I’m an Elitist Bastard

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.

élitism

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.”

Thomas Jefferson

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.”

Adolf Hitler

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.

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20 responses to this post.

  1. I’d blame much of the problem on boring science teaching. I’m guessing that you try to be interesting when you explain spectroscopy to little kids — but most high school students don’t have the benefit of interesting and engaging teachers. School becomes a chore, not a place to learn.

    I’ve found that bad teachers have a tremendous power to make students hate a field entirely. I had a bad math teacher in elementary school and it took me years to get over my hatred of math — it lasted pretty much until I had an engaging math teacher who made math interesting again.

    I blogged about part of the problem before: the misuse of labs as a way to teach. http://blogs.scienceforums.net/capn/2008/02/07/so-much-for-labs/

  2. Posted by Rev. Reed Braden on June 26, 2008 at 4:24 am

    You will never be as big of an elitist bastard as I am.

  3. No argument from me. I completely agree with you. 😛

  4. Elitism – bah!

    I eat all other elitist bastards (and creationists) for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Does that make me the most elitist of the elitist bastards?

  5. Mmmm….creationists. Part of a complete breakfast. Plus they stay crunchy in milk.

  6. Posted by Christian Treczoks on June 26, 2008 at 11:36 am

    Wow. Splendid Elles for President!

    On the other Hand, that would be Pearls for the pigs…

    You impress me, again and again. If a significant part of the adult people had as much brain as you do, the world would be a better place.

  7. You are awesome. Welcome to the Elitist Bastards Carnival.

  8. I’m with Cap’n Refsmmat in that bad teaching is a major factor in the problem (though not the only cause). Math education especially seems designed to crush any last bit of interest or talent that a student might have. So in addition to general anti-intellectualism, much of the population has a genuine fear of mathematics, and anything that might relate to it. They know they’re no good at it, so they won’t be able to understand science either, and they’re so scared of it that they won’t even try. But a good math teacher, at an age where children are still willing to give math a shot, could do wonders.

  9. I’m an elitist bastard, too, dammit. But I don’t have time. Sigh. *waves tiny EB flag while following fleet in her yacht*

    I agree that the teachers are a big problem, but its also everything else they’re exposed to – our culture seems to revolve around anti-intellectualism at the moment. Bad teachers are one thing; that can be fixed with some hands-on, fun experience. Famous people who set increasingly bad examples is another.

  10. Well I probably would be an elitist by those standards (some would also call me a heretic), But I am actually congradulated on my intellect by the people around me, and I do know many people besides myself who take interest in science. The people at my youth group seem more open to science then at your public high school which is supposed to be dedicated to knowledge (sad isn’t it?)

    One common statement that I have heard is, “I am too dumb for science.” A person who would otherwise be interested in science and math decides its too hard and gives up in dissillusionment, this is understandable. What happens after that seems to be the person either accepts this fact as an unchangeable truth and moves on or develops contempt towards what he or she doesn’t understand, thus transforming him or her into an anti-intellectual. There are probably also other things leading to the modern anti-intellectualism.

    However it most of this anti-intellectual sentiment wears off by adulthood in most people. It may just be an awkward generation gap which will clear up in a few years.

  11. Elitism is good because it keeps the non elite people out.

  12. Posted by podblack on June 28, 2008 at 8:13 am

    “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.”

    Absolutely wrong. After ten years of teaching teenagers, I think this is really quite a narrow and biased attitude… there isn’t a ‘typical’ teenager, any more than there is a ‘standard atheist’. Is there some issues involving your own situation that leads you to condemn your age group this way? 😦

  13. Humans are insecure creatures. This feature is no more pronounced than it is during adolescence. Somehow you’ve attained a greater self-confidence than your peers and so are less likely to succumb to that insecurity.

    But: that doesn’t make you better than them, and it never will. Your curiosity and therefore mental prowess are a function of infinite variables, the vast majority of which are out of your control. Genetics, diet, socioeconomic status, race, family, health… Perhaps these classmates are currently too low on the hierarchy of needs to worry about self-actualization.

    Why so disparaging and loathesome? Worry not yourself with their intellectual development; be yourself, be curious, be honest, be encouraging, and people will gravitate towards your mindset in due time.

  14. What I did not cover in this post but which I intend to the next time the HMS Elitist Bastard sails is that we oughtn’t be “disparaging and loathesome” of the ignorant. We ought to share our knowledge with them, but the problem is, of course, wilfull ignorance. I’ll cover this the next time I join the Carnival of Elitist Bastards if you stick around.

  15. Nice post, and I hear ya. I sometimes wish to discuss a phylosophical, scientific, historical, etc thought with other students, but most don’t care. Also, I am so disappointed by math and science in High School I am learning calculus and physics by myself. As for being better than them, I don’t know. Some may be curious in other things than you are curious for, but other than that, it is something to think about.

  16. Posted by Prazzie on July 2, 2008 at 9:33 pm

    Gah, I actually went to look up “forgery”, because I thought that perhaps it meant something other than “forgery”. Who doesn’t know what forgery means?

    I was looking forward to a delightful etymology involving Robin Hood and his band of merry men, foraging and forging and forgering and whatnot in Nottingham Forest and something to do with a small rodent. I love me some interesting etymologies.

  17. […] found this in the second article today: Ignorance is not just bliss. It’s all too easy. Learning requires the use of the brain, […]

  18. I have become so elitist, I really do think everybody around me is a subhuman thing, a result of a drunken pairing of two lesser idiots, which results in a superior idiot.
    Every where I go I see these “things”, in large groups, often praised and rewarded for being THICK!!!
    I cant converse with them because every reply is “what?”, “I dont get ya!” ! Expressed with a look of complete confusion. It’s got to the point where I cant watch TV, because all these inbred oiks are every where, I dare not go to pubs/clubs anymore because of ‘THEM’, and I hate having to mentally stupe in order to appear friendly and approachable to the great unwashed,uneducated and plain ugly population of this steaming pile of manure called Earth! The worst thing is the condescending attitudes of these ‘know nothing’ plebs, has though being thick and thugish is a virtue. If I were to shoot them, I would be imprisoned!
    Before anybody jumps down my throat know this, I did not reach my present mindset quickly, I am not a teenager or young adult, I have had many friends and I endevour to experience as much as I can in this life, but,…………………………………………….FUCK ME!!!! HAVE I HAD ENOUGH OF STUPID FUCKING HUMANS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I think a system of eugenics where by incredibly stupid people are “eliminated” would improve the planet considerably. Imagine no stupid kids in class to tie up the teachers time, no stupid thugs in gangs out in the evenings ruining it for everybody, no moron politicians who hoodwinked the majority of “STUPID” to vote for them, and no more reality TV, glamourizing stupidity.
    Oh well, I can always dream.
    Time to get back to building my interdimensional chrono perambulator.

  19. Posted by Nathen Morris on May 23, 2011 at 4:11 am

    I was called an elitist once, then I saw a picture on the internet that said “If being an elitist means I am not the dumbest mother fucker in the room, then yes I am”. 🙂 This wilfull ignorance only gets stronger in the countryside.

  20. Yes, logic is contradictory to public opinion and what most people think, it’s really irritating when I try to fight lies.

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