Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Unproductively Elitist

Should I feel surprised that after kayaking last night for about an hour and a half then getting an hour-long massage from a great masseuse this morning, I didn't really have much focus today or get much done?

Suffice to say, I didn't make the connection until a couple minutes before I started writing this entry.


This conclusion comes more from the desire to be done with the general discussion of the topic and not have it hanging around my neck like some kind albatross. After all, I have plenty of them already to cause me plenty of trouble.

The argument works pretty simple: Supposedly, liberal "elitists" want to make the world better by structural changes. This weekend, on NPR, I heard a discussion amongst black intelligentsia say often said that despite all the improvements in the last few decades, structural issues needed to get addressed.

Addressing a similar edge but also exhibiting the flipside, on the Chicago SF forum today, I read a pretty heated discussion about stereotyping and racism, the main issues being that not acknowledging that racism exists means today belies a big problem against the idea that European ethnic groups, like the Irish had to deal with racism and overcame it, so why can't other ethnic groups in the US.

The conservatives in the US call Northeastern liberals hypocritical "elitists" because they try to instate policies and laws that help minorities but don't create effective ones or show the willingness to make sacrifices for knowledge about minority experience or to improve the minority experience. Conservatives further argue that since Northeastern liberal hypocritical "elitists" do it in regards to obvious minorities, then the liberal Northeastern liberal hypocritical "elitists" do the same to another minority: the regular everyday person, or in other words, the Nixonian Silent Majority.

From my exposure to conservatives, they actually do more for the disenfranchised and not so well off. Their motivation mainly comes from their faith. On the other hand, though, there's probably plenty of other conservatives that just don't care and feel just as well bathing in their greed, so they, at least, can feel good about not being a hypocrite. Nonetheless, from my experience, liberals simply don't actively and directly do as much for the disenfranchised and needy as conservatives (even though through taxation, they arguably do their fair share of subsidizing the more conservative areas of the US.

So as subsidiary effects of the above, someone could argue that through liberal hypocritical "elitist" attempts at bettering the economic situations of ethnic, gender and sexual> minorities, the "elitists" attack the dignity of minorities, the Natural state of existence that God did or did not create and disenfranchises the working class.

From my own experience, I think the conservatives make a good criticism of the liberals in the US. Albeit, the liberals may try making their policy with sincerity and may make some kind of good difference. I believe, however, that liberals don't have a good enough idea of the minority experience because they fear going into the areas and social circles of the real minorities, rather msotly mixing with the superficial minorities that have white-washed themselves to fit into mainstream America.

I remember an experience that I had with my Unitarian-Universalist (a group that acknowledges its own "elitist" tendencies) young adult group. Some people put together an initiative for more organization in the attempt to reduce future elitism. In my own opinion, it lead to more elitism, but that's really a whole other topic that I shouldn't air on my blog, even if it makes for an interesting case study in situational irony.

The main event that struck me involved something that occurred during a meeting the initiative brought about. We discussed some organizational principles to follow. I kept on bringing up the point that the people running things and taking initiative should take the time to get the opinions of those people who didn't take as much of an active voice, mainly the ones who didn't feel confident or comfortable enough to speak up and take initiative within the group. If anything, I viewed the responsibility of those with the initiative to train those without initiative to take on more of it, in the attempt to:

+ Retain membership,

+ Create more of a feeling of ownership,

+ Have the group cater to the everyone rather than just the natural leaders and

+ To also take the pressure off the people taking iniative, which was one of the reasons that some people wanted the group to have more organization.

As a thought that I have now but not necessarily then, if the group didn't train the quiet ones to take iniative, then it would require the group to work harder on attracting leaders. In some sense, somewhat an easier task than molding leaders out of non-leaders but not one that necessarily allows for a transference of group tradition or even survival of the group.

All that comes as a tangent, though. My main memory comes from one group meeting. I unsuccessfully fought for making sure the leaders work to make sure that the quiet ones have their voices heard and even take on group responsibilities of their own. During one of the debates, though, someone made the argument that the leaders and people with a voice didn't have a responsibility to those who didn't speak up. The quiet ones got the chance to make their voices heard formally enough without anyone else having to give them encouragement or asking them for their opinion. If they didn't make their voices heard when given the chance but not the encouragement, then they shouldn't receive special treatment.

The initiative went through with this kind of attitude. The group went into a very different direction, one that still worked according to the principles of the group and to Unitarian-Universalist goals. Nonetheless, the organizing initiative ironically gave more power and permission to the natural leaders while disenfranchising the not so natural leaders or the people, like me, who got disenchanted by the direction the group went and the attitude of "change has to happen, no matter what anyone thinks."

I can see many minority groups in the US feeling the same way I did with this Unitarian-Universalist young adult group. The natural leaders wanted to make things happen and create organization, in the name of curbing elitism. In the end, however, the organization initiatives simply worked to create elitism and exacerbate disenfranchisement in the group.

So the initiative I would push to reduce elitism in the US: those with power overcome their fear, expose themselves to the minority experience more and trying to get the real minority voice heard and addressed instead of providing superficial, structural remedies that hurt everyone. And I think the initiative should start with me (and you).

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