Sunday, July 3, 2016


The word elitist has been used to label many things. Usually an out-of-touch group of people at the top. I personally never liked it, but there have been enough changes to it that it seems to mean something specific. [1] These days it means the cosmopolitan elite. Those globe-trotters who are as home in New York as they are in other major cities. 

I won't lie, I am in that elite circle. If not in every way, at least enough to consider a few my friends. So when I read this article on elitists (aka cosmopolitans), I was not as wary as I would have been a few years ago (or as dismissive). Not that I'm agreeing with Douthat. Though there is certainly a disconnect of the top sectors of society (to include the media) from the "common" people.

But the main thrust of the article is if they behave as a tribe, even as they disparage others as acting tribally. Do they? Well, the article dismisses any diversity in these groups as superficial, and I think that's horrendously unfair. [3] Certainly the ability to bring so many people from different parts of the world counts for something. However, if they are insular enough to stay away from "the others", then this is a problem—especially for a political system such as ours. 

That being said, the situation remains that all the logic of our society says if you get well to do, you go to certain schools (or other avenues of networking and advancement) to try and increase those chances. Given inequality being what it is, how does that ever get resolved? In other words, isn't inequality the underlying problem? And pointing to the top (especially if it's conservatives doing the pointing) at some cabal of diverse but aloof group is a little disingenuous.

Nevertheless, he does have a good observation about people in rich areas being more than willing to eat at Afghan restaurants but not willing to live next to a building that houses immigrants or refugees. Same goes for those who send their children to private schools. [4] But this, again, is a matter of attacking inequality, the totality of money and basically siding with other (real) liberal issues. Would Douthat be willing to do that? 

What are your thoughts?

Update: Well, someone else said it better than me. So it's my duty to post it here. Read Graydon's (in the comments, just ctrl-F it) reply. Spot on. Oh, and here too.

Update 2: Here's another retort to the Douthat article. I wanted to like it, I really did, I'm all for cosmo elites. But can they absorb poor migrants as part of their group? Not when they're more than willing (maybe more unwillingly than we suspect?) to kick them out for prime real estate. I'm not trying to say this is black and white, but looking to the Bush years for guidance is foolish. You can only see such things (in the past) as a vector of sorts, a changing one at that. It can never be the same thing, even if the banner is the same. Similar, but never the same. Also, deflection and counter accusations work for authoritarians, it certainly does not for those in supposed "intellectual" classes. 

Update 3: And here is an even better analysis on how people react to those in power when things go wrong. The basic premise, that people go against whatever those in power say, seems accurate to me. Shame we work this way, though. But we are apes. Stay vigilant. 

[1] The older definition I know, is one simply against those who speak differently and have actual power. Usually I heard it in the south to disparage liberals. So perhaps there was some class-divisions built into it back then {a}.

[2] Again, most people in elite circles that I know are not for austerity in any form. Only those spouting empty words like "the government should tighten its belt like a family etc" are causing this harm. And, unfortunately, most of these people (Stateside) are the ones suffering from the ill effects of the same policies they're calling for. So even amongst those up top there isn't agreement. 

[3]  If anything it shows the similarity in structure of the organizations people work for and what roles are required of them. Mainly, one could argue that those up top have agreed to worship the current power and gods (money in a neoliberal world) and are fanatical in their faith. Hard to see others decrying the underlying motive here, which would be the first thing to tackle. 

[4] Not that everyone in this group is this perfect representation of liberal ideas. But even I have admonished myself for not helping out more with the Black Lives Mater movement and other threats to rock the boat in which I am quite comfortable (relatively speaking, not intellectually). Indeed, I think many in my shoes act too silent. 

{a} Memes always seem to grow and change as the people who use them change them to adapt to reality. This makes me wonder when I look at history and try to study any beliefs held. One thing is certain: they are not stationary, but one must still pin it down to a certain point in time. A vector, then must be added to it. 

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