Outlaw intellectuals

Kirn’s latest pithy point:

My studied belief is that America’s greatest wealth is its oddballs, weirdos, seers, compulsives & autodidacts. They’ve transformed science, business, religion & the arts. Making more space, not less, for nonconformity & improvisation is the way of prosperous peaceful flourishing.

This wasn’t true of the whole country, and it’s no longer true at all. Some parts of America were more friendly to oddballs. At least in the West, it depends on how each town started.

Compare the two areas where I grew up: Northeast Kansas (Manhattan, Lawrence, KCK) vs Northern Okla (Enid, Ponca, Stillwater.)

Manhattan was settled in 1855 by one precise brand of ideological zealot, the very model of a modern Wokeite. No sex, no meat, no salt, no war… EXCEPT for the war they were sent to start.

Enid was settled in the 1893 Cherokee Strip Run, by a random collection of ambitious and desperate misfits.

Result after a few generations: Manhattan was rigidly orthodox. I often heard “You can’t say that!” from adults and teachers. Enid cherished its oddest oddballs.

You could see the same difference in university communities. K-State maintained the Goodnow tradition of integration by pigment. Students came in a wide variety of colors but a limited range of opinions. OU in Norman was less colorful at the level of pigment but vastly more colorful in thought. ‘Outlaw intellectuals’ clustered around the university, avoiding classes and tenure while doing real published scholarly work. These were Kirn’s autodidacts.