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14 May 2008

One of the most humble of great men, Barack Obama is bring accused of elitism. True to the arrogant spirit of the political elites, who wield vast powers, the Clinton camp is accusing him of being an elite. Anything goes in this political world of make believe. A man of humble origins, a man from a single-parent family, is being attacked for having some of the very qualities that made his attackers great. He is feared not because he is or is not one of them. He is feared for his break-out potential. Obama has the potential to change society itself, not overnight, but by charting new paths--paths that just might move away from make believe of power politics, command and control, toward compassion, justice and opportunity for humankind in some harmony. It is not the certainty of this sequence they rail against, but its possibility. It is his inspiring style, his outreach, his coolness under pressure, willingness to try new things that just might work that they fear. Most of all all, they fear that American voters will interpret the last eight years for what they are: inept, incompetent, and dangerous to peace and security. Why else would president Bush himself accuse Obama of appeasement, likening him to Britain's Chamberlain appeasing Hitler.

We have cause to worry. The good people of West Virginia are a case in point. It is not their fault that so many of them are trapped in the coal-miners life. It is not their fault that so many never get a complete education. They cannot be blamed if they are among the poorest of the poor economically. He or she who offers, or seems to offer, a better life will get their votes and rightly so. They buy promise, they heed accusations of elitism--even out of the mouth of a proven-deceitful elite. And who in their shoes would not? But they too would benefit from the change Obama can bring.

The Elites of tomorrow must be different; they must change their ways if peace is ever to reign upon earth--this Garden Of Eden we despoil so wantonly. If that sounds severe, then please explain to us why both food and energy prices are skyrocketing world-wide, virtually overnight. Explain also why so many hapless people anywhere have no safe water to drink? If these are not early symptoms of over-population, what are they? Poor planning without compassion? That too. Nevertheless the best of plans still have their limits and those absolute limits are making their presence known at the cash register. Of course there is plenty of food--for now--if only it were allocated properly. And plenty of water too if it were used efficiently.

Energy is quite another matter. The solar constant is one well-defined limit. Multiples more energy than six, or twelve, billion humans need falls upon earth continuously. The problem comes in tapping that energy in useful form. The well-known carbon cycle is nature's solution, but it too is limited by the solar constant. Wind energy is indirectly related to the solar constant as well. Geothermal and tidal energies have their limits as well. Nuclear energy, in its ultimate expression, has no equivalent limit, thanks to the breeder reactor. Nevertheless, nuclear waste imposes a different sort of limit.

So what is our national policy--the product of the elites? Their solution is to hide their heads in the sand! Humanity will find a solution in spite of, not because of, the elites.

Which brings us to the root problem of elitism--its many forms. When the march of technology became too obvious to ignore, the wise individuals of the day declared that a scientific elite would arise to run things. And why not? Science was fueling technology, and technology was such an obvious boon. How else could it be? The logic was impeccable, except for one thing--the human equation. Those endowed with genes for social dominance are typically not those who make new discoveries, nor are they the ones who implement the fruits of science and invention. They rise to dominance by their nature, not by qualification.

Rather, American elites are comprised of lawyers and their kinship in big business who exploit the levers of patronage and governance for their own ends. Visit the many presidential libraries and monuments to past "greats" to get a feel for the issue. Of course the typical monotheist might see these things as evidence of their divinity, not their humanity, nor venal vanity in a make-believe world.

To rephrase, it is not then chemists, physicists, biologists, or medical doctors, elites all, who are THE ELITES. It is the lawyers and business people who write the laws and rules that perpetuate the make believe to their own advantage. Of course there have been great statesmen and women. But governance has too often been hi-jacked by the scoundrel, the sociopath, or the charismatic inept.

The sad situation we see ourselves in today is an accumulation of the abuse of power that has become so common in our times. Abuse seems to have become the order of the day. How else can we explain the obvious cover up of Abu Ghraib and the like? Abu Ghraib abuse came about for psycho-social reasons that are well understood. It is the cover up by the chain of command that created the environment and system that led to horrific abuse of the helpless in the first place. This in turn could only inflame those humiliated--and so also for relatives and the society they belong to, not to mention their governors and religious leaders. It is gross folly to stay the course in Iraq as it ignores the historic fact that once ignited, insurgencies persist until the occupier departs. So it was in Vietnam. Why would Iraq be any different?

Elitism in the US as now practiced is a bit psychotic in the sense that the elites are in it for themselves, not the humanity they purport to represent. Both Republicans and Democrats are equally at fault--as groups, not individuals. The freshest breath of air comes from the Obama camp. To be sure he does not have a long tenure in nationals office that many equate to competence. Neither does he have the trappings of dynasty that the incumbent, recent incumbents, and aspirant all have.

No, he has seasoning with life itself; he has character to match; he has a sound style of leadership that develops and uses the best people and ideas around; he has ability to feel his way through the darkness; he has a personhood that remains calm in the wildest tempest; he has ability to respond to adversity with creative solutions. Yes, this may be a guild on the lily. But if we are only half right on all that, Obama is still preferable to either of the other two candidates. John Edwards, finally, agrees.

Don't get this page wrong. Elitism is more than a way of life. Those who know, should be listened to and followed, regardless of their station in life. Imagine yourself in a burning hotel. Does it not make sense to follow those who know the way out?

Try rewiring your own house. Unless you are a practiced electrician, you are in for trouble, never mind that you may be the King of Timbuktu--an elite of a quite different sort. You are not the elite type needed.

Elitism has always been with us.
In practice it can be for good or ill.
It is up to us to figure out the difference.
The media makes much of the fact that every Democratic president since Woodrow Wilson carried the West Virginia primary--as if that fact foretells the future. First, more Democrats lost than won. And what about the flip-side? Try rephrasing:

What did presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy,
Johnson, Carter and Clinton do for West Virginia
that it is still somewhat of a backwater in
otherwise prosperous America?
For an elite politician, behind in the race, to rail against a more humble and realistic version of her own profession, seems a bit like Don Quixote dueling windmills.

For the purposes on this page, elitism is defined as follows:

Special expertise on the part of individuals or groups important to society where society acknowledges and accepts the values of that expertise. Elites are typically the top tier performers where performance activity, most broadly, may range from athleticism to intellectualism. Each trade, each profession, each hobby, has its elites. So do the arts, sciences, the business world, and governance. In short, each human endeavor has its elites. It is the bell curve in action.

Working Definitions from the Internet:

1 Elitism [Wikipedia] is the belief or attitude that those individuals who are considered members of the elite a select group of people with outstanding personal abilities, intellect, wealth, specialized training or experience, or other distinctive attributes are those whose views on a matter are to be taken the most seriously or carry the most weight; whose views and/or actions are most likely to be constructive to society as a whole; or whose extraordinary skills, abilities or wisdom render them especially fit to govern.

2 Alternatively, the term elitism may be used to describe a situation in which power is concentrated in the hands of the elite.

3 See: Elitism: [Slate] for how it works out in right-wing practice. Elitists belong to both parties in fact.

Once upon a time, only royalty were elites. Then it became the well-to-do, of the Carnegie and Rockefeller stripe. Now, the latter have been joined by the well-educated in law who aspire to high office. In a sense, many scientists could also be properly called elites for they do indeed occupy another world, the world responsible for the technologies for moon landings, space exploration, and the modern plethora of electronic gadgets that are gradually permeating all societies, rich and poor.

The human gene combinations that create the needs for hierarchy combined with dominance, are likely the fundamental source of elitism along with violence and genocide, not to mention empire.


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