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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » The Sliming of "Elite"

   
Author Topic: The Sliming of "Elite"
Alcon
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New York Times Op-Ed on the fall of the word Elite

quote:
PITY the poor word “elite,” which simply means “the best” as an adjective and “the best of a group” as a noun. What was once an accolade has turned poisonous in American public life over the past 40 years, as both the left and the right have twisted it into a code word meaning “not one of us.” But the newest and most ominous wrinkle in the denigration of all things elite is that the slur is being applied to knowledge itself.
I've noticed what this article points out a lot American politics recently. There are definitely times when I feel like America is becoming like Rome in some ways. Or at least its politics are: "Rome is the mob, control the mob, you control Rome." It seems America is rather headed that way, and certain politicians and political groups are encouraging it for all it's worth. The media isn't helping either. With reality shows and the like being the new version of the old Roman gladiator games.

Ironic side note: while 'elite' has become a slur in public life, on the net it's bastardization 'l33t' remains with a similar meaning to what 'elite' once held.

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pooka
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And in Halo 2, the Elites were relieved of their prophet-guarding duties and had to give their hats to the Brutes, who looked quite silly in them.
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Artemisia Tridentata
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For almost a century, the political "hub" of Montgomery AL was a restaurent called the "Elite", pronounced with the accent on the first sylable and the second as if it were light. At mid-day when the legeslature was in session, you could almost make a quorum. I had Governor Wallace stop by my table once to try to explain how his stump speeches were really beneficial for the Black people of the State. "I have to be elected before I can help them".
Last Year, I was back in Montgomery. The Elite is gone. That's what I thought of when I saw the thread topic.

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Lyrhawn
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I wonder how many people really think that anti-elite is a recent thing. I think we're always been a nation that had a bit of disdain for elitism and a special place held for the self made man, until that guy becomes an elite. We've always championed the common man, and simplicity, sometimes even to a fault.

I don't think we'll really learn to balance the two until we really start to decay as a society.

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Itsame
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"There are definitely times when I feel like America is becoming like Rome in some ways. Or at least its politics are"

That could be because America's political system was based on Rome. Just a guess.

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Lyrhawn
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I think there are some obvious parallels between the decline of Rome and the current situation in America, but there is so much more going on, doing a real comparing and contrasting would be a monumental task.
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Dan_raven
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This reminds me of the fear out several years ago that America was celebrating stupidity.

Why?

Number One Movie--Forrest Gump
Number Two Movie--Dumb & Dumber
Top of TV Listing--The Simpsons (Homer as hero?)
and
Top Pop Culture Reference--Beavis & Butthead.

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Dobbie
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When The Godfather was number one, nobody worried that America was celebrating criminality, (or worse, Italianidity).
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Saephon
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According to yesterday's Jeopardy, the Indy 500 is the single day of sporting events with the most attendance. And not, you know, a national Scrabble tournament [Wink] Sigh America..
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Sachiko
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I think America's elitism is a different kind than in the 18th century. Back then politicians would claim they were born in backwoods cabins and had no money and the like, to prove that they were concerned only about the welfare of the people.

Nowadays politicians still roll up their sleeve and loosen their ties so they can look all rugged, but they are an elite. I think they have to be, since we demand college degrees of our politicians, and since campaigning is financially possible only for the elite.

Elitism is only a symptom of Americans these days having too much pride.

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fugu13
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In the 18th century politicians were perfectly comfortable talking about their pedigrees and their assets. I think you're thinking of the 19th century (mostly the mid to late).
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Sachiko
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No, I am thinking here of James Madison publishing under a pseudonym to hide his status.
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Sterling
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quote:
Originally posted by Alcon:
Ironic side note: while 'elite' has become a slur in public life, on the net it's bastardization 'l33t' remains with a similar meaning to what 'elite' once held.

Obama 2008: Ph3ar my 133t skillz, by****. [Wink]

Oh, yes, we definitely seem to be going the "bread and circuses" route.

I was mulling a while back in regard to Card's works that one of the most optimistic- and perhaps, the most naive- of the elements present in the Ender/Bean books is the idea of individuals shaping the course of nations and planets. The twenty-first century seems to be marked as much as anything by unprecedented feelings of powerlessness, both on the "civilian" level and on the level of those we think of as most powerful- the elected officials, the celebrities, the CEOs. European governments ponder if their immigrant populations have become a force beyond their control; the U.S. staggers under debt, a dropping dollar, conflicts overseas, and skyrocketing oil costs; all the market research in the world doesn't prevent a new product from tanking; a single clip on Youtube can spell the end of a career; a series of bad investments in one financial sector threatens to tilt the whole financial world on its ear... And so on.

One idea is that the latest wave of "anti-elitism" has two sources- one, that a sense of individual powerlessness (my vote makes little difference, my job is insecure, my costs rise and my income remains stagnant, and there's little I can do about it...) raises the resentment of those who seem to still have a vestige of control, in particular in as much as they don't seem to use that control to make things better for me.

Two, the notion that, for all their seeming stocks of expertise and information, the "elites" have done a very poor job of predicting or influencing even the spheres in which they are supposedly experts.

Just something to throw out there.

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fugu13
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I think that's a different phenomenon, Sachiko. Publishing under a pseudonym was not a matter of making yourself seem like a normal person, but a matter of hiding your identity. They weren't saying they had lower class origins -- quite the opposite, they were adopting the guise (to varying degrees of disguise) of different people who had poor origins. James Madison wouldn't have said that he had modest origins, even in adopting a persona that did.

In public, 18th century politicians had no issues adopting the perks of status. It wasn't until later that we saw politicans generally proclaiming modest origins (in some cases with a somewhat flexible relationship with the truth).

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Xann.
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It seems like they have mixed two words to me. Elitist, those poeple suck
Someone who is elite, is awesome.

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Sachiko
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Fugu--"somehwat flexible relationship with the truth". Hee! [Smile]

I am not totally clear on the difference between telling/lying about having humble origins, and publishing political treatises under a psuedonym. I thought Madison did that in order to hide his status.

Or was he just trying to CYA?

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fugu13
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I'm not entirely certain what Madison's motivations were. Some common motivations included to separate arguments from persons (attempting to persuade on purely intellectual grounds), to provide plausible deniability (many pseudonymous tracts were slanderous), to more fully take the attitude of an everyman, and more.

However, taking a pseudonym is very different from asserting separate origins, especially if it is not well known that you are the one behind the pseudonym. A pseudonym (and made up background) do not profess humble origins of the real person. They are not claims to have been 'born in backwood cabins' or to 'have no money' by the politician. Making those claims about one's real life is a different sort of posturing.

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Telperion the Silver
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This is scary because the "denigration of knowledge" is exactly what happened in the decline and fall of Rome...ending with the church, mobs, and local governments burning universities and libraries. The most famous of which is the burning of the Library of Alexandria... the last center of all Grecco-Roman knowledge... destroyed by a rampaging mob of Christians on the urging of a local Bishop.

Thus beginning the horrors of the Dark Ages.

And while I'm on the subject, one of the greatest social programs of Rome was cause of it's fall as well. Eventually the citizens of Rome cared for nothing but getting their daily bread credits... and this was a one of the main things that influenced Roman policy in the future...simply to keep the population of Rome fat, dumb, and happy.

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Telperion the Silver
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This reminds me too of the change of the Roman word for the polling box into bribe box...

And the modern change of the word "franchise" meaning political freedom to business.

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Sachiko
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Tel, what about the monasteries that did all they could to preserve knowledge?

I was musing on why movies like Dumb and Dumber are so popular these days. My conclusion is that people very much want to feel smart, and so they like movies about people they can feel smarter-than.

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