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1000 Black Lines

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Pride, prejudice and how to kill a conversation

Last night I had one of those moments of complete vulnerability. A question was posed regarding partiality, or favoritism. Several people I was with either avoided the topic or attempted to say they don’t show partiality toward people. In a moment of weakness, or stupidity, I said I struggle with partiality toward people.

“I think there’s a case for elitism,” I said and it was as if I had tossed a grenade into the center of the room. There was some quiet dissent and one individual proved my point by defending country folks’ wisdom by saying country folk may not have a college degree but they know a lot (i.e. country snobbery is romanticized where as academic snobbery is demonized). It was in that moment of lucidity that I realized that everyone is a little bit partial toward people groups; whether it is social, economic or academic. In essence, it’s the basis of the novel Pride and Prejudice. Admitting that I show partiality toward certain people provides awareness of the problem. Once aware of the problem, I can deal with it daily.

It seems Americans, in particular, avoid the idea of elitism because in our culture we have the possibility to ascend social-economic classifications. A sports hero rises from the streets of Chicago to become the most recognized face on the planet. Yet, what we deny intellectually we practice daily. Using sports as an example, Boston Red Sox fans are an unusual breed. They’re in a class all their own. Green Bay Packer fans, likewise, are a rare people as well—who in their right mind would attend an outdoor football game in the freezing cold! Frozen tundra elitists if you will.

Whether Americans admit it or not there are identifiable classes within our culture: the blue collar working class, the academics, the sportsmen/women, the professional class, the creative class, the medical class and the list goes on. We send our kids to school where they are assembled into classes based on age (first grade, second grade and so forth) rather than social, economic or academic achievements.

We want so desperately to be part of another group or class that we don’t find contentment and peace where we are. Using another example, Stephen King is a long time Boston Red Sox fan and when they finally won the world series he rejoiced. He’s been a Red Sox fan for a very long time and I’m sure there were years and years of disappointment. He’s also part of the writing class, and likewise went through years and years of rejection until his novel Carrie broke through and established him among the writing elite. Some writers never experience that kind of success. And some baseball teams may never win the World Series.

There are two sides to elitism. One side is that everyone knows his or her place and purpose much like players on a baseball team. The ugly side is condescending those of a different class (i.e. farmer league baseball players are often regarded talent-less by the baseball professionals).

I'm not convinced I agree with a case for elitism, but it has provoked much thought and introspection in regards to dealing with partiality toward people.

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