In his 1927 essay La Trahison Des Clercs, French writer Julien Benda deplored the dogmatism of public intellectuals, who had lost the ability to reason dispassionately about politics.
Almost a century on, what would he have to say about current so-called public intellectuals, whose utterances are mostly reduced to smug and condescending tweets, intended to draw attention to their own self-claimed superiority?
I am referring today to that doyen of the Australian literati, Jane Caro, who ruffled feathers when she tweeted, in reply to the outcome of the AFL Grand Final:
“Dear most Aussies, who are the Dees? What is the thing you all care so much about? Actually, no, please (PLEASE), don’t explain. This tweet is just for all those kids like I once was who could not give a toss & felt weird and had to pretend. It’s OK. One day you can just ignore it.”
Given the third and fourth sentences dismiss the questions in the first two sentences, this does beg the query as to why she addressed this question to ‘most Aussies’ in the first place, except to needle and to publicly demonstrate her personal smugness and disdain for the hoi polloi.
I was personally disappointed with the outcome of the Grand Final, and not only because I lost a very good bottle of wine in a side wager (you would know by now that I am a proud Western Bulldogs supporter), but I am quite happy for all those people who are Melbourne Football Club supporters and who broke their 57 year drought.
Several years ago, when asked why he pumped so much money into funding soccer in Australia, Sir Frank Lowy replied along the lines that Sport brings joy. And it does, as a distraction from the usual struggles in life and in an opportunity to connect with a like minded community.
Jane Caro appears, with her joyless tweet, to miss this. When someone replied that she did not know what she was missing, her haughty reply was:
“No. Lovely way to live, frankly. Have you read all of Dickens and Austen and Gaskell? If not, you don’t either. Such is life.”
Obviously to her high brow tastes, a community of ‘most Aussies’ who draw joy from following a sporting competition is inferior to a community of herself and her few friends, people whose exclusive interests are nineteenth century novelists.
Oh my, what condescension from Queen Karen.
Well, I was good at Maths at school, and set theory does not hold a love of sport and literature to be mutually exclusive. I have read all of Austen’s novels, the overwhelming majority of Dickens’ (most of which you can happily skip – and I can go on for pages as to why) and have greatly enjoyed the more popular of Gaskell’s works (North and South is great, not so keen on Mary Barton). And don’t get me started on why I much prefer the much maligned Anthony Trollope over Charles Dickens.
But arrogance and condescension is first nature for Queen Karen. On election night in May 2019, she expressed her horror at the outcome and her esteem for her fellow citizens and our free democracy in a bitter and angry post including a couple of naughty words which ended:
‘So I shall just dance & get pissed & stick two rude fingers up at all the truculent turds who voted to turn backwards.’
Off with their heads, I suppose.
I don’t just stick, unlike our mesmerising friend Jane the Joyless, to nineteenth century literature. I have long had a problematic fascination with American writer Kurt Vonnegut. In one of his novels (Bluebeard, if I recall), the narrator tells us that if we swear, we are inviting people to not listen to what we have to say.
And so it goes with our friend Jane, who seems to be a Karen. She aspires to be a provocateur, like the brilliant Germaine Greer, but she lacks the wit, the sense of irony, and the talent.