There is an antielitism in the air in much of society, Western and otherwise. Succeeding in a big way, being the best, creating something new and fantastic that makes you rich? All very bad nowadays. Just ask the folks over at Google. It all seems new and shiny and unique to the young, but it’s just that part of the cycle right now. We’ve been here before, we’ll move past this soon, and we’ll get there again. A part of the nastiness of today’s particular version of this antielitism seems to stem from the intimate knowledge that we all have of the minutiae of the lives of the elite, in all its presumed glory. Moreso, a substantial portion of our modern elite seems not immune to the rampant over-sharing so prevalent today. And that just feels like bragging, doesn’t it?
There’s a danger to this antielitism, today and always, for there exist individuals who have truly reached some elite level, and all of the rest of us are pulled along in their wake. Whether these folks are humble or arrogant, noble or venial, generous or a black hole of selfish, we as a society, a people, even as a species need to allow for a place for those who openly strive for elite. As individuals, as citizens, as countries, it is critical that we set aside what appears to be a species-wide tendency toward jealousy with an attendant need to bring all of those elites back to the comfort of the mean. OUR comfort.
There needs to be room for elite and elitism and elites, though, and there needs to be this room in all walks of life. Even more importantly, there needs to be room for those people who openly seek to become elite, better than most, maybe the best. Elitism is simply a harsher form of “meritocracy”, the notion that one can be rewarded for being better in some way at some thing. Elitism is synonymous with “best”, at least when the elite are gracious enough not to rub the rest of our noses in it (see above).
What’s hard for us who are not elite is to separate our jealousy and our anger at those who are truly elite from a couple of important things. We must realize that, without the elite we would forever be mired at the mean. Part of a curve under which the volume never changes. It’s also vitally important that we rein in our apparent need to stop any and all who openly express their desire or their efforts to achieve anything above the mean by aspiring to something elite. After all, who knows which of those aspirants will become an elite thinker or doer, one who will drag us all to a higher mean?
The essential error in the logic of the non-elite is that every system is a zero-sum proposition. The only way someone could ever have more is if someone else has less. There’s no understanding of an expanding universe. The tide never rises, and the number of boats in the harbor is fixed. No one ever benefits from the trickle down of new and the better, they only complain that someone else got it first.
That’s not really how it’s worked so far, though. Whether it’s in fitness, or in science or finance or philosophy or letters, the area under the curve is driven upward by someone who had whatever it took to become elite. We can learn from them, become a bit better at whatever it is that we do or we are, if we spent a bit less time seeking to drag them back to us.
This entry was posted on Monday, October 24th, 2011 at 9:35 am and is filed under Random Thoughts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.