Why the Intelligentsia and Literati Seldom Flourish in Societal Leadership

We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge. Knowledge puffs up but love edifies. And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know.
~ Apostle Paul. 

Knowledge can be both a blessing and a curse. Knowledge is a blessing when it is seasoned with the humility that fosters compromise and collaboration. It, however, becomes a curse when it is infected with the leaven of pride that fosters exclusion and independence. 

The real tussle in life and leadership is the war between the way things are and the way things ought to be. It is the war between the status quo and status desirable. The inability to manage this crucial tension has been the undoing of many leaders. 

In reality, as our knowledge increases, there is a corresponding increase in our expectations and our desire for change. Change, however, doesn’t respond to just what the leader presumes to know is right. Change often requires the collaboration and support of the forces and powers that be.

The peculiar ignorance of the intelligentsia is the illusion that their desired changes can be arrived at without the collaboration of the powers that be or the forces at work. Often times, this ignorance makes the intelligentsia build independent institutions on the grounds of truth that lack the societal mechanisms and power to bring their so-called truths to life. 

Crucial here is the role of truth in fostering change. But what is truth without the power to enforce its maxims on society? Oftentimes, the literati are deceived by the masses who hail them as “speakers of truth to power ” Oxymoronically, what the intelligentsia doesn’t recognize is that speaking truth to power suggests that you are not in power and that power is distinct from the truth as an entity. Power in itself has it’s own set of truths that the literati are often too “ivorytowerish” to appreciate. 

Buoyed by the accolades or frustrations of the masses, what the intelligentsia fail to recognize is that, the power doesn’t reside with the masses and has never been with the masses. The masses are often mere pawns in the machinations of power. If deluded by either the interests or the encouragement of the masses, our speakers of truth to power come against the powers that be,  the powers will often have to assert themselves, against their so-called truths and truth speakers.

The masses are often mere pawns in the machinations of power. Share on X

The intelligentsia must understand that except they control the machinations of office and power, there is a limit to which their truths can be ventilated upon societal systems and institutions. Their “ivorytowerish” notions can only find fulfillment in the little quarters they control or in more sophisticated societies that can provide the cultural support for their ideas. 

For our societies to change sustainably, there must be the rise of a matured, humble calculated and deliberate intelligentsia who will work through the way things are, to create the things that ought to be. This approach to leadership will require more than blatant and unguarded statements, it will require the ability to build agreements and coalitions among a broad array of divergent power blocks for the good and the love of the people. Until that order of humble and realistic intelligentsia arises, we are simply joking! But what do I know?

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