The current spate of anti-intellectualism is only a very specific form of a much broader and more pernicious syndrome, anti-high mindedness, the fallacious idea that applying humanitarian ideals and morality is a mistake.

The problem is not new! Think of all the old westerns you ever saw. The most clownish and inept character is often the preacher man who usually ends up humiliated and laying face down in the mud.

In cultural anthropology this tendency is well known and has been designated as a leveling mechanism, a practice that acts to ensure social equality by shaming or humbling members of a group that attempt to put themselves above other members.

The Danes refer to the Law of Jante which characterizes as unworthy and inappropriate any behavior that is not conforming, does things out of the ordinary, or is personally ambitious.

Another common use of the trait of anti-high mindedness is known as the tall poppy syndrome whereby members of a different race or religion who attain celebrity or success are criticized and sometimes even sabotaged, cutting down the tall poppy to insure mediocrity and conformity.

Taking the high road and being high minded is not always rewarded, and as we can infer from the examples above, is often punished.

National Public Radio today aired a program about high mindedness during the second world war. The show, in part, talked about German prisoner of war camps here in America. There were many. We Americans, for the most part, ran those camps according to the principles of the Geneva Convention which mandated that prisoners of war should be treated humanely. In other words, we took the high road. But, of course, as the war drew on and rationing set in, that high minded stance was called into question by Walter Winchell, the Rush Limbaugh of his day, and others. Furthermore, when inhumane German prisoner of war camps were liberated, we found out our moralistic approach had not been reciprocated over there.

In that instance, our moralistic approach was not rewarded, but that does not mean that it was a mistake. We did the right thing, and we should continue to do so.

Why do the right thing when it so often goes unrewarded, you may ask? For one reason! As a partial hedge on the future, and in the hope that others will remember and also do the right thing. Or we could just continue slashing and bashing our way through life and leave that for our children.