The Intellectual Celebrity

Susan santog_wl
Susan Sontag could be considered America’s first intellectual celebrity. She had a larger than life presence that could be felt by everyone around her and she was described as being everything from passionate and insightful to arrogant and maddening.  In a eulogy published in ‘The Village Voice’, her friend wrote, “she was the indispensable voice of moral responsibility, perceptual clarity, passionate advocacy…social justice. Sontag took it as a given that our duty as sentient beings is to rescue the world.”

For more than forty years, Sontag wrote, with deep insights, about cultural and political forces that according to her, were shaping society in the USA. By focusing on controversial subjects that had not been focused on earlier, the writer sent shockwaves through the literary world and the rest of society. For her open criticism of American foreign policy, she was often labeled as a traitor and an enemy. This was especially true in light of her editorial in ‘The New York Times’, where she hinted that the true cause of 9/11 lay in the American invasion of the Middle East. She also opposed the Vietnam War and went as far as calling the white race the cancer of human history. I do not think white America is committed to granting equality to the American Negro. This is a passionately racist country; it will continue to be so in the foreseeable future.”

Her strong viewpoints and infamous attitude led to her having a wide circle of critics who nicknamed her as “Old Skunk Head”, referring to the streak of white that ran through her hair. However, even her most blatant enemy had to pay homage to the woman’s bravery.  During the course of her life, she worked hard for the rights of women, and to raise awareness for those affected by AIDS.  People were and continue to be inspired by her spirit, her intellect and her courage to speak her mind, regardless of the consequences. Her creations in literature, photography and film can be best described in her own words, “All my work says ‘be serious, be passionate, wake up!’”

By Sanjana Ahuja

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