Elitism

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Roger Hicks, Jul 2, 2006.

  1. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Twice today I've seen the term 'elitist' used as a term of disapprobation or even abuse.

    This puzzles me. If I want to learn something, I want to learn from the best: the elite.

    To be sure, if that elite doesn't want me, I may be less than enchanted with them, but from what I can see here on APUG, most of the people who have a lot of experience and knowledge are more than willing to share it with those who have less -- and indeed to learn from anyone, regardless of how humble or mighty the source of the information, in those areas where they are less knowledgeable. I don't see the 'elitism' that some deprecate.

    Obviously to ask for examples of 'elitism' would be to invite a flame war, but I'd be interested in others' views on the very concept of what an elite is for, should be for and shouldn't be for.

    Cheers,

    Roger
     
  2. gr82bart

    gr82bart Subscriber

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    The internet makes people think they are a lot more elite/more important/more righteous/more persecuted/more censored/more picked on/more whatever than they are in reality. It makes for good drama.

    Ever notice it's always men? Geeky, nerdy men too...

    Regards, Art. (D'oh! That last sentence will get me to the Star Chamber....)
     
  3. Wigwam Jones

    Wigwam Jones Member

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    The elite exist to keep the peasants in their place, of course. Of course, there is the ancient tradition of 'noblesse oblige', which works pretty well, until someone notices that they're the one being 'obliged', which tends to increase the dust kicked up in the general vicinity of that unfortunate and his or her 'noblessor', if I may coin a phrase.

    The mere existence of an elite gives the lie to the notion that all are equal, that there are no differences between human beings, this pervasive modern insistance that one ignore the evidence of one's own senses and intellect and pretend that every idea is equally valid, that every opinion is equally important, every thought equally worthy.


    The elite ride horses, wave swords about, and pillage from time to time. Or was that a movie I saw?

    As to what the elite 'should' be for - what 'should' the sun be for? What is the purpose of the moon? The elite are.

    What shouldn't the elite be for? Whatever they choose not to be for, I suppose.

    But, of course I must add that I have always disliked the elite. And in any revolution, well, you know who is first for the chop. The guy with the monocle and the look on his face like he just smelled something awful, whose every third sentence drips with condescension.
     
  4. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

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    Roger. That largely been my take on APUG. I have never been talked down to when seeking an answer. Just occasionally the supplier of information has assumed more knowledge on my part than is warranted and equally rarely has answered most but not all the questions contained in my post.

    The acid test is what response do I get when I need further info due to either reason specified above and it's been pretty well faultless.

    To borrow from the old joke:In this club, when I have asked the question about the fuel consumption of the Rolls Royce, I have yet to be told that if I have to ask the question then I can't afford to buy it.

    pentaxuser
     
  5. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    The elite tend to believe their own press and in so doing become legends in their own minds.
     
  6. roteague

    roteague Member

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    Hi Roger, it think it is one more example of how the meaning of words change over time. Here in the US, it seems that the print media (among others), uses the term 'elitism' as a means of disparaging some group.

    I agree with your observations about the base of knowledge here. I was just thinking, I don't do a lot of B&W, but if I ever did, I would bet that I could get dozens of very experienced people that would be willing to teach me advanced darkroom techniques. People can be generous with their money, but there are so many people here that are generous with their time, a much more important commodity.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 2, 2006
  7. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    I had always understood that noblesse oblige referred to the obligations that come with nobility.

    What have you against monocles? I started wearing one because I'm strongly right-eyed and am losing ever more accommodation in that eye. If I close the left eye to assess a scene, I can barely see it with my right eye. Hence a monocle. Also a lot harder to lose than spectacles, because it's on a piece of string.

    Then again, it's curious that some people see monocles as a class indicator. Or as another friend pointed out when I mentioned fencing at school, "The working classes don't fence."

    Actually my grandfather was a miner (admittedly clay, not coal) and my great-grandmother on the other side joined the Communist Party in 1917 (admittedly when her father's iron foundry went broke through his unwise investments). Both facts seem to surprise some people.

    Your point about condescension escapes me.

    Don't fight elites -- join them!

    Cheers,

    Roger
     
  8. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Dear Robert,

    Or when they cross the Allantic. Much like 'liberal' or 'intellectual'.

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  9. Muihlinn

    Muihlinn Member

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    there are people that needs to feel more diminishing others, or writting in the most confuse way possible. That only shows their limitations. The same on the other way.
     
  10. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Good advice as always. That's why I put what I did in my signature!

    And it also serves well to defuse the "elitist accusations": Yes, and so what? :D
     
  11. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    I think that usually an "elitist" is a term thrown at people by inferior people, and let's face it, the world is full of inferior people.

    People who are cultured, understand the finer things in life are often labelled elitist by the great unwashed. Interestingly enough, most people aspire to become part of the so called elite but alas what real chance do they have.

    It is much like the people here who aspire to the Star Chamber. I'm terribly sorry but, FAT CHANCE.


    Your humble servant,


    Michael
     
  12. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Personally, I strive to be among the elite, at certain things, however at most things I am content to be merely competent. I think that when one thinks that because they are among the elite in a particular pursuit that it makes them better at everything, and better than everybody, then the word, like so many english words, becomes another thing.
     
  13. Wigwam Jones

    Wigwam Jones Member

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    And what are members of the nobility if not also members of an elite class?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elites

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nobility#Western_nobility

    The meaning of the term 'noblesse oblige' has clearly been modified through popular usage to encompass the elite of nearly any society, including supposed meritocracies such as Western democracies give rise to.

    I find it therefore germane and appropriate to the conversation.

    I have nothing against monocles, any more than I have anything against walking sticks, pince nez glasses, or morning coats. All give the impression of an affectation. Affectations are often seen as pretensions of the leisure class, who are often mightily resented by those who work. I am not suggesting that you do not work, sir, just to be clear. I am pointing out the effect of the affect, as it were.

    Some traditions happily pass into antiquity. I am pleased to discover that a facial dueling scar is now seen as the result of an unfortunate accident, rather than a rite of passage into the moneyed Germanic cultures; a permanent cigarette-holder, a welded-on cravat.

    You act as though you had been accused.

    Imagine my surprise.

    Roger - who wrote "A Modest Proposal?" A hint - it was not a starving Irishman.
     
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  15. c6h6o3

    c6h6o3 Member

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    I don't equate 'elite' with the 'best'. I agree that we all should seek to learn from the best, but the use of the word 'elite' introduces all kinds of political connotations which have nothing to do with photography. Perhaps this is what people are reacting to instead of artistic considerations. From dictionary.com:

    elitism

    1. The belief that certain persons or members of certain classes or groups deserve favored treatment by virtue of their perceived superiority, as in intellect, social status, or financial resources.
      1. The sense of entitlement enjoyed by such a group or class.
      2. Control, rule, or domination by such a group or class.
    3.the attitude that society should be governed by an elite group of individuals
     
  16. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    From the Oxford English Dictionary:

    Elite: The choice part or flower (of society or of any body or class of persons).

    So it comes down to your dictionary against mine. Personally I'll back the OED.

    Cheers

    Roger
     
  17. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Dear Wiggy,

    There seems to be a continuing misunderstanding here. The 'oblige' in 'noblesse oblige' is an obligation upon the nobleman to behave well to his inferiors; it is the very opposite of what you implied in your original post.

    As for Wikipedia, well, I will muster all the scorn I can. A worthless trifle, by the ignorant, for the ignorant. Facts are not democratic. The meaning of words may be, but I'd even there I'd rather read a definition by someone who knows what he is talking about, and has the respect of his peers, than one by a fellow who has, in effect, wandered in off the street.

    Cheers,

    Roger
     
  18. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    In the degraded substandard dialects written on bulletin boards, "elitist" is just another insult. A shorter form of "you seem to think you're better than I am, I think you're mistaken."

    Interesting that "snob" isn't much used. Moi, je suis tres snob. I wear a Casio diver's wristwatch instead of a Rolex, look down on the ignorant fools who wear Rolexes in the hope that wearing a Rolex will impress such as me.

    Cheers,

    Dan
     
  19. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Member

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    It is possible to be elitest without actually being part of the elite.

    Hope that makes sense!


    Steve.
     
  20. c6h6o3

    c6h6o3 Member

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    That wasn't my point, which is that in common usage (at least here in the US) the word connotes other things to which I think these posters are reacting.

    I prefer the OED, too. Not being among the flower of society myself, it's difficult for me to afford.
     
  21. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    The flower need not be rich: one should not confuse wealth with such things as social class, education, wit, charm or membership of any elite.

    Even at half price (anyone who has written anything for OUP can apparently get this discount, and I contributed to the Oxford Companion to the Photograph) I still can't afford a proper one in 14 volumes. I have only the book-club photographically reduced version in two volumes.

    But your argument comes back to the point of words changing their meaning as they cross the Atlantic, something that should, perhaps, be aired more often.

    The British tend to think they're right, because they got there first, and Americans tend to think they're right, because there are more of them. Both tend to forget Australian and South African English, and indeed, English as spoken in the biggest democracy in the world, India.

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  22. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Dear Wiggy,

    No, but it WAS an Irishman.

    A counter-hint: 2006 is not 1729.

    This is something Celts too often forget. I speak as one.

    Cheers,

    Roger
     
  23. Curt

    Curt Subscriber

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    Roger what University did you graduate from?

    Curt
     
  24. Dave Wooten

    Dave Wooten Subscriber

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    A Modest Proposal was a Johnathon Swift essay
     
  25. Andy K

    Andy K Member

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    It was also satirical, something often lost on casual readers.
     
  26. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Brum. Why?

    Cheers,

    R.