Saudi ultra-billionaire Abdullah S. Kamel has just purchased a Sharia law center for Yale Law School for the modest price of $10 million. Rather, he has become the “patron” of the “Abdullah S. Kamel Center for the Study of Islamic Law and Civilization.” Right wing media jumped in, smelling a plot to subvert American legal principles. I’m inclined to believe it is more a vanity and/or fetish project that will make headlines only in how little it accomplishes. Harvard already has something similar; student interest is reportedly light.
Nonetheless, there are lessons to be learned. Yale is the top law school in the United States, but traditionally they produce few real, career attorneys. The Yale crowd prefer highly sought-after sinecures in the world of legal academia; running off and becoming law professors – 12 hours a week, 30 weeks a year, for a $180,000 salary, at law schools where barely half the graduates find jobs in the field.
In comparative terms, Yale-spawned pseudo-intellectuals occupy the higher rung of American economic activity, but along with most of tenured academia hold themselves out as aspiring engineers of social change, for the benefit of the downtrodden. In America this hypocritical indulgence in bourgeois comfort while pretending to advocate economic egalitarianism is called “Limousine Liberalism.” In the UK it is “Champagne Socialism.” The French have the best term for it, though: La Gauche Caviar – the Caviar Left.
Professors in various disciplines occasionally come out of the woodwork to say flattering things about Hamas. Various “Friends of Israel”-style groups have documented the adventures of several of these professors on film, and made them readily available online.
There are plenty of professors who will find a reason to talk about the abilities of Hezbollah and Hamas in providing education, food, and medical care. Those organizations provide these things to attract support, build loyalty among their local populations, and hold secure home turf so that they can project power externally; mostly against Israel and often against civilians. There are, however, apologists for militant Islam who would cite soup kitchens as evidence of Hamas’ righteous intent.
The fetish of some in the academy for violent hardliners outdates what we today call militant Islamism, in fact. Danielle Minne was implicated in a series of bombings of Algiers cafes in 1957, as a way of “protesting” French colonial control of Algeria. This protest cost the lives of 4 women and injured about 40 people most of whom were women and children. She escaped justice and decades later was found holding an academic chair at Toulouse University, in the Women’s Studies department. You can’t make this stuff up…
One of my professors went on and on about how well-written the Soviet Constitution was, as it was loaded with “positive rights” – promises of economic security in exchange for obedience, as opposed to the American Constitution, which only possessed “negative rights” – those things which the state was prohibited from doing to you. Utterly missing the point of totalitarian movements is a hallmark of useful idiots sunken like ticks into the bloodstream of the academy, regardless of the ideologies involved.
While a majority of college professors – probably a rather slim majority, but a majority nonetheless – are not incompetent or of radical or extreme disposition, the world’s university systems often seem to attract the eccentric, extreme, and the outright useless. Easy jobs with little or no performance metrics at institutions which can attract free money from governments, desperate parents, student loan conduit youth, and wealthy benefactors looking for their name on a building certainly are seductive, especially to those allergic to the vicissitudes of the real world.
And for the wannabe socialist disillusioned by the fall of the Berlin Wall or the rise of New Labour, anti-globalism activists complaining about “international capitalism,” and the embittered nerd who resents being paid less than a C student who successfully sells cars, the academic world represents a perfect place to hide from real troubles, while offering a place to pontificate without risking the consequences of getting things wrong.
So, Hamas and its ilk have become stand-ins for the global revolution; the poor against the rich, the native against the colonialist, individuals against the corporate, etc… All can be projected onto the Israel/Palestine dispute, from the safety of tenured academic foxholes.
Let us therefore build Sharia Law centers everywhere… the better to understand the downtrodden victims of Western imperialism and cultural hubris; and, to ease the economic injustice of not having a river of Saudi money.