Monday, April 14, 2008

I Am a (Closet) Elitist!

It's time for a confession so I am coming out.

William Henry III says:
. . . .the simple fact that some people are better than others-smarter, harder working, more learned, more productive, harder to replace. Some ideas are better than others, some values more enduring, some works of art more universal. Some cultures, though we dare not say it, are more accomplished than others and therefore more worthy of study. Every corner of the human race may have something to contribute. That does not mean that all contributions are equal ... It is scarcely the same thing to put a man on the moon as to put a bone in your nose.
Yeah, I guess I'm down with all that, all except for art, which is in the eyes of the beholder.

I reserve the right to define what I mean by elites and elitism.

Elites are individuals who, by achievement and talent, have demonstrated a degree of mastery in their field of endeavor. In an open society, they should be raised to the top. In politics, this notion is also called a meritocracy, rule by the meritorious. The purest forum in which the meritorious are raised is of course in professional sports. In the athletic arena only the best players or best teams win.

In politics, merit is equated with leadership: A leader's greatness is predicated on his ability to govern a society so that its members are more successful in their struggle for existence, both when taken individually and collectively, than are the people of other countries. In open societies, selection is by elections involving campaigns. A good measure of leadership is indicated by effective campaigns.

As it happens, both in terms of sports and politics, the field is rarely level. There are always handicaps. Most prominently, inherited wealth creates advantages in education, training, expectations, etc. So that while all of us are created equal in the eyes of God, all of us are prepared differentially by society. Inherited wealth affords its benficiaries the inside track. Wealth buys the best education, the best training facilities, the best media resources and the best network of influential friends. When wealth determines all avenues to successful attainment of elite status, the polity or society is called an oligarchy. Oligarchical groupings in society are composed of members who believe they are entitled to elite status, not by individual achievement, but merely by membership in their advantaged class.

In my mind, Elitism is often used - too often used - as a pejorative term which is applied to the notion of group entitlement. It is misused as a synonym of oligarchy or aristocracy.

My use of the term elitism is more in line with the Jeffersonian theory of the ideal system of education. That was the meritocratic notion which involved sending the best students from all the grade schools around the state to the universities with the express intention, as Jefferson himself put it, of raking "twenty of the best geniuses from the rubbish annually."

In my use of the term, I believe in government by elite political leaders. As an American nationalist, I want my fellow countrymen to select and elect those among us who promise and offer the best in leadership and statesmanship.

After the last eight years of being ruled by Beavis and Butthead types, I want to see that Kennedy and Gore types get a chance to show their stuff.

That's why I'll be voting this year for someone who is, if anything, over-qualified to be President of the United States. And that's on Day 1.

23 Moderated Comments:

Blogger Petrosexual said...

This sucks, Vigil.

4/15/2008 07:44:00 AM  
Blogger the WIZARD, fkap said...

vigilante, You need to be very careful here. The line that separates you and this philosophy from Skip's is very small, very thin.....

4/15/2008 08:51:00 AM  
Blogger Soros' Proxy said...

Taketh care thyself, Wizard. Your stars are in alignment with Petrosexual's!

4/15/2008 09:44:00 AM  
Blogger the WIZARD, fkap said...

Henry's "meritocracy" is virtually identical to Skip's "technocracy" except for the choice of which "scientists" should rule the world.

One critic compared Henry's meritocracy to the rule of "nobility and kings" in years past. The nobility "deserved to rule" because they were wiser, better educated, more creative and generally better able to rule than the common serfs.

Please keep in mind that Henry is now the patron saint of the neocons. He was a leading critic of both feminism and Affirmative Action. This book itself was a rallying cry against Affirmative Action.He passed away about ten tears ago.

I fully understand vigilante was simply sourcing Henry to further support Barrack Obama's qualifications to be President after the flap over Obama's comments about rural midwestern voters.....

4/15/2008 01:23:00 PM  
Blogger Beach Bum said...

Yeah, this cuts a little too close. I get very nervous when anyone starts to throw absolutes around about someone or something. As long as a sense of the relative nature and worth of humans and their respective cultures are kept people tend to get along. Its when someone starts to believe they are above other people does things start to go askew. For example I may not like the rednecks and how they live their lives but as long as they leave me alone and throw me some vension every now and then we are cool.

4/15/2008 03:37:00 PM  
Blogger Emily said...

Vigil's definition of an oligarch and Beach's comment about his discomfort with individuals who believe themselves to be superior to and "above" the rest of their fellow citizens, brings immediately to (my) mind two of the most despicable politicians currently masquerading as CIC and Would-Be-CIC.

These two inhabitants of the "DC Establishment" (an Elite itself?), exuding the stench of narcissistic entitlement which guides their devious and destructive behaviors, exemplify oligarchical individuals who pathologically pursue personal power and prestige, regardless of the damage each, respectively, inflicts upon (her) political party and (his) country's international reputation and economy. FOR SHAME, Hillary. FOR SHAME, Bush.

4/15/2008 06:16:00 PM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

I appreciate Beach's and Wizard's criticism. I think they were generous, gentle and holding back.

About Emily's use of the term "elite", I have to say I wish she had used, in the above context of Washington D.C., a different word such as "oligarchy" or "vested interest" or "power-broking networks" or "insiders" or "the establishment". But then, one of my favorite writers, C. Wright Mills, called it The Power Elite. So what do I have to complain about?

Perhaps the verdict is clear. It appears that it's a Sisyphusian task for me to try to pare "elite" away from its tradional economic 'class' determinants. I am not to be permitted my personal definition of 'elite'.

This recalls Abe Lincoln's rule of accounting: 'How many legs does a dog have if you call his tail a leg?' The answer was of course: `Four, because calling a tail a leg does not make it a leg'.

Still, I want to stay the course a little longer on my notion that elite-ness should be applied to merit based upon talent and achievement. Add a little Jeffersonian Progressive education ensuring that those not born into wealth have a guaranteed funded college preparation for their career of choice, should they qualify for it, to level the playing field.

I just saw a riveting clip from Keith Olbermann. Michelle Obama was on a roll: she was saying, "I am a product from the South Side of Chicago. Take a look at me! I am a product of quality pubic education."

In my book, Michelle Obama is elite.

4/15/2008 08:00:00 PM  
Blogger Yellow Dog said...

Wizard on his blog talks eloquently how he thinks Obama's gaffe could be his Maccaca episode. That's a compelling comparison. Obama was caught on tape by Mayhill Fowler talking about small town America behind its back. In all places, Marin County, CA!

Count No. 1 against Obama is you don't talk behind other people's back. It's considered bad pandering style.

4/15/2008 08:29:00 PM  
Blogger Utah Savage said...

Frankly I am bitter, how about you?

4/15/2008 08:36:00 PM  
Blogger Yellow Dog said...

Maybe I'm bitter for different reasons, in a different state halfway across the country. But am I explaining why YOU are bitter behind your back to people you don't necessarily cotton to?

4/15/2008 08:43:00 PM  
Blogger Yellow Dog said...

Obama isn't running for Sociologist-In-Chief, last I heard.

4/15/2008 08:51:00 PM  
Blogger Yellow Dog said...

Regarding the economic determinism behind elitism:

I'm beginning to understand the Republican hysteria about the Kennedy's and the Kerry's and George Soros! They don't follow suit. Their politics are not in alignment with their economic class. They are the Limousine Liberals who have betrayed and deserted their oligarchy. They don't politic and vote according to their station in life.

Now, along come the Democrats in Marin County. Barack is complaining to them that the small and depressed bergs across the fly-over states in the rust belts should be criticized for voting Republican because they like their anti-gay culture of guns and church offered them by the GOP? Isn't Barack sounding like he's saying that these Democrats are deserting THEIR class?

4/15/2008 09:06:00 PM  
Blogger adynaton said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4/16/2008 12:27:00 AM  
Blogger adynaton said...

Thanks for the book link, Vigilante. It looks like another one of those reactions against the perceived cultural relativism of postmodern thought. Two things come to mind.

First, elitism does exist in art. It's one thing to take the advice of some random yahoo and another to listen to someone who has dedicated their life to studying art and art history.

Second, in democracies people don't elect the cleverest and best person among them. Slightly above average seems to be your best bet. It would be great to have some genius running things, but that rarely happens. I don't know why that is.

4/16/2008 12:32:00 AM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

You are the most qualified person I know, Adynaton, to pronounce on art. However ... well, let's just say you wouldn't appreciate what I hang on my walls.

As far as an politically elite candidate goes, I get your point: no philosopher-kings. The model modern political leader has a number of attributes. Each candidate for POTUS possesses a different composite of multiple attributes. Different qualities of leadership are as difficult to compare and assess as art, I suppose. (For example, compare a Harry S. Truman to an Adlai E. Stevenson.) And it is painfully true that in most political campaigns we don't really get the full measure of a man or a woman. We don't really find out until too late. But what we should seek out is quality, not someone with whom we could all enjoy a beer or a barbecue.

4/16/2008 06:47:00 AM  
Blogger Soros' Proxy said...

This whole corruption of the word elite and elitism is the fault of our culture. In our society, it's forbidden to talk about class. Otherwise we would be substituting 'aristocrats' for 'elites'.

As it is, elite and elitism is just push and push back. Just like, whoever you are, your adversaries are supported by "the (their) special interests" and their "lobbyists". The word has become a self-serving, nonsensical epithet.

As far as social and income class, it's difficult to get a presidential campaign started without some degree of personal wealth. All recent candidates had some degree moullah, unless you go back to Truman in 1948. But maybe it's relevant to see how much and how they came by it.

Hillary went to Wellesley College before attending law school at Yale. Hillary became listed, at one point, as one of the 100 most influential lawyers in the country. the Clintons have earned more than $109 million from book sales, speaking engagements, the presidential pension and her Senate salary, among other sources.

McCain, whose father and grandfather were Navy admirals, went to the United States Naval Academy. He frequently jokes about finishing at the bottom of his class. Here's your beer and barbecue guy! But McCain married into wealth. His second wife, Cindy, has a stake in her father's multimillion-dollar beer distributor company. The Associated Press estimated her worth at more than $100 million.

And Obama? Obama graduated from Columbia University and later received a law degree from Harvard. He grew up in a single-parent home. He says he and his wife just paid off their school loans in the last five or six years. He was raised by a single mother who used food stamps. He might have attended a prep school or two, but always on a scholarship.

Clearly Obama's background is the least aristocratic. Clearly he has traveled the farthest on his life's journey.

4/16/2008 03:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Skip Sievert said...

Thought full post Soros. The link to Columbia University is interesting to me. Columbia University was the original home of the Technical Alliance started in 1918 that became Technocracy Incorporated in 1934. The first.. what is sometimes referred to now as a ''think tank'' (the Technical Alliance) came out of Columbia University... and I wonder if Obama is aware of that fact and its effect on American life. With the current system and its backers ... I just do not see any happy ending for any one running for president in this time period. It is pretty obvious that Obama is the most compelling of the bunch. The so called ''bittergate'' episode exposed Obama as an intellectual. Too bad about his religious bullshit aspect though. Politics suck.

4/16/2008 08:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Skip Sievert said...

Adynation:

"Second, in democracies people don't elect the cleverest and best person among them. Slightly above average seems to be your best bet. It would be great to have some genius running things, but that rarely happens. I don't know why that is."

Why ? Democracy fields candidates only allowed by special interest groups. Special interest groups are created by money interests. Special interest groups are set up to deprive fellow citizens of their rights or resources. Since at least 1948 America has been run by special interest groups and more recently globalism special interest groups. The candidates they put up such as Obama or Hillary or McCain are stooges or clowns. The stooge or clown with the most money and fake media coverage and ability to deceive wins the ''election''. Corporate media brainwashes Americans to think they have a voice when it is actually business interests that think of the American people much as a hog farmer thinks of raising and butchering hogs and bringing them to market. Bottom line. Money is at the top of the pyramid. People that believe in democracy believe in something that is a lot like religion... an abstract concept used to control people and a throw back to a scarcity based system and Adam Smith economics.

4/16/2008 08:23:00 PM  
Blogger Yellow Dog said...

Adlai Stevenson was the first leading Democratic politician to become a critic rather than a championof middle class American culture- the prototype of the liberal Democrat who would judge ordinary Americans by an abstract standard and find them wanting.

Democratic loser in 1952 & 1956, Stevenson was interviewed:

Q: Thinking people supported you.
A: Yes, but I need to win a majority.
Q: You educated people through your campaign.
A: Yes, but a lot of people flunked the course.

Get the point people?

4/16/2008 09:28:00 PM  
Blogger Blogging4Food said...

Barack is not Adlai. Obama has the Teflon flair. He can toss off these pseudo stains and bum raps from "Bittergate" with a nod of his sassy and flippant head. If nothing else, he’ll make an ad out of the original clip from his California gaffe and then say at the bottom,

I am Barack Obama, and I disapprove of this message.

They will love him in PA!

4/16/2008 10:15:00 PM  
Blogger Utah Savage said...

Actually I'm quite pleased that Obama has put a word to the anger and pain so many of us feel. So now I can proudly proclaim my bitterness. I'm feeling better already. We have every damn reason to be bitter. If you didn't earn over $200,000. per, during these past eight years you're probably bitter too. If, like me, you're trying to live on Social Security and medicare and you have significant health problems, and you aren't bitter, you probably had a lobotomy somewhere in you past.

4/17/2008 10:30:00 AM  
Blogger Stella said...

We clearly have a class system in this country. I'm not a closet elitist. I think that everyone has elitist qualities and that the term "elitism" needs careful definition. Professional athletes are elitists in sports, but perhaps not in compassion; secretaries are elitist in their detail-oriented expertise, but many not be elitist in multitasking; right-wingers are elitist, but are not elite in accepting differing views.

The term "elite" refers to inherent talent.

Soros, great point: As far as social and income class, it's difficult to get a presidential campaign started without some degree of personal wealth. and This whole corruption of the word elite and elitism is the fault of our culture. In our society, it's forbidden to talk about class. Otherwise we would be substituting 'aristocrats' for 'elites'. People are responsible for create elitism through star worship.

So what happened to government for the people and by the people. We've returned to times when, potentially, people can only run for president if they own enough property.

Ask Mike Gravel (who's bound himself to the Libertarian nonsense). MSNBC and CNN refused to let him participate in the debates, even though his rating was roughly the same as Chris Dodd, because he didn't have over $1 million in campaign contributions.

I don't find the term "elitism" negative, and found a quick Wiki definition that covers much of what I feel Vigilante's conveying:

Elitism is the belief or attitude that those individuals who are considered members of the elite — a select group of people with outstanding personal abilities, intellect, wealth, specialized training or experience, or other distinctive attributes — are those whose views on a matter are to be taken the most seriously or carry the most weight; whose views and/or actions are most likely to be constructive to society as a whole; or whose extraordinary skills, abilities or wisdom render them especially fit to govern. Alternatively, the term elitism may be used to describe a situation in which power is concentrated in the hands of the elite.... elite theorists regard pluralism as a utopian ideal.

Elitism may also refer to situations in which an elite individual assumes special privileges and responsibilities in the hope that this arrangement will benefit humanity.

At times, elitism is closely related to social class and what sociologists call social stratification. Members of the upper classes are sometimes, though inaccurately, known as the "social elite."

The term elitism is also sometimes misused to denote situations in which a group of people claiming to possess high abilities or simply an in-group or cadre grant themselves extra privileges at the expense of others. This debased form of elitism may be described as discrimination.


Well, another long post. I think you've touched on a rather profound concept that deserves much more consideration than a knee-jerk reaction.

4/19/2008 01:51:00 AM  
Blogger skip sievert said...

Vigil quote... Elites are individuals who, by achievement and talent, have demonstrated a degree of mastery in their field of endeavor. In an open society, they should be raised to the top. In politics, this notion is also called a meritocracy, rule by the meritorious.'' end quote.

Since politics rewards bad behavior at its very base... such as lying .. cheating .. and stealing.. violence (war) etc. it would seem that a meritocracy in such behavior (politics) is probably not a good way to run a society. Right ?

There is a big difference between a political ''ruler'' and a competent administrator without a moral or belief system ax to grind.

How positions are filled in a Technocratic society -
There is not a Technical and a Democratic division in the Technate design for North America as regards operation of the Technate except in the sense of how a Technate would put people in positions of administration.
The Continental Director in a Technate is chosen from among the Sequence Directors by those Directors by the use of a ballot.

How positions are filled in a Technocratic society :
Positions are filled based on the proven method of nomination from below and appointment from above. This is sometimes referred to in modern business concepts as the ''vertical alignment business method''
It is a proven method in regard to well run organizations.
For example, if a position were vacated for whatever reason, then the people immediately below that position would nominate candidates from among their ranks for the position.
Then the managers from the rank above the position would choose from those candidates the person most qualified for the job.

Long winded fluff aside... this is a 'good' method to run a society and correlates to anthropological principles and also to the time we are living in now.

4/19/2008 06:26:00 AM  

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