A Call to Action to Academia
A nation cannot continue if it doesn’t acknowledge the voices of its people. The 2016 election cycle is a reflection of the voices, once left unheard, crying out for their thoughts to be heard and followed. The irony is the cry for change and an end to the status quo the forgotten have instead bolstered the influence of the alienated intellectual. Eric Hoffer, an American moral and social philosopher, stated, “the problem for society is that the alienated intellectual does not want to be left alone. He wants to influence affairs, have a hand in making history, and feel important.”  Who is the alienated intellectual and how did she make a difference in our election?
The alienated intellectual came from the surge in the population seeking a higher education between the years 1958 and 1978. The alienated intellectual is the baby boomer generation. Eric Hoffer analyzed this generation saying “ They have become more flamboyant, more demanding, more violent, more knowledgeable and more experienced. The general impression is that nowadays the young act like the spoiled children of the rich.”  Hoffer believed the upheaval from the alienated intellectual would destabilize America and lead to a degradation of American society. The affluence the baby boomers enjoyed would create a generation which enjoy social affluence. Many in this generation feel they have the right to assert their beliefs on others and not have to obey commonly held values such as social responsibility. Has the alienated intellectual caused a decay in our social responsibility?
A quick glance at today’s government supports Hoffer’s assertions about the alienated intellectual. There are leaders who lead without regard to the impact of their policies. While listening to the hearing regarding H.R. 354 – Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2017 I heard Congressmen make several claims These included the following:how this bill is meant to protect women, stop federal funding of abortions, and the unsupported claim that a majority of Americans are against abortion. This bill is an example of the alienated intellectuals’ need to assert themselves and influence affairs. In their need to make history though the social responsibility, the duty to act for the benefit of society, faces a preventable disruption. Social responsibility includes the recognition of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Constitution. The Constitution enshrines
“…the highest attainable standard of health as a fundamental right of every human being. The right to the highest attainable standard of health” requires a set of social criteria that is conducive to the health of all people, including the availability of health services… Freedoms include the right to control one’s health and body (e.g. sexual and reproductive rights) and to be free from interference (e.g. free from torture and from non-consensual medical treatment and experimentation).
Entitlements include the right to a system of health protection that gives everyone an equal opportunity to enjoy the highest attainable level of health.” 
How is it that blocking access to a safe, reliable, source of healthcare protects women? None of the Congressmen elaborated on this section during their defense of the bill. In 2014 Planned Parenthood provided access to healthcare to 2,840,000 men and women in America.  Of these men and women, 83% were 20 or older.  Nearly 80% had incomes at or below 150% of the federal poverty level.  The Hyde Amendment already prohibits federal funding of abortions, and according to the Pew Research Center’s poll, 57% of Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most cases.  Is it possible in their rush to effect change, the alienated intellectual forgot to do their research? This does not seem to be the answer here. Instead of a lack of information, there is an incongruence amongst the social values of the alienated intellectual and those who are in disadvantaged socio-economic classes.
A power dynamic is at play. The connection between these classes and the need to maintain social responsibility has been torn asunder by the need to assert authority over others. The alienated intellectual surrounds themselves with books, theories, and perceptions never pausing to see the faces who they impact by their policies and prose. They fail to understand that their affluence condemns them to decline. Often, the education they received was gained without practical experience. An office-based internship does not give a full scope of knowledge of what those in disadvantaged experience every day. Nor do such opportunities provide the fuller picture of hunger, fear of losing air conditioning or heat, or choosing between healthcare or rent. Decisions are being made which affect lives, health and the ability for many to achieve social, financial and educational freedom. Those in disadvantaged socio-economic classes are being targeted, and their ability to further their goals are endangered by the callous pronouncements from the alienated intellectuals.
The bioethics community needs to burst the bureaucratic bubble, and in doing so, hopefully, burst the alienated academic bubble. We can still respect those in academia but advocate for those within the community, to have voices heard. It is in our interest to rally against any proposal to limit or block access to healthcare. Healthcare is a basic human right, which when obtained, provides the means for people to turn their attention towards securing their financial, educational and social freedom. Bioethicists cannot claim to promote autonomy, justice, beneficence and nonmaleficence while also paying no attention to the voices of those who live and work in the endangered sections of society. The bioethics academic community must collaborate with those in the field. Wealth without work and work without wealth will only continue to alienate all classes, but real communal work will rebuild our social dignity.
1. Hoffer, Eric. “The Young and The Middle-Aged.” New York Times, November 22, 1970, accessed March 17, 2017, http://www.nytimes.com/1970/11/22/archives/the-young-and-the-middleaged-whose-country-is-america.html?_r=1.
2. World Health Organization, Health and Human Rights, December 2015, accessed March 21, 2017, http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs323/en/.
3. Planned Parenthood Federation of America. By The Numbers, accessed March 17, 2017, https://www.plannedparenthood.org/files/9313/9611/7194/Planned_Parenthood_By_The_Numbers.pdf.
4. U.S. Government Accountability Office. Health Care Funding: Federal Obligations to and Expenditures by Selected Entities Involved in Health-Related Activities, 2010–2012, accessed March 17, 2017, http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/669194.pdf.
5. Pew Research Center. Public Opinion on Abortion: Views on abortion, 1995-2016, accessed March 17, 2017, http://www.pewforum.org/2017/01/11/public-opinion-on-abortion-2/.