Lord Winston: New Zealand doesn't value its intellectuals

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Whatever else he thinks about anything, Professor Robert Winston just won some brownie points with me. He calls the worship of New Zealand’s celebrities a “false idolatry” that glorifies traits that, in the big picture, really don’t matter all that much.

Lord Winston believes Kiwis do not value intellectuals and ignore the worst behaviour of our sports stars. “New Zealand celebrates attributes which really aren’t that important,” he said.

“You do it with sportsmen and you don’t do it particularly with intellectuals, for example. In New Zealand, being an intellectual is slightly disadvantageous and is often seen by the press as being something which is rather well, not to be celebrated.

“On the other hand, if you are a great rugby player, maybe parts of your private life which are pretty appalling, will go ignored.

Check out the audio at the news story.

If I had a Christmas list, Winston would be on it.

Glenn Peoples

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{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Dan December 15, 2009, 3:51 am

    Or, as in the Tiger Woods scandal(s) here in the US, bad behavior by sports figures is merely fodder for better television ratings as people live vicariously off the real life soap opera.

    I would bet that if you asked 100 college graduates to name 10 absolutely top sports stars, nearly all of them could do it off the tops of their heads. Moreover, most of them could identify the sport, position played (if applicable), and perhaps particular strengths and weaknesses of the players.

    As them to name 10 “intellectuals” and I will bet that at most 40 percent would be able to name a single person and nearly all of those would start with Al Gore at the top of their list. They would follow with Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. To the extent that they could fill out the bottom of the card, it would probably be with commentators from the staunchly leftist US national public radio network. There’s even good odds that Angelina Jolie, Sean Penn, and Brad Pitt would make the list.

    Gah.

  • Elizie December 15, 2009, 9:16 am

    It is appalling, but sadly, so true.

  • Bob December 15, 2009, 12:24 pm

    It’s because sport has clearer criteria for being the top.

    What is the criteria for top 10 intellectuals?

    But I agree it’s sad.

  • Dan December 16, 2009, 2:57 am

    “What is the criteria for top 10 intellectuals?”

    I had a discussion with my dean on exactly this issue a few weeks ago. My dean wanted to hire an “intellectual”, and I asked what the criteria was. The answer was “someone who reads books that they don’t have to read for their job.” There was an additional subtext suggesting that those books should include Das Kapital and Roberto Unger’s Knowledge & Power. The bottom line is that many people equate “intellectual” with “leftist” or believe that being a leftist (and also generally an athiest) is a necessary but not sufficient condition for being an intellectual.

    So I guess that the criteria for being an accepted intellectual are (1) being a leftist, (2) reading books you don’t have to read, (3) telling other people you’re an intellectual.

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