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Two Cultures

  1. Sep 18, 2008 #1
    Two Cultures

    Two generations ago CP Snow authored the book “The Two Cultures”, which identified the two cultures to be ‘literary intellectuals’ (humanities) and natural scientists. He constructed the problem in this way:

    "I have been present at gatherings of people who, by the standards of the traditional culture, are thought highly educated and who have with considerable gusto been expressing their incredulity at the illiteracy of scientists. Once or twice I have been provoked and have asked the company how many of them could describe the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The response was cold: it was also negative. Yet I was asking something which is about the scientific equivalent of: Have you read a work of Shakespeare's?"

    This is considered to be the equivalent of asking: “can you read?” My point is that the gap between the two cultures today is as wide as it was when Snow drew attention to it two generations ago. At one time in the past this divide might have been considered to be bridgeable by the two cultures; I suspect that is not a possibility. I think it is not a possibility because both cultures have been co-opted by industry.

    Our intellectual cities are filled with skyscrapers of narrowly specialized knowledge; all owned by corporations. We have only highly specialized intellectuals focusing ever more narrowly on a specialty that will gain high pay with bonus or life-long tenure with high paying grants.

    Corporations will never allow this specialization to cease and so we must find another way if we hope to retake our lives from the grasp of corporations.

    A Ritual To Read To Each Other

    If you don't know the kind of person I am
    and I don't know the kind of person you are
    a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
    and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

    For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
    a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
    sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
    storming out to play through the broken dyke.

    And as elephants parade holding each elephant's tail,
    but if one wanders the circus won't find the park,
    I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
    to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

    And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
    a remote important region in all who talk:
    though we could fool each other, we should consider
    lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

    For it is important that awake people be awake,
    or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
    the signals we give, yes or no, or maybe
    should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.
    -William Stafford
  2. jcsd
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