If you think elitism is bad, try rule of the merely average
Our country rode into the new millennium on a wave of populism. We kicked out the party of our degenerate, elitist, Rhodes scholar president and put into power a man we thought we could relate to.
While we dumbed down the government, we imagined ourselves as the rich and powerful through our adoption of upscale brands like Starbucks and Heineken. If you could afford a two dollar cup of coffee, you could showcase the noble sensitivity of your palette by flashing the logo of a strangely menacing mermaid on your organicky-brown coffee cup wrapper.
The power of mass-aspirational marketing is that, even if a price is two or three times higher than that of traditional products, it’s not so high as to definitively exclude anyone. All Americans can afford a two dollar coffee. And the deafening, grotesquely effective marketing message is that everyone is entitled to it. In reality, a monthly fifty dollar outlay for coffee is problematic (and plain foolish) for a lower-class budget. No matter, we all felt rich—and we voted Republican.
But a spit shine doesn’t last. Like fancy names for despised social groups, fancy brands of middling products eventually travel down the social ladder to where they belong. These days, homeless people are more associated with Starbucks than is the idiotic babble of coffee Ĺ“nophiles.
Starbucks is passĂ©, and conservatism’s pasty populism is going out with it. Elitism technically means “rule by the best,” but like a lot of failing conservative jeers it’s becoming more like a quilt than a blanket. (And also like the Chinese character for crisis.) For example, have you heard about those elitist bicycle riders? You know, the ones whose $300 bikes get in the way of $30,000 cars? Elitist assholes!
Going by context, we have to assume this “elitism” is an expression for liberal do-gooding. Sounds great—we’ll take it! Just as Lite-Brite “terrorism” hastens us to a day when plausible terrorists will face trials instead of assumed guilt and endless confinement, improbably stupid declarations of “elitism” only weaken its rube-bending power. Bring it on.
After seven years of destructively bad government, our country is realizing that people in charge should not only know more than us about running countries; they should admit to knowing more than us. Anything else is a sign of incompetence or dishonesty, one we’ve been sufficiently punished for ignoring.
City Slicking welcomes resurgent elitism (and “elitism”) with open arms. Whether it’s Gawker’s commenter executions that help separate its readers’ chatter from the nearly illiterate troll festival that is the rest of the Internet, or electing presidents with qualifications that actually sound impressive, we think there’s a future in elevating the best.
As long as it includes us.