Once when I hinted that a girl was too pretty to be a BJP supporter, she lashed out, asking me whether I expected her to say, batting her eyelashes, “Why, oh, Thank You!”. But, the Hindu nationalists are ugly for the same reason porn stars are not the prettiest people in the movie industry. Pornography is a fundamental need of human beings. But, when a girl takes off her clothes in a porn movie, people look down on her. Of course, in societies where there is far less stigma attached to it, the porn stars are not so ugly. One of my father’s colleagues changed his college-going daughters name because her name was the same as that of a porn actress. But, when a well-known Bollywood actress takes her clothes off in a photo shoot, people do not care much. Perhaps the contempt toward porn stars is a matter more of appearance than of substance.
The contempt toward Hindu nationalists, again, is a matter more of appearance than of substance. Like the average Indian, the average Indian intellectual or politician is much closer to the Hindu nationalist than he thinks. But, he doesn’t have self-knowledge. Virtually everyone is a nationalist. Otherwise, globalization and open borders wouldn’t be so unpopular, even among the most informed economists and social scientists. Despite their stratospheric IQ and erudition, if the intellectuals cannot shake off their prejudice, it is obvious that the prejudice is deep-rooted.
But, when someone openly says that Muslims should be slaughtered, or something along those lines, people balk. That does not sound “nice”. But, what they really believe is not too unlike this. The right wing intellectuals and politicians have made a career out of this. But, to make a career out of this, you have to be willing to say this out explicitly, loudly, for everyone to hear. If this is not acceptable, you should insinuate that this is what you believe. People with high IQs—especially when they have high verbal IQs—tend to have a highly nuanced and complex understanding of what is socially acceptable, and what is not. (People with Asperger Syndrome are a notable counterexample.) They keep this to themselves. They wouldn’t choose a career in which people draw attention to their pettiness.
Attractiveness and intelligence are the most reliable indicators of genetic quality. Looks and intelligence are highly correlated because high status men chase pretty girls. People with high verbal IQs, I suspect, will find more attractive partners than people with comparable general intelligence. Women with high verbal IQs are unusually attractive to men because they are more likeable. Men with high verbal IQs are unusually attractive to women for the same reason a successful author is more attractive to women than a wealthier real estate agent. If this is true, it is not surprising that the right wing intellectuals and politicians are ugly.
There are way too many leftists in the intellectual professions. So, it is not surprising that they are far more competent than the non-leftists. The best leftists are smarter than the best non-leftists because they are chosen from a larger pool. I haven’t read a competent Indian libertarian intellectual—other than me–because there are not many libertarians. They are chosen from a much smaller pool and are, not surprisingly, mainly, duds.
I have noticed that people think that liberal intellectuals like Arundhati Roy, Pankaj Mishra, and Paul Krugman write beautifully, but are intellectually blank-cartridges. But, this is nonsense. Language is enormously complex. While it is hard to accept the truth, the truth is often obvious. The best liberal intellectuals cannot see the obvious despite being so intelligent because they are conformists. All the platitudes and pretensions to the contrary notwithstanding, they are wimps.
The prettiest girls are not too willing to act in pornographic movies, because it is not hard for a pretty girl to make money without getting naked. Similarly, the right wing smarties are not too willing to be intellectuals because they have to choose between living a lie and being marginalized. Most intellectuals are liberals. Intellectuals do not condemn someone who believes that rich people should be taxed and regulated, or that multinational companies are evil because such prejudices are too deep-rooted. The leftists see themselves as nice people. Even their opponents believe that their “hearts are in the right place”. But, a right wing intellectual or politician is seen as an idiot or a rascal. Is it surprising that smart right wing fellows do not want to be intellectuals or politicians?
The biases of liberals have a good press. The biases of Hindu nationalists have a bad press. True enough. But, if bigotry bothers intellectuals so much, shouldn’t it bother them more when people are not honest about themselves?
A similar puzzle: Democratic politics has a good press. Democracy is seen as the fountainhead of progress. But, office politics has a bad press. Almost everyone agrees that office politics is nasty. For nearly half my life, I have been consuming nonfiction like drugs, but I have not read many academics that take office politics seriously. But, academics that despise democracy are not too rare. Much as they rant against democratic politics, intellectuals do not analyze or condemn office politics much. But, it is possible that office politics hampers production at least as much as democratic politics, or perhaps even more. When someone analyzes office politics or politicking in small human subgroups, he is seen as a louse though offices and human subgroups are easier to improve than nation states. Why? If it is, indeed, true that office politics is universally condemned, why this silence? Why this evasion?
The reason is that despite everything that they say, people love office politics. But, this does not sound “too nice”. For the same reason right wing smarties do not become intellectuals, intellectuals do not analyze office politics too closely, or expatiate on its costs. This explains why people, especially women, react hysterically and evasively to my blog posts on office politics. (1, 2, 3) They are supposed to agree while their every instinct screams against it. What to do? A girl once asked me, with suppressed fear and anger on her face whether I think that the subordinates who takes orders from their bosses and do things are bad people too(!). The right wing fellows scream that they hate hypocrisy, “secularism” and political correctness, but the secret admirers of office politics do not have much of an option, do they?
Post Script: It is not surprising that it is Aakar Patel who made this observation. Aakar Patel is the most objective Indian columnist.
Also read: Modi Magic