In case you missed my American Thought Leaders interview yesterday or the Twitter Spaces Q&A (starts at minute 4) that followed, here are the links to watch/listen. I’ve done many interviews since the publication of my book, but this one is my personal favorite:
Today, Jeffrey Tucker published the following opinion piece in Epoch Times about this interview and the Q&A:
I was listening last night to The Epoch Times interview by Jan Jakielek of Professor Aaron Kheriaty. It’s striking for the eloquence of both men. More than that, however, I was astonished at the vision of Kheriaty, which seemed so comprehending, integrated, humane, and completely confident.
As I listened, I thought: this is why we pay intellectuals, to make sense of the world around us in light of the best knowledge from all time. It’s also striking that he has left academia—a very bad omen for that industry. Fortunately, he is still willing to share his insights via The Epoch Times.
Later in the evening on a Twitter Space, I had the chance to ask him a question that had been burning in my mind since listening to his interview. How did it happen that he was able to put all the pieces together so well, so rigorously, and so calmly? Did anything that has happened over the last three years disrupt his previous thought to the point that he had to cobble together a new understanding or did all the events as they unfolded before us seem like an inevitability that he had long predicted?
His answer was typically humble. He said that he watched closely and tried to make sense of all that was happening in light of what he had already learned from history. So, yes, he made some adaptations in his outlook, looked at the reality around himself for what it was, examined all the evidence before his eyes, and came up with an integrated understanding that he was able to present to others. The result is his new book: “The New Abnormal.”
This is precisely what great minds do. They use firmly established principles of understanding, extract insight from many disciplines and thinkers, and form an understanding based on events as they unfold. Maybe that sounds easy. It’s the hardest thing actually, and exceedingly rare. It’s a tragic feature of modern intellectual life that its practitioners are more interested in confirming ideological biases than they are in finding out what is true. When we find a thinker who is willing to adapt in light of the evidence, we have found a treasure.
I cannot resist telling my own story in this regard. Only three years ago, the “before times” as people have come to call them, I was a pretty naive soul, essentially a Victorian-style classical liberal who thought I had it all figured out. The private sector was good and government was bad, and that insight pretty much tells you everything you need to know. The system, though corrupt, was not fundamentally broken. There was some kind of persistent integration between the public mind and the unfolding of public policy such that improvement over time was pretty well baked into the structure of history.
My role I saw as mainly an observer and chronicler of progress with a strong desire to explain it and highlight it. I wrote some ten books along these lines, never once feeling bored with my project. To me, history from 500 years ago to the present was a story of growing enlightenment interrupted by temporary bouts of brutality like war and depression before things got on track again. During this period of my career, I became a collector of insights and observations but not really a fighter, crusader, or anything like that. I was comfortable in my ideological convictions and mentally and psychologically settled.
Yes, I was aware that there were threats out there. For the 16 years prior, I had written about strange goings on having to do with the national security state, pandemic planning, and the quarantine power. When I would sound alarm bells about these things, my writings barely got any traction, and I can understand why. It all seemed like an abstraction, stuff we know that they can do but also people figured that we had systems to prevent them and so denouncing such potentialities was really just part of a parlor game.
And that parlor game continued even as the world fell apart in 2020. Too many intellectuals wanted to go about their lives as if nothing was happening. The same was true of journalists and politicians. The crumbling of all institutions and trust was treated as an unpleasantness that would pass, even as every manner of insider was gaining money and power. The problem was two-fold: first, people are unwilling to disrupt their own thinking and, second, it is taking on too much of a risk to challenge an elite narrative.
There is an enormous problem in the intellectual world that no one has yet figured out how to solve. The issue is that there is not a great deal of demand for their services. When an intellectual lands a secure job, he is thrilled for it, and very aware that should he lose it, there might not be another option. Ironically, this perception limits the ability of the intellectual to take risks.
One might suppose, for example, that a tenured professor at an Ivy League university would be perfectly positioned to tell the truth as he sees it. Maybe he had to play the game in graduate school and during the arduous climb through the ranks but now that he has arrived, he is finally free. Right? Wrong. The fall from the top of the profession is straight to the bottom. Such people are more vulnerable than anyone else, simply because being canceled from such a perch means certain career death. To be sure, this might only mean accepting a low-paid position as a liberal arts college no one has heard of, but this is a humiliation too great for people in such a position to bear.
The irony is that our intellectual class consists of people least likely to think independently and tell the truth in ways that inform the public mind. This is why they are not feared by the powers that be. In March 2020, it became very obvious that we could count on the intellectual class to say and do nothing about the massive violations of rights going on all around us. I recall writing to many people to beg them to join the struggle but they all had their phony-baloney reasons, all of which came down to career-based opportunism.
It’s a terrible reality now that you are far more likely to get clear thought from anyone who is not dependent on the system they are denouncing. A chef at a restaurant, a specialist in dry-wall installation, a barber, or a bartender is freer to tell the truth than the faculty of Harvard, Yale, and Oxford. I have no fix for this problem. I’m merely observing it.
When someone like Aaron Kheriaty comes along, we should celebrate, listen, read, and learn. He refused to be muscled by his institution and walked away, knowing that he had no job waiting and very aware that he still had a family to feed. He took a gigantic risk but now he serves as a teacher to multitudes and a leading light to guide us out of the present chaos. I’m extremely proud to say that he begins 2023 as a fellow of Brownstone Institute. Generous donors have made his appointment possible. Such benefactors understand that there is always a need for sanctuary in times of crisis.
Here we are in the 21st century with a growing sense that civilization itself is at stake. Meanwhile, the vast machinery of academia and mainstream journalism has completely failed to step up, even to tell the truth, much less to fight for what is right. More than ever, we need such independent voices, brilliant minds who can adapt to current realities and remind us of eternal truths. These are the people to watch and support.
What has the last three years done to your worldview? If you are willing to see what is true, what are you going to do about it? These are the burning questions each of us has to answer.
Jeffrey A. Tucker is the founder and president of the Brownstone Institute, and the author of many thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press, as well as 10 books in five languages, most recently “Liberty or Lockdown.”