Friday, September 30, 2005

For Elitism

We've talked much about anti-intellectualism here lately, although it's a topic that I usually avoid. I'm keenly aware that academics complain quite a bit about anti-intellecualism, and it's a bit unfair of us. After all, we deal with 18-22 year olds all day; not exactly the most representative group, nor the most proudly intellectual. I think a lot of us just tire of the outright contempt we encounter whenever we ask anything from students. But, again, how many kids aren't that way at that age?

Nevertheless, part of being accepting of the students' mentality is also accepting that higher education isn't for everyone, that an appreciation of culture really isn't for everyone and that, ultimately, the things we love really aren't of interest to most people. So, we tend to give up, and hence, we earn the "elitist" label. Here's the tricky thing though- if you believe that your ideas and interests should not be shared with most people, you're considered elitist. However, if you believe that those ideas and interests should be shared with everyone, an attitude that most academics have, you're also considered "elitist" for not having more popular tastes. Most academics love nothing more than sharing their interests with anyone who will listen. But, alas, few people will listen.

So, perhaps, it's best to be elitist. I've found that my love for cheap horror films, cheap punk rock and cheap beer doesn't really make me any less "elitist" in light of the fact that I also love Blake and Proust. So, why try not to be elitist? Hakim Bey suggested once that what we really need is secret societies, and not this phony populism in which we try to think and live like everyone else. I think maybe we "eggheads" need to stop pretending that our goal in life was to try desperately to get ideas across to sneering business majors.

1 comment:

Pantiespantiespanties said...

I don't feel contempt for those who don't seek knowledge for its own sake. I feel deep sorrow. I'm not talking about having people learn stuff in my own field -- no one cares about it, anyway -- what concerns me is a general lack of curiosity in most people. Don't people want to know *why* things happen, and what things are? Don't they want to know about people and places and things beyond the boundaries of their lives?