Tuesday, August 26, 2008


The word "elitist" usually has a negative connotation, as in snobbish, stuck up, arrogant, vain, or at the very least privileged, but undeservedly so.

Yet I well remember J. Baldwin's spin on the word, when he phoned me in advance of including my name in the front matter of his new book, Bucky Works. He said he was "an elitist" in not using email that much, as he considered it shallow, too superficial.

True to form, the only time we really communicated after that was in person, in San Jose especially where we talked for a few hours. The guy is not snobbish, nor rich, but he takes justifiable pride in his accomplishments and skills, his integrity and intellect. He deserves to be an elitist in that way, and was just as proud of his son I recall, a Navy SEAL.

One would like to feel justifiably proud of one's team, an "elite crew" of some type, respected. So that's the positive spin on this word -- nothing to do with hogging more than one's share, feeling over-entitled.

Some of the Wanderers have been chatting about elitism in connection with a new book The Axemaker's Gift, which I've not yet read. So is it true there's some elite controller cast, pulling all the strings, making it all happen behind the scenes?

Let me quote from one of my posts of yesterday (#2553):
I think more kids should get to experience the Ouija board in their regular school setting, complete with the psychological explanation that there are more of them than there are of you, so it always feels like others are making it move, whereas you're just along for the ride, very innocent of making the thing spell what it spells (does everyone know what I'm talking about?).

If you've experienced a Ouija board, then you know how it's possible for everyone to feel angelic and innocent, and yet the demon possessing that infernal pointer (to revert to atavistic metaphors) manages to say something pornographic or worse (how did that happen?, everyone wonders, looking accusingly at their peers).

Unless one is schooled in basic psychology (a hole in many a curriculum), then one is easy prey to gazillions of paranoias, all premised on the idea of secret cabals with infinitely greater powers of coordination and cover-up than one lowly, innocent, powerless peon.

My basic rule of thumb is if a person doesn't regard themselves as a member of some "powerful elite" (could just be some well known group like Kiwanis or Rotary) yet is over 30, I probably shouldn't work with them, as their feelings of powerlessness will just get in the way and we won't get any work done. People who feel powerless are dangerous because in denial about having power, whereas conscious and aware people at least know they're powerful (responsible) to some degree, and are therefore less dangerous in many cases.
Or I put it a different way on Synergeo (#43089):
Somehow there's this belief it must all go back to one supreme apex of power, some game room, where all the insiders whisper in secret, plot diabolical next moves. There's no empirical evidence that such a supreme apex exists, except in the minds of the simple minded. On the other hand, sure there are conspiracies, duh, and Bucky was in on several of 'em....
I like to remember Marshall McLuhan at this point, and his remark to Fuller when they met: "I have joined your conspiracy!"

Background reading: Tower of Babel, USA (1995)