Thursday, April 29, 2010

Elitism, As It Were

In an amusing dispatch from the far side of the Blogging Iron Curtain that's actually been festering for a few days, Enormous Thriving Plants' Audrey wants to offer a lecture on elitism:
Envoking Plato in order to critique conservative attitudes toward elitism actually reveals a rather dark element to Audrey's attitude toward the same topic.

Plato argued that direct democracy would facilitate tyranny in a case where the majority could not recognize an unjust tyrant, or simply didn't care. He argued that direct democracy in a society where a majority were themselves criminals would produce a government that is similarly corrupt, and would lead the country in the wrong direction.

Plato's thoughts on elitism were fundamentally based on the notion that the people may not know what is best for them, and so needed people with the wisdom to make good judgements on their behalf.

While those with a cynical attitude toward democracy may hold deep appreciation for Plato's thoughts on the matter, many others would likely prefer Socrates, and prefer the notion that a critically-thinking citizenry, taught to deliberate on and question those who aspire to leadership can hold the would-be elites accountable by requiring them to demonstrate their wisdom.

This would include questioning and challenging the wisdom of the elite Audrey seems to yearn for, and requiring them to prove they are qualified to lead "John Q Public".

This is, of course, all before one even addresses the approach individuals like Audrey and the demented narcissists she imitates adopt toward elitism.

From reading Enormous Thriving Plants, it becomes clear that Audrey considers herself part of the group that she believes should be considered the elite. Yet, just as Plato and Socrates both warned, her path to that place amongst the elite is not one of merit earned on the basis of the strength of her ideas.

Rather, reading ETP, it becomes clear that Audrey doesn't have any.

Resultingly, she's content to simply attack the ideas of others. The logical implication of this is that Audrey believes that by discrediting others, she earns credit for herself.

Audrey and the lunatic she emulates both demonstrate that there is a dark side to the philosophy of Socrates: one that emerges when Socratic methods are turned toward the ends of sophism. Particularly, a vicious brand of sophism that reocgnizes no limits to what it can do to anyone it deems to be an enemy.

But they've forgotten the most important lesson posed by history. Simply discrediting others isn't enough. At a certain point, what emerges amidst that questioning of others needs to be a package of ideas fit to serve as an alternative to the ideas one seeks to challenge or, more fickly, single-mindedly discredit.

If one can't produce any ideas as the basis of their purported wisdom, they aren't fit to be considered part of any elite. In a healthy democracy, citizens will be able to recognize that.

Perhaps that's what Audrey fears the most: a healthy democracy. It's very clear she holds the notion itself in disdain.


  1. The elitist will adopt any system that advances their idealogy and power. Democracy only makes sense if they can control it.

  2. Democracy frustrates people who can't tolerate differing opinions.

    For Audrey, it's been particularly bad. It was bad enough when the Conservatives won the federal election. Then the Saskatchewan party won an election in Saskatchewan. Then the Conservatives won federally again. To cap it all off, even though Audrey rants and raves about what an alleged disaster Brad Wall has been, the people of Saskatchewan just don't seem to be disposed to share her opinion.

    Audrey can't even possibly consider the possibility that her ideas may be less than persuasive. Rather, she just blames anyone who doesn't share her opinions, and convinces herself that she's better than them.

    It must be a sad, frustrating experience.


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