Audra A. Diptee has recently written another article for the Politics of Memory … In her article “The Decivilized Academic,”she explores the degree academics and other intellectuals have been implicated in some of the world’s atrocities.
Were the atrocities of the holocaust truly exceptional? Or should they be seen as a culminating result that was produced after a long history of other atrocities committed by the educated and the self-proclaimed “civilized”?
The answer to the latter question is a resounding “yes” – at least if one puts any credence in the words of Aimé Césaire. In his provocative and polemical essay Le Discours sur le colonialisme (1950), this widely celebrated Martiniquais intellectual suggests that before Europeans became victims to Nazism “they were its accomplices.”
This article starts with a quote in which a concentration camp survivor asked educators to “make our children more human.” He was suspicious of education because he had seen “gas chambers built by learned engineers. Children poisoned by educated physicians. Infants killed by trained nurses. Women and babies shot by high school and college graduates.”
Are academics up for the challenge? An absolute minority perhaps … When tenured academics have absolutely nothing to lose, and yet they are incapable of seeing the humanity in others, can we really expect them to stand up for a just society when the stakes are high? Is a more cynical stance the more realistic stance? In the words of Corey Robin, when the fascists come don’t look to the professors …