Of all the doughty societies that have sprung up in this age of Kluxers and Beavers the one known by that unpronounceable word, "Intelligentsia," is among the most benighted. The war seems to have given it birth, the press nurtured it, which should have been warning enough, then the public accepted it, and now we all suffer.
Of course no one would admit that he is a member of the Intelligentsia. Modern civilizing influences do not develop that kind of candor. But it is just as easy to spot a member of the genus as it is to spot a Mississippian or a Chinese: the marks are all there.
According to the ultra-advanced notions of the great majority of this secret order if it were not for the Intelligentsia this crippled old world would be compelled to kick up its toes and die on the spot. Were it not for these super-men all the brilliance of the ages and the inheritance which is so vital to the maintenance of the spark of progress would vanish and pass away. In other words if the Intelligentsia were to stick their divinely appointed noses a little higher into the ethereal regions and withdraw themselves completely from the tawdry field of life that field would soon become a burial ground for the rest of humanity.
This is the rankest folly. The world owes about as much to the rank and file of this society as a 'Negro slave owes to Georgia. Besides a few big words added to the lexicon and one or two hifalutin' notions about the way the world should be run, the contribution of Intelligentsia to society is as negligible as gin at a Methodist picnic. This is not to discount the many notable contributions by really intelligent men and women who didn't know that such a society existed until insignificant nincompoops with their eyes set towards enhancing their own positions in society, made them honorary members.
What is intelligence anyway? If you ask a member of the Intelligentsia he will probably sneer at you and ask who wants to know. The Intelligentsia are very particular about observing the admonition against putting a herd of swine on an oyster diet, so particular in fact that they have become much more adept at discovering pigpens than they are at digging pearls. But if you ask a truly intelligent person he will tell you in a jiffy that intelligence is simply the ability to solve a new problem, nothing more, nothing less.
Now that is just what the average member of the Intelligentsia does not do. He does not solve new problems, be makes them; then he leaves it to the true intellectuals to solve them. Sift the chaff out of Intelligentsia and you will find that the residuum is about fifty-six one hundredths of one per cent. For the rest, the society is made up of non-producers and bloodsuckers who feed voraciously on the bones which the true intellectuals pass on to them to pick over.
The average member of Intelligentsia comes as near being a true intellectual as the proverbial hot water in which resides a cabbage leaf comes to being stew. His earmarks are abundant information about the most recent literature, an obsession for the latest shows, wild notions about art in general, along with a flair for disdaining Babbits, and for feigning spiritual chumminess with the true intellectuals who are accomplishing things.
He reads H. L. M. and George jean Nathan knows his Freud from cover to cover, and has an ability for spotting morons which is positively as uncanny as the ability of a Texas bloodhound to sniff a nigger. If he's a man he is as incapable of attending to his own affairs and doing something once in a while, as a hobo is incapable of paying a month's rent. All this goes for the feminine Intelligentsia, with this added distinction-they sneer at every homely virtue, including taking care of babies and frying eggs without breaking the yolks.
Far be it from me to sing paens to the days when men amused themselves with dominoes and the fair sex waded through enough dishwater to make a Jordan. Those days and their folk hold no illusions for me. But it is high time that a halt is called on these snobbish sycophantish highbrow hero-worshippers who, having got a smattering of wisdom from one of the fifty-seven hundred purveyors of this rare article in America, deign to damn with their sneers and jibes any activity, institution, or mortal it strikes their fancy to treat in such a manner.
These are the folk who talk Bolshevism in their parlors and wouldn't go to Russia if it were placed, like milk for cats, in saucers on their doorsteps. They slur Beethoven or Tennyson and extol Stravinsky and Whitman when they are hardly able to grasp such simple minded folk as Leybach or Longfellow, or even Eddie Guest himself.They mull over best sellers and can call authors' names by the scores. Literature for them is measured by its mystic qualities or its pornographicalsettings; music by its aberrations from generally accepted forms; art by its illusiveness.
Anything that is plain or clear or clean comes under the suspicion of these folk if not actually beneath their contempt. They who themselves do almost nothing by way of contributing to the nation's artistic development set themselves up as the struggling workman's severest critics. Ofttimes they are actually proud of their non-accomplishment: it shows their artistic temperament, they boast, Good God deliver us from their art!
One can admire truly intellectual types like Sinclair Lewis, Dreiser, H.L.M., and Shaw, men who are in every respect creative critics and thinkers. What one cannot swallow is this carrion prostrated at the altar of Liberalism when as a matter of fact their lying hearts are as faint as they are insipid. Their pelts are as mangy as Main Streeters' and their sentiments as hypocritical as those of the most pious Kluxer in the Bible Belt. They are by far more to be despised than the "morons" whom they single out with such avidity; for the latter do at least make an attempt to earn their salt, and to express themselves honestly, while the Intelligentsia steal all they can get away with and never do anything unless it be in the attitude of a dethroned prince who suddenly has to go to work.
Thesefolk have no more right to become associated with true artistic spirits than Knights of Columbus have to drink the Grand Kleagle's health. They simply give art and artists a black eye with their snobbery and stupidity; and their false interpretations and hypocritical evaluations do more to heighten suspicion against the real artist on the part of the ordinary citizen than perhaps any other single factor in the clash of art and provincialism.
Certainly there is more excuse for innocent idiocy and moronesia than there is for the sophisticated bigotry of these fair folk who, in the secret recesses of their inner consciousness, lay claim to membership in the Intelligentsia.
ARTHUR HUFF FAUSET.