Wednesday, October 22, 2008


I would never call myself an "elitist" but part of being truly free and open-minded is accepting that sometimes, an approach you consider outmoded (or even objectionable) may still have application/merit and may indeed be the most effective way to deal with a given task or problem, etc.

I once knew someone whose class-rage was keen enough that she would dismiss out-of-hand any musical expression that smacked of actual training. If a kid's family could afford to give him music lessons, then anything he did in life was automatically crap. The only music worth listening to comes out of slums, ghettos and poor rural areas and is made by untrained individuals using whatever simple tools they can scrounge, giving voice to the concerns and experience of folks the establishment would like to pretend don't even exist.

I totally appreciate that. And I have obviously enjoyed the sheer genius of many many artists who emerge from such backgrounds. We all have. But I also enjoy it when large groups of virtuosic musicians perform blisteringly difficult showpieces that take enormous work and dedication to master. The sheer sound! (Of course, it is possible that some of those musicians could have come from poverty, but it's very difficult/rare to even discover that you have an aptitude for the cello if nobody in the entire county happens to have one.)

Also: If I found out that a loved one needed life-saving surgery, and (all else being equal) I had a choice between a mediocre surgeon who was a really nice person, or totally genius surgeon who was an arrogant sonofabitch prick, I would choose the arrogant genius any day of the week. I imagine that practically everybody else would do the same if Dad's life were at stake.

But somehow, when the life of an entire nation is on the line -- a nation facing huge numbers of widely varying, complex, difficult problems -- millions of people seem to think that being especially smart should disqualify you from being president of that nation. Instead, they prefer, say, a mediocre guy who'd make a good drinking buddy, or even a sorta trashy woman whose responses to the most important issues of the day consist of vaguely flirtatious winking.

Interestingly, in the case of a musician or a band etc., nobody would ever have a problem with talent or genius, but economic privilege (and a lack of street-cred) is seen as a liability. And in the case of the surgeon, coming from an impoverished background would mean such a person could only have succeeded through sheer ability, whereas a child of wealth might be able to fail over and over again without consequence before ever squeaking through med-school. But in the case of a politician, millions of people were willing to ignore absolutely obscene wealth as long as the guy spoke like the dude in the next trailer (you know, Randy, the guy who accidentally shot his refrigerator the other day).

How does that happen? Seriously, can anybody explain that to me?

Clearly, we need to start teaching Civics in school again.

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