Thursday, April 5, 2012


Herewith an addendum to my earlier “Elitism, Individualism” (two days ago). I did not manage to capture the feeling that served as the inspiration for that post. The feeling was something like this: “Odd that in a country where individualism is supposed to reign, elitism is roundly condemned. Shouldn’t elite achievement be prized instead? Isn’t that an implication of individualism.” I didn’t quite manage to say that. Much depends on precise definitions, and words like elitism and individualism thrive precisely because they’re handy labels. We read into them whatever we wish. Individualism is stretched to justify radical libertarianism at one end, free marketeering in the middle, and elitism as capitalist wealth at the other—but, in the last case, disguised using another word. Elitism is very suspect because it implies both gifts and unusual effort: natural endowments, social status at birth, and unusual abilities energetically developed. That flies in the face of individualism which, applied to the masses, is thought to mean that everybody is the same. The only activity that gets a pass is sports. There elites are fine and dandy. But it helps a little if the great athletic star started life in the slums and did not come from a wealthy family.

There ought to be a law. I propose it. Let all true individualists join me in getting it passed. It would outlaw the word “individualism” and all of its meaning in favor of “averagism.” As under the Nazis you had to prove that no Jewish blood tainted your line, so in our bright future, every person, before holding any job of worth, should be able to certify his or her absolutely average gifts and status. And those who don’t qualify? Well, we saw a lot of uninhabited little islands in the Florida Keys when we were down there. We should have a elite cleansing and make them live on those islands. Global Warming, as luck would have it, will cause them soon to be submerged.

1 comment:

  1. Would MEDIOCRITY be another possible word? On second thought, perhaps not.... synonyms for this word are unfortunately "pedestrian, ordinary and unexceptional", among others. You can see my problem with this...