Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Elitists

In politics, it often seems like both sides have precisely the same goals. They are always—no matter the issue—fighting for “Main Street” and the “American people” against “corporate greed” and “special interests” represented by “lobbyists.” It doesn’t matter which party—both sides use virtually the same language to advance their agendas.

One of the most common slurs used in politics is “elitist”—both sides use it, seemingly with equal regularity. A quote from Jonah Goldberg sums up the conservative view of liberals: “…[At a charge of elitism], some liberal spluttered herbal chai tea from her nose at the injustice of this whole elitist canard, and the earnest Ivy League interns at some liberal magazine have burst into laughter, offering the appropriate bons mots from Balzac…” Conservatives see liberals as overeducated, ivory tower theorizers who are out of touch will real Americans.

Liberals, on the other hand, also view conservatives as elitists, but of a different sort. They see conservatives as old money, greedy industrialists; gloating over their trophy wives while smoking cigars on the yacht before heading back to the private jet. (Think any John Grisham villain, or Mitt Romney). Liberals think conservatives are the ones out of touch with real Americans.

Actually, both sides are right. Many liberals are out-of-touch with the real world—the blog stuffwhitepeoplelike.com has the attitudes and wants of your average liberal about right. And there are many conservatives who don’t understand the worries of working people. (I went to a McCain-Palin rally a few weeks ago; the people there seemed decent and hard-working—but nobody had to worry about where their next meal was coming from) Both sides are right—both liberals and conservatives are elitist.

But is that a bad thing? I must confess that the antipathy towards “elitists” has always baffled me. I’ve never read Balzac (to refer to Jonah Goldberg’s example), or drank herbal chai tea. But when I do read Balzac (I figure I’ll read him at some point in my life), I’ll quote him. And if I ever decide herbal teas would make my life better, I will drink them unashamedly.

Likewise, I’m not rich (yet). But if I ever do become wealthy, I’ll go to polo matches and smoke cigars and do whatever else rich people do (rehab?) without a trace of guilt. Wealth is nothing to be ashamed of; neither does it make one a bad person.

I think that much of the hostility towards “elitists” stems from simple jealousy. There are some moneyed people dependant on family money, but most of the upper class earned what they have. But they get called “elitist” by people who lack either the ability or the determination (or both) to go out and earn money for themselves.

Likewise, cultured people are, sadly, rather rare. It’s easy to call people who quote Balzac “elitist”—it’s hard to actually go out and learn Balzac yourself. If people spent half as much time educating themselves as they do accusing educated people of elitism, the intellectual life of this country would be much higher.

Actually, it’s the so-called “elitists” who actually get things done in this country. It’s not easy to love Lee Scott (never heard of him? He’s CEO of Wal-mart) or Bill Gates—but try getting by without Wal-Mart or Microsoft. And it’s not easy to love cultural elitists (the Balzac quoters), but they do add a lot to the intellectual quality of America, and academia, for all its flaws, is a crucial part of society.

In fact, it seems safe to say that it’s the “regular Americans” who are the problem. They are inexcusably uneducated, have no notion of fiscal responsibility, and are almost wholly scientifically illiterate. Disagree? Then consider that nearly one in four American can’t find the United States [!] on a world map, the incredible amount of debt carried most Americans, or the fact that over half the country doesn’t believe in evolution (or if you believe in evolution, then consider that the United States is ranked well behind other countries in science education). This state of affairs is unpardonable. In America, elitism shouldn’t be considered a bad thing—in fact, elitists may be our only hope.

12 Comments:

At September 30, 2008 at 9:07 PM , Blogger Beth said...

Well hey, Daniel, I think you are bordering on blasphemy, my friend!

This reminds me, earlier this week I saw the headline that people were asking Michael Douglas his opinion on the bailout since he was in the movie "Wall Street", lol.

 
At October 1, 2008 at 3:38 AM , Blogger bookajet.ca said...

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At October 1, 2008 at 5:31 AM , Blogger SarahG said...

Elitism is something that the common man can sense, instinctively. Some are born great, some have greatness thrust upon them. Obama is neither. Rather, he is a mediocrity, buoyed by political correctness and the privilege that comes through affirmative action. Take a long, hard look at him. See for yourself!
But more importantly we must get this bail-out bill passed.
I think that this is so much more that just "bailing out people who got in over their heads!" It has consequences that trickle down and effect everyone. We've been thinking about refinancing (for a number of reasons)and now that is just out of the question. They need to do something!
Barack Obama is the equivalent of Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton amd the rest of those rabble rousers. I hope he gets called on it. I'm tired of McCain just constantly turning the other cheek Perhaps Sarah Palin will blast Obama.

 
At October 1, 2008 at 6:54 AM , Blogger Bob said...

How better to see this elitist disdain for the American heartland than with Mr. Obama's recent comments:

"You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

Obama's remarks were elitist and out of touch. They are not reflective of the values and beliefs of the avarage Americans

 
At October 1, 2008 at 7:12 AM , Blogger Throwing Stones said...

If you think sub-prime mortgage defaults and bank defaults can’t effect you, think again. ... this it’s not a joke. And if anyone thinks that posting video’s about Old movies with scenes about “runs on banks” is funny. I have news for you. In the situation that we ALL are in today, “Runs on banks” can happen. In on last nights news they DID have a report about people withdrawing their funds form banks in large numbers.
Because people have lost total faith in the whole banking industry. They want their money safe, and worry if their banks fails they will loose their money. you are right, this was one of the events that lead to the financial panic. So it’s NO joke.
Even in Canada there are some signs that people are getting uneasy over what is going on in the U.S. economy. And people are withdrawing their money from banks.

 
At October 1, 2008 at 8:31 AM , Blogger Erics Eyes said...

We have serious problems in America today and elitism is the least of them.
We have a racist running for the Presidency.
We have a congress that is hell bent on bankrupting us. So elitism is on the back burner for me.

 
At October 1, 2008 at 11:18 AM , Blogger Beth said...

It's nice to know you visit my blog, TS, why not say hello next time you visit?

 
At November 2, 2008 at 8:27 AM , Blogger knowitall said...

The elitist illuminati are going to take us into socialism, which is what our ancestors faught hard against in the Cold War.

 
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