Saturday, September 23, 2017

We Among the Left and Right

Calling someone a name serves to bolster ourselves.  We might imagine that, metaphorically, when we call someone "stupid" or "reprehensible" that we look to left and right to see those others who agree with us.  We expect to be agreed with ~ that's the point in using a label.  We presume that our tribe will also see those people as silly.  Or reprehensible.  Or, as came up today, "elitist."

No one stops and thinks before using a label what the label really means.  It's a gut response.  I hear something that sounds like I might personally be disenfranchised from something and immediately I slap an elitist label on that thing.  It is a terrifically safe label!  There will always be others to the left and right who are also afraid of being disenfranchised, so I am certainly in good company.  And that's what elitists do; they create rules and restrictions, measurements and boundary lines, just to keep out people who are "good enough."  You there.  Yes, you.  Get out of here.  You're not good enough.

As a personal right, we have decided at this late date in civilization that achievement, experience, training, perseverance and personal effort have no right to disenfranchise people who have achieved nothing, experienced little, despised training, quit and have as yet achieved nothing of note.  That is how our society has chosen to define "equality."

If my death is mourned by hundreds of people, that is in no way proof that I lived a better life, that I gave more to my community or that my effort to be a better human deserves recognition.  The fellow who dies and is not discovered until the neighbors begin to complain about the smell, who is tagged and buried without anyone noticing except the services compelled to deal with the body, is just as good a person, just as important, just as valuable as I am.  That is what equality means.

And all the people on our left and all the people on our right who are terrified that it might not be true are shouting elitist just as loudly as they can, in the hopes that the noise will drown out reason.

Yet, in spite of the name-calling, we live in a fantastically elite society, where every move and action of the few noticed, "important" people of the world are given free rein to be as abusive, selfish, smug, profligate, physically aggressive and incorrect as they wish to be, because they are well-known.  Celebrities beat their spouses, scream racist epithets, get hauled into court for sentences that are a joke, casually make plans to disenfranchise tens of millions of people from health care and nothing happens.  Nothing happens.  They lose a few hours of playing sports or have to give up a few thousand of their millions of dollars or they get elected again, and we rush off to see them play a game or perform in a film and we're happy to be there.  Because the society is so elitist we're disassociated from it.

Let the guy in the next blog window, the guy with no power, the guy whose name you will never think of again, say something about why inexperienced people shouldn't be given a voice, and hatred of elitism will rain from the sky ~ for ten or fifteen minutes.  But let the actual people in power, who have guns in their holsters, drag people from their cars and beat them to death with a methodical terrorist agenda to disenfranchise millions of people, and yeah, well, the world's not fair.

The name callers of the world fight the battles they think they can win.  That's the point of it.  There's a risk in saying Chris Brown is an asshole for beating the shit out of Rihanna because one of the people on the left or right might still like Chris Brown.  That might start a fight.  And whatever, it's not like Chris Brown is going to stop being famous or rich or completely oblivious of me.  I really can't win that fight.  But this no-name dude on the internet, who has written a 23-word sentence on a chat window, HIM I think I can take.  So I gear up and take him because, well, he's within my reach.

Because we do live in an elitist society and we know what's in our reach.  We know it instinctively.  We don't have to be told.  All we want is to pretend it isn't so.  It isn't real.  I'm just as good as anyone else, certainly as good as Chris Brown and all the other famous people who are free to spew whatever bullshit they want because they're famous.  Maybe ~ hey, maybe ~ one day I might even get lucky enough to be one of those celebrities.

So we tell ourselves.  So don't tell us the fence is there to keep us out.  It's there to keep other people out, not us.  We're just as good as anyone.  Even if we are just a made-up avatar on the internet.  Among hundreds of others, just like us, above and below us in the chat window.  Fighting each other to make sure that none of us faceless, bodiless, disposable people here on the ground ever think of ourselves as better than our "equals."

My, my, my, we've got to fight so hard for this "equality" thing, or we might just lose it.


Drain said...

Agreed, Alexis, we are all just crabs in a bucket, the ole'tall poppy syndrome well on display.

Too much elitism means no empathy and a sliding descent into atrocity whereas too little elitism means getting boxed with the lowest common denominator, a lot of utopic scenario drafting and no drive for betterment whenever it is at the expense of others, sacrificing greater goods in favour of avoiding minor ills.

Jury's still out on this, after all these millenia. But we inch ever into collective betterment, sometimes on account of one and despite the other, sometimes the other way around.

It's all about being one while successfuly impersonating the other,

Drain said...

Meaning that the grand shapers of change have ever had to learn as a lesson zero of sorts that it is necessary to bridge an understanding with the common folk, lest one be cast down into the dirt with the rest of the low-standing poppies and crab-types.