The public intellectual manifesto


Disclaimer: Even though I have read and thought about the subjects mentioned in this article subjectively, nothing on this article is based on truth-checked objective facts. Everything here is mere speculations, but I believe them to be truth or near-truth at the very least. I would love to be corrected or find the correct information together. — If you see something you can disprove, please don’t hesitate to comment. I would love to think together. — I haven’t researched the subjects of this article because I consider this as a diagnostic essay, and I am going to see how my ideas expressed here will change over time and through journalistic research.

As humans, we consider ourselves highly; unique and different. But we are more similar than we estimate to be to our cousins in the animal kingdom. Even though we have created layer upon layer in our brains through evolution, which made us more intelligent, we can’t run away from our brains’ deeper recesses that control our behavior. That deeper recesses of our brain keep us similar to our mammal cousins.

These similarities of behavior show themselves best in situations that evoke intense emotions. Luckily for us, we experience most of our most intense emotions in private. But the privacy of those moments hides the commonality of our reactions. That’s why we usually surprisingly find out that other people had similar experiences when we share our deepest desires or the responses we have been ashamed of. We usually never understand that the same reactions, the same feelings are also the guiding principles of our mammal ancestors and our mammal cousins.  Our similarities with our mammal cousins show most transparently when we endure a tragic event that affects a large part of society.

When a tragic event or a threat shows up, like meerkats recognizing a threat does, we turn to someone we regard as our trusted leader. But what happens when we don’t have an apparent trusted leader? Or what happens when there are more than one leader and various groups of people trust different leaders? What happens when these trusted leaders give conflicting signals? Under these conditions, egotistical people who have unfounded confidence rise to power, making right-wing extremism soar.

When big groups of people feel an unaddressed threat, they become susceptible to sociopathic pseudo-dictators. If the pseudo-dictators are good enough orators, have money and power, they quickly form a cult because people regard this pseudo-dictator as their savior under the conditions mentioned above.

If the people who rose to power under great duress are wise, they bring significant change and progress to their societies. But if they are unskilled or, worse, self-serving, they misuse their power and bring impending doom to their communities. Under representative democracy, every time a great threat shows up, humanity risks going back into what led us to world war II — nationalistic or racist dictatorships. Because the extreme right-wing is full of people who think highly of themselves and most of the population seeking immediate relief mistake their confidence as merit. The primary cause for this mistake is the little monkey brain residing beneath our evolved human brain. The bigger the threat, the more of us succumb to the little monkey brain.

I believe this susceptibility to the monkey brain has been one of the biggest extinction-level threats to humanity…

After World War II, the intellectuals and people in power created two ideals to ensure that we don’t have another world war. One of those ideals was globalization, and the other was the idea of human equality. They thought that if you have factories and investments in other countries if your own country’s well-being is directly tied to other countries’ well-being, your country will be more cautious about attacking the other country. They thought that if we consider each other as identical in potential, we will shy away from the idea that one nation or one group of people are intrinsically better than the others.

Institutions and activists worked hard on instilling these ideals into humanity, and they have been largely successful. Since our generation has been raised with these ideals and has never seen any other option in action, we act as if the World of globalization and human equality are objective reality. We understand that there are a lot of problems in the World. We feel that there are things that don’t make sense. But we don’t know the cause, and we accept that we cannot change anything even if we knew.

While human society keeps static, the ideals that weave the World together are crumbling. Globalization which has never been perfectly formed has been dismantling for the past two decades. We started the globalization journey thinking that capitalism will create effective markets and tie countries. We were hopeful for a long time because of the ‘so-called’ success of the European Union. Yet, in the last decade, how much the EU has been struggling became transparent. We understood Germany, the most financially sound and productive country of the EU, has been carrying the heavyweight of the EU’s financial burden. Within our capitalistic society, the department that brings in the money eventually rules the company in any organization. EU is no different. Before Brexit, Germany’s hold on the EU was balanced with Britain and France, but with Brexit, the EU’s actions will shift heavily toward Germany’s desires. This is one blow to the globalism ideal, but not the biggest one.

The western intellectuals are usually blind to the eastern developments and threats. The main reason is that the western mind is so intertwined with individualism. The seeds of western intellectualism were planted when the ruling class of Europe parted ways with the collective mind, catholicism. Individualism is the main idea that has helped rulers control societies during and after their divide with the Catholic Church.

This blindness towards the collective mind created one of the biggest threats to the Western World today: China. With its communalism and huge population, China provided western capitalism a deal it cannot resist — tax-free revenue and cheap labor. EU had enough opportunities, and cultural distance from capitalism, to fight the ‘too good to be true’ offerings of China. But, the US, with its monopolistic capitalism, was easily sucked in. The Western mind didn’t understand that in a communal country, the country itself is the monopoly. When the western forces recognized the monster they have created, it was too late. The effects of shifting production to Chinese monopoly made China a global power.

As production shifted to China, the US started to lose its grip on the World. The Internet and companies came to the aid. The US tended them to become monopolies. Those big technology companies have been a tremendous financial defense against the production power of China. But the big tech wasn’t the only solution. Even before big tech, to cope with the economies of scale China has, the US let companies roam free and monopolize industries. Even though the monopolization and the big tech’s surveillance harmed its population, they kept the US as the global world power.

Big tech and the monopolies are the US economy’s lifeblood, and the US can’t continue its current form without its monopolies.

This is a simplistic explanation of the current state of our broken globalism.

Our other safeguard against nationalistic dictators and a possible world war III, human equality, is also in shambles. You are equal as long as you are a white man from a Christian society. Otherwise, you might be treated equally if you are well educated, speak English well enough, are not religious, have a good amount of money, and dress nicely. If you possess all of this and are lucky, you might be considered equal with an average western white man. Oh, if you are not caucasian, you have to work harder…

We sense the impending doom and feel helpless. The problems are too big for any of us to solve.

For me, the solution is to be a public intellectual.

When people feel threatened and can’t find somebody they can objectively trust, they look up to politicians and business people for answers. Because of their respective systems, both have flocks of sociopaths waiting to become pseudo-dictators when the chance strikes. A person with high morals rarely chooses to dwell in politics or business. I don’t say they are non-existent. I say that a person with sociopathic tendencies has a higher chance of succeeding in those areas.

We need people who keep their neutrality facing the problems humanity face. We need people who think about how to live and communicate their findings. We need people to turn our faces to when there is a threat lurking on the horizon. In today’s World, I feel like most intellectuals who have an audience are either left-wing activists or right-wing propaganda machines. Even if there are people who influence large groups of audiences while maintaining their neutrality, I am not aware of them. I firmly believe that being a politically neutral public intellectual is a position every person who cares about humanity’s fate has to strive for.

I believe in the necessity of public intellectuals. I think a group of neutral public intellectuals are necessary to guide our future, and we need them as soon as possible. I want to be part of the solution myself. So this is a manifesto for myself and for others who are feeling the same way.

To begin my journey, I have to understand what being a public intellectual entails and understand the necessary steps:

I believe public intellectuals have to be journalists. The public intellectuals have to stay neutral and consider all sides, all arguments, and every angle. Neutrality is a key if one will be regarded as dependable by every spectrum of society. The public intellectuals of our World have to be able to talk to people who are lacking as well as rich. The public intellectuals have to be able to hold an audience of pseudo-racists as well as black lives matter activists. The public intellectuals have to be the group that bridges the gaps between society, shows the other angle, and tries to solve problems from an objective point of view.

The public intellectuals have to talk to the next generation. You can’t hope to solve problems by speaking to older generations. As Einstein said, you can’t solve a problem with the mindset that created it. The salvation lies in the next generation, and it is the public intellectuals’ job to understand the next generation and be the guiding light in their lives. Therefore, the public intellectuals of the day have to understand generation Z. They have to be the funnels that the wisdom of the older ages get summarized and shaped for the eyes and ears of Gen Z.

The public intellectuals have to understand the global condition. They have to understand politics, economy, history, and sociology to a high degree. They have to understand the policymakers and how their policies affect the World. They have to have a great understanding of the financial system, both centralized and decentralized. They have to understand history because even though history doesn’t repeat itself, the past teaches us many valuable lessons and creates the building blocks, the libraries we can use to program the future. A public intellectual cannot be an intellectual without understanding society and how they react; therefore, a public intellectual must be a master of sociology.

Public intellectuals have to have an understanding of individuals and the forces that shape them. Public intellectuals have to have a working knowledge of religion, anthropology, philosophy, psychology, and science. You can’t understand humans without understanding the primary organizer of human thought, religion. You can’t understand modern humans without understanding science. Psychology gives the edge to make meaningful connections between the two and understand how the tugging forces of science and religion shape modern humans. If you don’t understand philosophy, especially the history of philosophical thought, you will have a problem understanding the roots of the many ideas shaping the world we live in. Also, even though I don’t believe in her individualistic ideals, I think what Ayn Rand said is proper “if you don’t build your own philosophy, you will live your life believing somebody else’s.” And lastly, the public intellectuals have to understand anthropology to see the development of humankind through ages with unbiased eyes.

This vast understanding is a prerequisite to be an intellectual, but you can be an intellectual without communicating with the public. To be public intellectuals, they also have to be able communicators. They have to write and talk clearly. They have to be charismatic. They have to be great orators who can talk for hours without boring the audience, using humor, knowledge, and storytelling. The public intellectuals have to be writers who are also active in visual media. They have to be charismatic leaders and have to look good on various media. And they have to be able to reach digital natives; they have to be active on various kinds of media.

The journey to being a public intellectual is a tough one, but a noble and important one. I believe a person can pick up the necessary knowledge along the way, but I think he or she has to start with the most important one, being a journalist, being a member of the fourth estate. Without neutrality and love for the truth, all of the knowledge might turn into fuel for propaganda. A public intellectual can’t take sides. Like any proper journalist, a public intellectual has to keep being neutral.

That’s how I am going to start my journey as well. I am going to work on understanding journalism and being as neutral and fact-oriented as I can.

While continuing to be my writing lab, this blog will also be the purveyor of my findings.

It would be a great honor if you join me on this journey and share your findings as well.

About the author

Yigit Cakar

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Yigit Cakar