I’ve been annoyed lately by the word “elite” being capitalized, for example when it is stated that Donald Trump makes the Washington “elite” nervous. I don’t think those folk at the capital deserve to be capitalized, especially when they forget to capitalize the word “people” in “We the People.”
It takes a certain audacity to capitalize your profession. I mean, I’m a poet. That statement is audacious enough. I’d get some looks if I started saying “I’m a Poet”. I’m a farmer, not a Farmer. I’m a babysitter, not a Child Care Professional. I’ve spent a lot of my life cleaning up other people’s messes, which makes me a janitor, stable-hand, and garbageman, not a Sanitary Engineer.
The whole reason for dandifying job titles, back in the late 1960’s, was to avoid the snobbery that looked down its nose at certain occupations. Teachers in grade school used to tell me that if I didn’t do my Math homework I’d grow up to be a garbageman. They were quite right, for I’ve been that, among other things, but back at that time I always felt awkward, because there was a kid in our class whose father was our town’s garbageman. The teacher’s attitude seemed demeaning.
As things turned out, the man made a fortune, being the garbageman of a rich town, simply by reselling things rich people threw away, and by the time I was a senior in high school he was driving a rich man’s car. He had displayed American ingenuity, and prospered due to hard work. Meanwhile my teachers wound up with the lousy pension teachers got back then. The teachers might have been more effective if they had told me that if I didn’t do my Math Homework I might grow up to be a Math teacher….but I suppose that wouldn’t make sense.
In any case, my point is that in the late 1960’s an awareness was born that elitism was not a good thing. Elitism was more like Europe’s system of classes, and royalty, and not like America, where all men are created Equal.
The late 1960’s were an heady and optimistic time, and now seem a bit naive and absurd. It is difficult to watch the news, and then listen to a song like this:
Call it mushy and naive all you want, the idea behind such optimism is actually what opposes terrorism, and also the new royalty and elitism in Washington. It is the lifeblood of democracy, where a poor man has the same single vote as the rich man, and it is the simple idea that God is in everyone, and everyone should be respected. It is to do more than respect; it is to love your neighbor, and even love your enemy, (though that is hard, when he aims to shoot you or blow you up).
The thing about elitism is that, by putting oneself up on a higher level than others, you don’t actually believe in equality. You believe you should have ten votes, and a poor man only one (if that). And by believing that, you are closer to being a terrorist than a true believer in democracy. You are sliding down the slippery slope towards war for war’s sake, rather than for the sake of peace. It is a deterioration and decay often seen in the history of revolutions, which start out with high ideals, but wind up like the French Revolution, midst the horrors of the Terror.
Isis likes to believe it stands for Islam, but Islam has the same ten commandments as Judaism and Christianity. You are suppose to love God and your neighbor. If you don’t, then you face what boils down to spiritual physics. Actions have reactions. You reap what you sow. What goes around comes around. Those who live by the sword die by the sword. If you mock the One who created you, the divine retribution you face is no big mystery. When you spit into the wind, you should not be surprised at the result. Isis will get exactly what it deserves, and so will the so-called “elite” in Washington.
Back in 1970 I got tricked by my wise stepfather into attending an elite school in Scotland. It likely saved my life, for it plucked me out of a culture that was suffering deterioration and decay, largely due to sex and drugs, and plunked me into fresh air, exercise, and intense scholarship. Against my will I improved my brains, rather than wasting them with drugs.
It was a remarkable experience I wish I could do over, for I’d have a very different attitude if I did it again. I’d appreciate it more. At the time I sneered at the entire English class system. Not that it didn’t have much worth sneering at, but Britain also was an Empire of amazing magnitude, and I was seeing the sunset.
One thing I reluctantly was forced to admit was that the Empire’s attitude involved sacrifice and service. I’d been brought up to belittle the concept of “the white man’s burden” as sheer racism, but it’s better side, (unlike its side which kept the oppressed “in their place”), involved giving, loving and caring for others, often at ones own expense. If that side hadn’t been there the Empire would never have succeeded in the first place.
It turns out that what makes various peoples rise to their shining day in the sun is not that they are “elite”, but that they are willing to sacrifice and suffer for others. Then, what leads to their downfall, is that these same people get fat heads, and start to think of themselves as “elite”. As soon as their lives start to hurt others more than help, it is a sort of death knell.
Roll your eyes all you want. I am not talking naive mush here. I am talking spiritual physics, the laws of cause and effect: Karma. If you don’t believe me, study history.
In Chapter One the Roman emperor is mocking Christians and feeding them to lions, but turn the page and the Emperor is pleading with an early Pope to negotiate with Aleric the Visigoth, asking what ransom can save Rome from being sacked. (The ransom was, believe it or not, a huge amount of peppercorns.)
As I rumpled my brow, studying in an elite school in Scotland, I was intensely loyal to the American idea of freedom, and protested the very elite education which saved me, because it was elite. It was a strange double standard to walk through. I think what became clear to me is that the word “elite” has two meanings, and they are as different as night and day.
The dark meaning of elite was something I saw on vacation, when visiting my parents, as my stepfather took a sabbatical down in Oxford. At age seventeen I found my mother excruciatingly embarassing, because, despite growing up as a poor girl, she was rejoicing over finding herself “upper class” in England. It had taken her all of fifteen seconds to adopt a superb English accent, and at the mention of royalty her eyes would flutter and she’d all but swoon. I could really piss her off by referring to the Queen of England as “Queeny Baby.” (Americans have a hard time understanding how foul and rude my behavior was, at that time. It wasn’t merely irreverent. It was the equivalent of spitting on the American Flag.)
At that time the way people fawned over royalty was a lot like the way some modern Americans fawn over a Hollywood star. At age seventeen, it utterly disgusted me. “Are we not all created equal?” I’d righteously ask my poor mother, utterly spoiling her fun.
Likely I blew a lot of chances to make the “right” connections. Some “elite” people are so filthy rich that being a patron to a poet a amounts to petty cash. Other “elite” people can make being published easier, for they own the places that publish. Still other “elite” people could give you publicity, and fame, as they own the loud-mouth newspapers that can make your name well known. And, I suppose, some “elite” people actually could connect you to wise teachers, who could make you a truly better person, but at age seventeen I didn’t even consider that possibility. To me all elite people dressed funny, talked funny, looked funny, and were incredibly arrogant and amazingly dull, as I was dragged unwillingly to the sort of English parties where such people gather. All I really wanted was to get back to America, and the “Revolution”.
When I finally got back to the States I was in for a big shock. The “Revolution” had gone rancid. When I left drugs made people rosy; but when I returned the same drugs were making people ash-gray. It was as if I had left the French Revolution when Benjamin Franklin was in town, and returned to the Terror, when heads were rolling. I was still intensely loyal to the American idea of freedom, but once again I was confused by a baffling double standard.
To cut a long story short, I was seeing things are not simple, and that peace, love and understanding are not the same thing as sex, drugs and greed.
To be able to differentiate in this manner is something called “discernment”. It allows you to see there is a difference between the elite and the Elite. The elite, with a small “e”, are people who fate has gifted with superficial money, fame and consequential power, but remain so shallow that even a seventeen-year-old can see they are buffoons. The “Elite” with a capital “E”, see deeper.
I think it is important for people to focus on this difference. The difference between the elite and the Elite is that the first may have fame, wealth and power, but lack the wits to properly use them, and the second have wits. People need to become very sick of the first, and honor the second.
If we honor the first, and ask for their autographs rather than making them blush with shame, we get what we deserve.