Nina Fonoroff I distrust pieces like this. It’s true that not everyone speaks the “hifalutin” language of university professors and their/our ilk. But … so what? We know this; and we wouldn’t necessarily expect people who travel within different social milieux to express the same priorities, in the same ways. It would have been helpful to provide more *specific* examples of inappropriate responses to the people you’ve encountered. I may be an “academic,” but I hope I wouldn’t fail to see see what’s going on in front of my nose, and find some way to address it appropriately.
I find that there’s a general denigration of those who spend their time reading Marxist theory, and the like (even though Marx is somewhat out of fashion now in academic circles!) I don’t know who would expect *most* of those who struggle from day to day to survive homelessness and addiction to have read these kinds of texts, or participate in the kinds of conversations you’re talking about — -although there may be some who do. Some people teach and do research in academic institutions. Others have their boots on the ground, doing necessary work as activists. Some people do both of these things, at different times or at the same time. All are needed.
We need to ask why pejorative characterizations have arisen about those who pursue the “life of the mind,” toward progressive ends — -just as we ALSO need to ask why grassroots activists are so often denigrated as misguided idealists. I find that *I* am now becoming frustrated with this culture of anti-intellectualism: specifically a distrust that gets expressed toward people who pursue academic endeavors *in toto*. It’s a distrust that too often masquerades as *understandable* resistance to a certain kind of institutional argot, but which — -I believe — -often conceals a much deeper hostility toward pursuits whose *immediate* utility may not be apparent, even though it remains necessary and vital. People who express attitudes that caricature academic learning and teaching in these ways often, perhaps unwittingly, contribute to a political climate where learning itself is derided — at least, the kind of learning that takes place within academic institutions.
I understand your critique of a kind of discourse that has mostly come about through academic learning. I’m not saying that this kind of learning is everything, or the be-all and end-all of our understanding of political dynamics. But the work that gets done at academic institutions — -including reading Marx and others’ theories —can sometimes provide indispensable resources for those who are carrying out activist work. In any case, the denigration of intellectual labor leads, all too often, to a further devaluation and defunding of education, at all levels. I don’t think that’s what we need right now. Sorry to rant.