Monday, September 22, 2008

You've Tried the Best, Now Try the Rest

Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith, has written a damn good piece in the latest issue of Newsweek that details the religious nutjobbery of Sarah Palin and asks a question I've posited here more than a few times: What's wrong with being "elite?"

"Ask yourself: how has 'elitism' become a bad word in American politics? There is simply no other walk of life in which extraordinary talent and rigorous training are denigrated. We want elite pilots to fly our planes, elite troops to undertake our most critical missions, elite athletes to represent us in competition and elite scientists to devote the most productive years of their lives to curing our diseases. And yet, when it comes time to vest people with even greater responsibilities, we consider it a virtue to shun any and all standards of excellence. When it comes to choosing the people whose thoughts and actions will decide the fates of millions, then we suddenly want someone just like us, someone fit to have a beer with, someone down-to-earth—in fact, almost anyone, provided that he or she doesn't seem too intelligent or well educated."

(Newsweek: When Atheists Attack/9.20.08)


Joshua said...

I was wondering the other day how anyone, given the current state of our country in the aftermath of 8 years of criminally negligent mismanagement, could still pump their fists and yell "drill baby, drill!" in support of an aged man clearly losing his faculties and his arrogant, know-nothing extremist prop, when it hit me that the same religious fanatics who pray daily for Armageddon are the same people who never fail to vote Republican.

Maybe it's part of the same agenda?

drater said...

Elite sounds great, but at this point I'd be happy with competent.

VOTAR said...

I have the biggest man crush for Sam Harris. I think the thoughts, and then I look and see that he has already written them down, exactly as I would have. Uber pwnage of my brain.

I've been searching high and low for just the right essay to email my friends and family, in response to whenever I'm asked "so what do you think about the election?" And it looks like I just found it.

b80vin said...

The Obama campaign has made "McCain is the Same" the meme of their ticket. What they are failing to do is show that Palin is literally Bush. The appeal, like the "who'd you rather have a beer with" argument, of a small town everymother; the incurious let my friends do it style of governing; and the religion. But bashing religion doesn't work in a country where 55% of the people believe they have guardian angels.

So how do you use this? Palin has suppressed science, scientific findings and science based knowledge. This is a sign of weak intelligence and knowledge and, frankly, both McCain and Obama score higher than Palin. But while Obama wants to use science to solve some of our problems, McCain and Palin do not. There must be a way to make this an issue without alienating those voters who believe the movie "Michael" was a documentary.

Cpt. Clown said...

Only an elitist like you would try to defend those elitist pansies.

With that said, here's what I think:

I don't think the square states have much previous understanding of the word "elitist"... It's not a word thrown around at the bowling alley too much, so it wasn't hard for the Rove camp to redefine the word.

Much in the same way they "disproved" evolution by saying it was just a scientific "theory", relying on the fact that 99% of their base doesn't understand the rigorous standards applied that define a scientific theory. In their mind, theory = wild-ass guess, case closed.

And finally, once you've gotten them to swallow the Kool-Aid that the earth is 7,000 years old, anything you tell them afterwards is swallowed blindly... The fuse has been blown, there's no point discussing why the light won't go on, it's way past that.

Charly Gordon said...

they didn't have to redefine "elitism."

elitism is defined as "The belief that certain persons or members of certain classes or groups deserve favored treatment by virtue of their perceived superiority;" or "The sense of entitlement enjoyed by such a group or class."

"elitism" has pretty much always been viewed as a negative trait; "elite" means something else entirely.

having said that, i think drater speaks for me above.

Steve said...

Isn't America supposed to be a meritocracy?

jodi54 said...

Steve - supposed to be.

But what, other than sports, is truly meritocratic?

Anonymous said...

... The same way a frankly vague word like "eclectic" became somewhat of a good thing.

I guess nobody can explain human stupidity and the social effects it can cause.

Anonymous said...

I know, I know. I shouldn't be focusing on this one tiny thing, but... That "elitism?" is like a piece of grit in my eye.

Is this just an American English vs. British English thing? Shouldn't it be "elitism"?

Anonymous said...

Sorry I meant "elite?" versus "elite"? :)

Andrew Smash said...

The accusations of elitism are the natural result of 3 generations of "you can be anything you want" nonsense finally coming back to bite us on the ass. For the last 40 or so years, every kid has heard that "if you can believe it, you can be it." Then they grow up, find out that not everyone is created equal, and end up believing that those who succeeded where they couldn't must have some kind of special powers or connections. It has nothing to do with hard work, talent, skill, or just plain luck. No, the reason that Joe Bob couldn't become a neurosurgeon has nothing to do with the fact that he was to stupid for medical school, it's cause he wasn't part of the elite. Besides, bribing your way into a college that you are unqualified for in order to get a title you don't deserve - that's kind of a Republican thing, right, George?