Why didn’t I find out about the Carnival of the Elitist Bastards sooner? I missed the maiden voyage of the HMS Elitist Bastard!
And so, I’ve decided to make a giant leap between the dock and the HMS Elitist Bastard by creating a post reflecting on why I’m an elitist bastard.
I love the Oxford English Dictionary.
Advocacy of or reliance on the leadership and dominance of an élite (in a society, or in any body or class of persons). Hence élitist n. and a.
Am I an elitist bastard?
I just want to get along with people. At the end of the day, I don’t care if you’re black, white, purple, Christian, Muslim, Atheist, male, female, hermaphrodite, Thrawn, bisexual, or homosexual. But, I don’t get along with people. Sometimes I have no idea why. Sometimes I think that the people I don’t get along with are to blame. Sometimes I think that I’m the one to blame.
Even if I don’t get shit from kids my age because I actively try to seem superior to them, I’m quite sure that the term “elitist” now equals intellectual.
As one of Stephen Colbert’s grade-school videos informed me…
“Has your teacher ever tried to tell you something that you don’t need to know? Like where to find Europe on a map? What comes after the number 9? Or how to escape a burning building? Then your teacher is an elitist. Yes, an elitist. An “ist” worse than communist, feminist, and harpist combined… What do these elitists want? [They want] to put in our brains the belief that books are for reading instead of for tenderizing meat.”
If that makes me an elitist, then I think that I’ll have no trouble making myself at home on the HMS Elitist Bastard. I’m proud to be an elitist bastard.
Ok, so I ocasionally tell people that I think I’m smarter than them because I know the reason why the American Revolution was fought, what words like “forgery” mean, or because I don’t think that females are in a different species from males (those would be two doomed species). But, I don’t know a lot of stuff. I’m ignorant of many things. However, it’s not because I’m wilfully ignorant.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve gone through a scenario where I’ve used a term that the person I’m talking to doesn’t understand and they say “what?” I proceed to define the term in as simple words as I possibly can but they just say “I don’t care… I’m going to go listen to my iPod/play computer games/talk about my friend’s sex life/watch MTV/etc.”
There’s a certain quote which I’m often reminded of when met with such hostility towards knowledge.
“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”
Ignorance is not just bliss. It’s all too easy. Learning requires the use of the brain, and the very thought of this particular organ seems to stir terror within the hearts of other kids my age. I justify taking the risk and using this brain power because of my curiosity. I want to know what those funny lights up in the sky at night are. I want to know how the Solar System formed. I want to know how the beautiful and complex forms of life arose on Earth by natural selection. I want to learn vector calculus so that I may someday understand Maxwell’s tantalizing equations.
I’m no more special for possessing curiosity than I am for possessing knowledge. I believe that all humans are capable of learning. I believe that we all come into the world hungering for knowledge.
“You’re weird,” is the reaction I get from my fellow classmates when I express this curiosity.
So the high school students I interact with on a daily basis are apathetic to such wonders as spectroscopy. To them it’s just another Chemistry lesson between the start of school and lunch time when they can hang out with their friends.
But, I find that explaining these scientific concepts to a younger audience, elementary to middle school children taken to the museum by their parents, elicits huge grins and “wows” when they understand the concept of looking at nothing more than light to find out what a star is made out of.
Something happens as they get older that makes learning uncool. Perhaps the school work gets harder, making all school-related things (including learning but excluding sports) no longer fun. Maybe it’s peer pressure to not do well in school in the first place. Maybe it’s all sorts of factors, but it definitely seems that this is the age when anti-intellectual hostility takes root.
That’s when I truly think that I’m better than them. I care enough to want to learn. I care enough to want to think. I care so much for these pursuits that I’m willing to take all the shit that’s hurled at me for my personal enrichment.
There’s a reason why it was a heinous crime to teach slaves how to read and write in the South before the Civil War. Education and freedom go together like bees and flowers (hooray symbiosis!). I find a refusal to think and learn a message that the person desires nothing other than mental slavery.
Speaking of mental slavery, there’s another quote which I feel should remind us of why we value literacy, knowledge, and thought.
“How fortunate for governments that the people do not think.”
Yes, isn’t it telling that Adolf Hitler said this?
If you explain to a teenager that thinking is essential to the fuctioning of a democracy, they probably won’t try to understand it. Or they’ll say “so what?” Either way, I doubt that telling them that society will become 1984-esque if they don’t put an end to their anti-intellectual sentiments is going to cause them to wake up.
They’re basically asking for totalitarianism. Why not give them what they want? As appealing as it may be to ship off the wilfully ignorant to North Korea, I’m no more in favour of this than I am of wishing cancer upon someone (though there are certain quacks I know of who might deserve it).
Besides, if I walked out my door tomorrow to find “War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength” emblazoned all over the place, I doubt that they’d notice.