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Usmani's 'Revolution' Is Misguided

By Mark A. Adomanis

I’ve read The Crimson for some time now, but cannot recall reading an article as arrogant, opaque, and simply wrongheaded as Adaner Usmani’s “Against Leadership” (oped, Oct. 4).

Cloaked in prolix academic phraseology, his main point, as best as my feeble mind can grasp it, seems to be that smart people shouldn’t act as such, or shouldn’t have their opinions count, or should actively ignore their own opinions and, instead, agree to abide by the opinions of less-intelligent, less educated, and less successful people. All of this is, of course, is pursuit of a non-defined yet surely desirable “revolution.” How profound.

While a full response to Usmani’s article would take many hundreds of words, I would like to respond to one very limited point. I agree that the Enlightenment has its flaws. Man’s nature isn’t nearly as benign as the philosophes liked to believe, as the world is re-learning, for the millionth time, at great cost. I was shocked, though, to read an article which explicitly argued not only against the idea of meritocracy but against the very idea of rationality in politics. While there are certainly spheres of human existence that rationality cannot greatly improve and may actually harm, spirituality comes immediately to mind, I would think that politics is very high on the list of endeavors in which any reasonable person agrees that rationality is an absolute prerequisite. Ask the people of Darfur or Iraq whether they would prefer to enjoy the “apparent advantages” of reason-based governance or continue to reap the fruits of violent religious conflict. My guess, though a reasonable one, is that they would prefer to argue over the existential limitations of enlightenment thinking since rational people tend not to burn, mutilate, rape, and blow-up other rational people.

I appreciate Usmani’s call for Harvard to embrace humility, and would agree that the place reeks of entitlement and intellectually lazy self-congratulation. If he took some time off from the post-modernism and read a few history books, though, he would see that only the most brazenly self-confident leaders have succeeded in furthering any sort of lasting change. Rather than “imperiling” it, arrogance is one of the prerequisites for a successful revolution! As the Russians used to say during the days of Stalin, “When you cut down a forest, chips fly.” I personally would leave the forest alone, but, as I’m sure Mr. Usmani will learn, there is no way of talking the trees into falling.


Philadelphia, PA

October 4, 2007

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