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Jewish World Review / April 30, 1998

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell The naked truth

Recently, as my assistant was walking across the Stanford University campus, she was startled to see four young women, completely naked and with their bodies painted various colors, asking one of the men who was passing by to take a picture of them. He apparently was happy to do so.

This was not a unique incident. On another occasion, my assistant came upon a cheering crowd near the campus bookstore. In the midst of that crowd was a young man, also naked and also with his body painted.

Several years ago, the Stanford student newspaper featured a front-page photograph of a group of students, of both sexes, in the shower together. Since the picture was in black and white, there is no way of knowing whether their bodies were painted.

The Stanford campus has not become a nudist colony, but neither are these episodes of no significance -- especially not when they seem to meet public approval. Nor are the only implications of such behavior sexual.

Public nudity is just one of the ways of expressing their sense of their own wonderful specialness that so many self-indulgent students feel at many elite colleges and universities. A Stanford law school student expressed the same haughty superiority in terms of her work in the "prisoner's rights" movement.

This law school champion of convicted felons said, "It's precisely because prisoners are viewed as the castaways of our society -- that's what draws me to them even more." In other words, promoting the interests of prisoners is a way to be morally one-up on "society."

"We should want to know," she said, "why a person can't function in this society, what it is about this society." It cannot possibly be something wrong about the person because that would not provide an occasion for demonstrating her own wonderful specialness, at least not with her clothes on.

If these were simply the peccadilloes of a few vain and self-indulgent adolescents, it would just be part of the passing parade of human folly. Unfortunately, it is part of a whole mindset that is nourished on many campuses and which the graduates take out into the world.

Moreover, this is not simply their own personal misfortune. Using their gilded diplomas from big-name academic institutions as passes into policy- making positions, the educated ego-trippers can spend years -- perhaps a lifetime -- pursuing self-aggrandizement under pious names like "compassion" or "social justice."

What it all boils down to is imposing their superior wisdom and virtue on all the clods they lump together disdainfully as "society." It is all supposed to be for our own good, but there is remarkably little attention paid to evidence as to whether or not their grandiose schemes work.

These schemes always work in terms of allowing the self-congratulatory anointed to feel superior and to feel excitement. Eric Hoffer said that intellectuals cannot operate at room temperature. Everything must be "exciting," "innovative," or otherwise cater to their emotions.

The claim is of course made that these busybodies are making the rest of us better off. But whether their crusades actually promote the wellbeing of the ostensible beneficiaries is not a question that arouses any great interest on their part.

For example, whether or not racial busing actually helps either blacks or whites is not a question that captures their attention. Nor are they concerned about studies that show recycling doing more harm than good.

Nor are such people likely to pause during their "global warming" crusades to examine scientific evidence as to whether the globe has actually gotten any warmer or not. Nor are they likely to pause during their "overpopulation" crusades to consider why Japan is prospering with ten times the population density of sub-Saharan African nations that are stricken with poverty and famine.

With all the parading of concern about other people, there is remarkably little concern with allowing those other people to live their own lives as they see fit. On the contrary, ever increasing and ever more minute regulation of other people's lives has now reached the point where we cannot even take a shower, flush a toilet, or take out our garbage the way we want to.

It is not about us, it is about their own egos. That's the naked truth.

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6/3/98: Can stalling backfire?
5/29/98: The insulation of the Left
5/25/98: Missing the point in the media
5/22/98: The lessons of Indonesia
5/20/98: Smart but silent
5/18/98: Israel, Clinton and character
5/14/98: Monica Lewinsky's choices
5/11/98: Random thoughts
5/7/98: Media obstruction of justice
5/4/98: Dangerous "safety"
5/1/98: Abolish Adolescence!
4/30/98: The naked truth
4/22/98: Playing fair and square
4/19/98: Bad teachers"
4/15/98: "Clinton in Africa "
4/13/98: "Bundling and unbundling "
4/9/98: "Rising or falling Starr "
4/6/98: "Was Clinton ‘vindicated'? "
3/26/98: "Diasters -- natural and political"
3/24/98: "A pattern of behavior"
3/22/98: Innocent explanations
3/19/98: Kathleen Willey and Anita Hill
3/17/98: Search and destroy
3/12/98: Media Circus versus Justice
3/6/98: Vindication
3/3/98: Cheap Shot Time
2/26/98: The Wrong Filter
2/24/98: Trial by Media
2/20/98: Dancing Around the Realities
2/19/98: A "Do Something" War?
2/12/98: Julian Simon, combatant in a 200-year war
2/6/98: A rush to rhetoric

©1998, Creators Syndicate, Inc.