I was out shopping with my four year old, and I found myself in one of those little chotchky shops where they sell ylang-ylang hand-soaps and inspiritational calendars. There were a selection of plaques available with cutesy phrases on them like “Friends are like flowers in the garden of life,” “Live as if it were your last day,” “Dance like there’s noone watching.” Shuddering silently, I said in the recesses of my thoughts Oprah bullshit. Ali immediately took me to task, translating several of the inspirational phrases into various academic dialects: Foucauldian Postmodernism, High Scholastic, Contemporary Vaticanese. As soon as the idiom changed, they went from sounding like cheesy commonplaces to sounding like profound truths. For the first time, I realized that these little sentimental phrases that folks like my Mom hang on their walls are actually real insights boiled down to the point where they can be accessed by people who never read Kierkegaard.

The fact that intellectuals feel the need to sneer at such simple explications of truth is hardly a point in our favour. On the contrary, our knee-jerk reaction against emotional appeals, against appeals to empathy and common wisdom, is really just a form of elitist pride. In lamenting that others cannot reason as we do we join in that damnable prayer of thanksgiving that we are not like other men.

Melinda Selmys