay to professor Allan Bloom was meant to accomplish two simple objectives: 1) to enlighten the reader on how truly transcendent ideas can affect people in such profound ways as to change their behavior, thinking and even their worldview. On this point, Bloom’s book completed my transition from Democratic socialist to conservatism by October 1988 while in the midst of liberal Mecca – Harvard University; and 2) to present a trenchant apologetic to America that despite the contradictions, inadequacies and hypocrisies of the messenger [here Bloom], Veritas is truth, truth is transcendent and metaphysical, thus, God is truth.
I’m currently reading an excellent biography by Eric Metaxas on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the courageous German pastor savagely murdered in a Nazi concentration camp just weeks before the end of World War II, who wrote, “In Jesus Christ the reality of God has entered into the reality of this world. … All concepts of reality that ignore Jesus Christ are abstractions.”
Although published almost 20 years ago, Keith Botsford’s sublime obituary for Allan Bloom in the U.K. Independent still rings with a clarion integrity: “Bloom was writing vigorous polemic at a time when America sought to ensure that the intellect could not (and would not be allowed) to rise above gender and race; the mind was to be defined by its melanin and genetic content, and by what lay between our legs; or, in the academe, the canon was to be re-read and re-defined so that it fitted the latest theorem of gender or race. Bloom would have none of it. … Well, that’s their loss; as he is ours.”
Indeed Mr. Botsford, it is their loss to read, listen, observe or experience all of the glorious works of Western civilization – from Homer to Hobbes to Heidegger, from Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, from Galileo to Goethe to Gibbons, from Caesar, Christ, Constantine, Charlemagne to Kant, Carlyle and Churchill – through the narrow-minded and irrelevant lens of race, ethnicity, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation or some other nitwit liberal abstraction. Bloom took the shackles from my mind and helped me escape from that oppressive slave plantation of what Norman Podhoretz called “intolerant dogmatism” and anti-intellectualism to Bloom’s world where the classics provided in his words “this kind of greatness inspiring one to human perfection [as] the central perspective of education.”
“The Closing of the American Mind” was not a Neville Chamberlain appeasement treaty for peace with a Hitler, but a Churchillian declaration of war against Hitler – which deconstructed liberal fascism, Democratic socialism, Rousseauean radicalism and buried the Marxist mob slogan: The meaning of peace is the absence of opposition to socialism. Bloom’s book wrenched America out of its indolence, arrogance, ignorance and groupthink so that whosoever will – even a little black boy like me from the ghettos of Detroit – could find intellectual redemption by reading from the canon of transcendent books that made the mind of professor Allan David Bloom … bloom like a fragrant garden of roses.