Ireland

What is a liberal intellectual anyway?

The Guardian (12 December 2008), has a profile of the Candian MP and academic, Michaell Ignatieff, better known on this side of the Atlantic as a former columnist with the Observer and broadcaster in the 1990s. Currently leader of the Canadian Liberal Party Ignatieff is hotly tipped by certain quarters to be Canada’s next prime minister.

The piece ends with an observation from editor of Prospect magazine David Goodhart:

“If he does make it to the premiership,as Goodhart points out, he will become the fourth leader of a major English-speaking country, after Barack Obama, Gordon Brown and Australia’s Kevin Rudd, who could be classified as a liberal intellectual.”

An intersesting (even if meaningless) point. What exactly constitutes a liberal intellectual is unclear though. However the changes of government in the US and Australia certainly bear testament to this. Obama’s predecessor could not by any stretch of the imagination be described as liberal or intellectual in any sense of either word. Rudd’s predecessor John Howard, although a member of the Liberal party could hardly be described as “liberal” with a small L, and certainly not an intellectual.

Apart from the four countries mentioned there are few others in the English-speaking world which could be called “major”. It’s fairly safe to assume to Goodhart would not list Brian Cowen’s 26 county republic as a major English-speaking country. In any case there would no doubt be howls of laughter in the Dail and beyond if Biffo, or his predecessor Bertie were to be classified as liberal intellectuals..

Advertisements

Intellectual Public Property

The latest issue of Foreign Policy magazine has compiled a list of the top 100 public intellectuals. The criteria are defined simply as influential thinkers who feature prominently in public life beyond the borders of their native countries. Although such lists are generally to be taken with a pinch of salt and usually heavily biased, they do nevertheless make interesting reading. The usual suspects from a wide variety of fields are there – Noam Chomsky, Richard Dawkins, Joe Ratzinger (aka Pope Benny XVI), Umberto Eco, Orhan Pamuk and Steven Pinker among others.  I’m not sure if Salman Rushdie deserves a place in the top 100 though. He’s highly overrated as a novelist, let alone a great intellectual.

The compilers have deliberately tried to be as balanced as possible – the list contians both the atheist and the beliver (Dawkins and the Pope), the Israeli and the Palestinian (Amos Oz and Sari Nusseibeh), the neo-con and the leftist (Francis Fukuyama and Chomksy) – and for the sake of political correctness the token black African is Nigerian writer Wole Soyinka.
There is of course an emphasis on the word “public” here, suggesting that there is an infinite number of private intellectuals out there who are brilliant thinkers, but choose to stay out of the public eye.  Or maybe they just blog.  Top 100 private intellectuals anyone? Top 20 intellectuals within the Irish blogosphere? Any suggestions?
 
One major criticism I have about Foreign Policy’s list is that it leaves some of the world’s finest orators and people of letters –  intellectual heavyweights like Wayne Rooney, Katie Price and George W. Bush all fail to make the top 100.  Scandalous.

YOU COULDN’T MAKE IT UP

Gerry Moriarty in today’s Irish Times reports on Ian Paisley’s retirement from politics:

“Peter [the Punt/Hands (and feet) across the border] Robinson delivered the introduction, which was followed by a video of the Big Man’s life and time, climaxing with the fanfare of Dr Paisley walking slowly into the hall for a rapturous reception to the tune of the spring section of Four Seasons by Vivaldi (a Catholic priest).”

 

AND FINALLY…

          

Sontaran                                 Avram Grant

Is it just me, or does recently deposed former Chelsea boss Avram Grant bear an uncanny resemblance to one of Dr Who’s old adversaries the Sontarans, a cloned warrior caste race from the planet Sontara, perpetually engaged in a millenia-old war of attrition with their sworn enemies the Rutans?

OK, maybe it is just me then.