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Creek Running North
July 15, 2005
It has taken a long time, and a metric fuckload of provocation for me to get to this point.
I have, at long last, utterly and I think permanently lost patience with so-called liberals or self-styled progressives who conflate class standing with intelligence.*
This offensive hypocrisy takes a number of forms. It can manifest as regional chauvinism (usually directed against the southeast, but often the midwest or intermountain region, and occasionally against California), education-level elitism, or urbanites dissing ruralites.
Sometimes, as was the case with that Blue State Secession bullshit last year - a surprisingly stupid idea that refuses to die, though these days anyone with any sense has abandoned it, which at least makes it a useful marker of liberal twitdom - you get all three of those forms wrapped into a tidy package, not unlike the tidy packages I discard every morning after walking Zeke.
I've been very patient with such crap. No longer. To borrow a notion from a bit of recent fuss over sexism in the blog world: if you spout that kind of garbage, you are no ally of mine. Until you change your attitude, you can no longer assume I've got your back.
Oh, and here's a couple ways to not only out yourself as an elitist but to win special "fuck off, hypocrite" points in the process:
1) bash people of a poorer class than you after making a name for yourself objecting to slurs against women or racial minorities;
2) do any or all of the above on the Internet with a "handle" that contains an obvious reference to your expensive degree.
* Let's leave the problem of conflating "intelligent" with "agrees with me" for another day.
Posted by Chris Clarke at July 15, 2005 03:55 PM
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Chris, I can understand why you might be irked at Bitch PhD's post (which is what I presume you're talking about). But "conflating class standing with intelligence" seems like a dramatically unfair reading -- I certainly didn't detect that at all. And I tend to think, regardless of the issue, that explaining why you find certain things bothersome is better than proclaiming that you can't be allies.
Perhaps we are approaching a state where everyone on the left is so offended by each others' insensitivies that we each constitute individual micro-movements all by ourselves. It would certainly make fund-raising much easier.Posted by: Sean at July 15, 2005 07:32 PM
irked at Bitch PhD's post
Um, no, actually. This was prompted by a few real-time conversations and three or four emails. I don't get over to Dr. B's all that often.Posted by: Chris Clarke at July 15, 2005 07:41 PM
Perhaps we are approaching a state where everyone on the left is so offended by each others' insensitivies that we each constitute individual micro-movements all by ourselves
I definitely share your concern about that. Fortunately, there are plenty of people who don't think it's OK to insult me and the people I come from just to make a political point.Posted by: Chris Clarke at July 15, 2005 07:47 PM
OK, that's funny. I just looked at the post in question, and I can see why you assumed - along with the "expensive degree" remark.
Some of the comments were annoying, especially the slams at Cal Poly and other such second-tier schools. But the post wouldn't have provoked the above rant. You're right that "conflating class standing with intelligence" would have been a serious misreading, had I made it.Posted by: Chris Clarke at July 15, 2005 08:03 PM
Okay, sorry about the misunderstanding -- but the similarities were striking, I couldn't help but think that's what you were talking about. If someone really was conflating class with intelligence, they deserve a good smackdown.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled rant.Posted by: Sean at July 15, 2005 08:32 PM
so i can go on bashing rich people, tho not all of course, for being too stupid to see that we're all in it together? that the strength of a healthy democratic country is a healthy, well educated populace? whew......Posted by: dread pirate roberts at July 15, 2005 09:21 PM
There are any number of bright folks who check in here on occasion. Maybe one or two of you can take a second to enlighten me. (While this is a 90 degree turn from the previous comments, it's still a pertinent question.)
When did intellect become the be-all and end-all of liberalism? How did we get so out of balance? Sure, intelligence is important. But so is compassion. So is honor. So is love. So is creativity. So is wisdom. (And no, wisdom and intelligence are not even close to being the same thing).
Is it that we can measure intellect? As in: Damn, Ralph, that guy has an amazing:
2) Test score
3) Number of diplomas
4) Command of the language
Because sometimes it seems that if we can't measure the better human qualities, if we can't - and I use this word in its true profane sense - quantify them, then we have no real reason to aspire toward those qualities. Which is a real shame.
Progressives aren't progressives because they always have better ideas than conservatives. Progressives are progressives because they have bigger hearts.
Posted by: tost at July 15, 2005 09:56 PM
Sorry. I left my soapbox here and had to come back to grab it.Posted by: tost at July 15, 2005 10:03 PM
I feel like I've come into the middle of a longer conversation, so slap me down if I'm out of order. But ...
Right now in the U.S., we have a VERY STRONG anti-intellectual movement. And I'm not talking anti-snooty-people-with-lots-of-degrees-who-look-down-their-noses-at-the-rest-of-us. I'm talking anti-education. Anti-science. Anti-reading. Anti-fact. Anti-truth. Anti-reality.
I'm not sure I've noticed that "liberalism" was ever really about intellect. My impression was that it was always, at base, about compassion.
Betcherass I know there are people out there who are freaky about slapping down every tiny bit of appearance-of-prejudice, to the point that they are easily as offensive as the original transgression. And I don't think they are great spokesmen for the liberal frame of mind.
But ... the anti-mind thing coming from the Right these days scares me a LOT more than anything I've ever seen in American politics. And that includes all the mainly-toothless rants of "liberalism."
Give me liberal-minded policies -- and intellectuals -- any day. They might be annoying to some of us, but it's seldom that anybody dies from them.
Tost, the wisdom issue bothers me too. But sometimes I'm not sure it's really all that possible to be wise today. It seems to me that the very DATA SET of our civilization is so screwed up that there’s little there to be wise with. I wonder just how wise one can be when collectively we're so bugfuck crazy ... and yet so confidently unaware of it.
It seems to me that you have to work for years to get some of the tweaked data out of your head BEFORE YOU CAN EVEN MAKE A START on the clear thinking that might later result in wisdom.
This comes to mind too: Wisdom might only come from BREADTH of experience. So many of us, and maybe especially some of the educated among us, have, instead of breadth, more of a DEPTH of experience and knowledge. We know a lot, but in a very narrow field — outside of which we have a hard time thinking or operating.
I have sometimes compared myself, with my varied experience of travel and professions, with some of the kids I grew up with back in Texas, and I've been amazed at times at the things they don't understand — and don't think I don't know what a doofus I am, in too many ways. But some of the stuff I understand, even the minor stuff, I can't explain to them ... because I can't even get them to believe there might be something they don't understand.
I consider myself a 'moderate' liberal, whatever that is. But, I tend to think liberals will analyze, question and research ideas in search of an elusive truth where conservatives think truth is pretty clear and black and white. So why would you study or research an idea when it would just make you question your beliefs of which you are so sure?Posted by: Tabor at July 16, 2005 06:05 AM
I don't know what post in particular was the last straw which gave rise to this rant, or which writer, and honestly, I don't care; he sounds trivial in spite of whatever amount of noise he might be making just at the moment. However, your post sent me off on a little thought tangent. It was a long mental road to get there, but eventually I found myself wondering what great scientists of the past -- Linnaeus and Galileo sprang to mind particularly for some reason -- would have done if they could have had access to the Internet. As I recall, Linnaeus gathered samples collected by students he sent all over the world to build a great system of classification, unutterably slowly and at great risk to the data collectors. And of course we all know what Galileo went through to learn and to teach as he went.
Chris, you have such great power as a writer. I love it when you use it constructively, like when you make science personal, giving away your experience and little bits of your own ongoing education here for free, and when you share the best things in your life with us, like your dog and your wife. Thank you so much for that. We need more of that, from everyone, the work of one person at a time giving what s/he has to someone who doesn't have it, to no one in particular, just whomever might happen upon it, lovingly.
If we all just ignored the rest, I wonder if it would dry up and blow away? I think superciliousness feeds on attention.
I agree. You must be very intelligent.Posted by: KathyR, J.D. at July 16, 2005 08:13 AM
I agree with Sara, Chris, and I'll be so bold as to phrase it in somewhat stronger terms: on your good days, Creek Running North is second to none and possibly my single, all-round favorite blog. Then you go spoil the effect with an unsubtle blast of vitriol aimed at an obscure target.
Which isn't to say I don't agree with you. I have had endless arguments with some of my classist friends, and have been endlessly frustrated by their seemingly unshakable conviction that poor white people who hunt deer, drink Budweiser and watch professional wrestling are somehow genetic defects. I will say, however, that in my experience liberals are far from having a monopoly on classist prejudice. And the fact that the GOP has thrived largely because of its successful strategy of appealing to the worst instincts of working-class white males makes classist supporters of the GOP if anything more guilty of hypocrisy than liberals.Posted by: Dave at July 16, 2005 10:15 AM
I don't know. I don't mind your rants, Chris, and I almost always agree with you. I wouldn't call them unstable. But Sara and Dave have a good point, and I'd like to weigh in with them and just say that the rants are not why I read Creek Running North; I read everything you write because I care about you and what you're thinking and feeling, and because I figure when you're friends you accept the whole package. Some of the people you blow up at deserve it, for sure. I wouldn't want you to stop writing about politics and the injustices of this world. It's just when it gets personal that it starts to seem like a waste of your time and your talent - they DON'T deserve that much of your energy.
Probably I'm too much of a "turn the other cheek" sort of person and writer. But you have a tremendous and special gift, and when you use it to open up that pure place in your heart and share with us - even without spelling it out -what has kept you going all these years, as opposed to those companions who fell into darkness or couldn't make it out of poverty or addiction or whatever hell they were in, well, those are the pearls I come here to find and store up and be inspired by. You can change more of what you care about that way, I think, than with the vitriol, even though this sort of change happens in a kind of silence: pearls dropping into deep clear water, where they keep reflecting the light.Posted by: beth at July 16, 2005 10:57 AM
Some interesting comments.
Beth, that's a beautiful image - pearls dropping into water.
And Chris is indeed an excellent writer - it's a shame so few people have access to the things that come from his head, and yes, his heart.
Hank - Lots of stuff to be said, but I don't have the time right now. You're right about wisdom, of course. Our culture is insane and anyone living within its parameters will be hard pressed to recognize that fact.
I think one path back to sanity - and there are many - is for individuals to make the conscious choice that they're not going to play the game any more. They're not going to get caught up in the more, bigger, better, mine, look at me!, egoic bullshit that exists solely to make consumerism more profitable. Instead, they'll focus on discovering our true place in this physical world, and they'll start thinking about purpose and community, and maybe about concepts like joy and happiness. Which leads naturally to a broader level of experience, and perhaps, eventually, toward wisdom.
As to intelligence - for a long time I was a firm believer in the beneficial nature of intelligence, but now it seems to me that it's a double-edged sword. Combined with wonder and awe and respect, it's a tremendous tool for the positive. But cut off from it's traditional pairing with the heart, it can tend toward the haughty, the condescending and the arrogant - traits that will likely prove counter-productive to humanity's survival.
I guess that over the years I've become far more concerned with balance - something our society never seems to find.
As to the anti-intellect movement, keep in mind that we don't exist in a vacuum, and that the string-pullers and the button-pushers tend to stay in the shadows for a reason.Posted by: tost at July 16, 2005 12:20 PM
Can I still make fun of stupid people, as long as they are willfully stupid?Posted by: Amanda Marcotte at July 16, 2005 04:55 PM
I don't care where someone went to school or where they live as long as they don't consider the dreaded green bean/ canned mushroom soup casserole gourmet cooking.Posted by: Roxanne at July 16, 2005 11:46 PM
I was just lost. Couldn't make out who you were talking to. (They say in poker, if you've been playing for an hour and don't know who the patsy is, *you're* the patsy -- maybe it was aimed at me.)Posted by: dale at July 17, 2005 12:00 AM
Amanda, I have a LOT of patience and compassion for people who are ignorant-but-willing-to-learn. That's just not-knowing, and we all have that.
But stupidity, in my lexicon, has nothing to do with relative intelligence, or amount of knowledge. It's deliberate ignorance. It's "I don't know and I don't want to know." To me, therefore, "willfull stupidity" is a redundancy.
By my definitions, you MUST make fun of stupid people.Posted by: Hank Fox at July 17, 2005 01:56 AM
Chris, I'm not sure what exactly the specific incident was that provoked this, but as someone who has tried until hoarse to explain that both the Red State/Blue State and the "stupid worker/smart collegiate" paradigms are not simply counterproductive, but factually incorrect (with diagrams!) since before all the "Fuck The South" bullshit started - and as someone who *is* significantly over-read, over-educated and too erudite for my own good for all my life - *and* has no patience for the voluntarily illiterate and incurious of any financial class - all I want to say is two words. (Really.)
Right. On.Posted by: bellatrys at July 17, 2005 12:40 PM
The anti-intellectual conservative movement, btw, is and always has been, spearheaded by among others, people with advanced degrees from *extremely* expensive and prestigious institutions (whether that prestige is deserved or not.) The macho "real men eat dirt" ideology of, frex, Peggy Noonan with her frustrated Mrs. Robinson lust for firefighters and cops, "real" manly heroes covered in testosterone-laden heterosexual sweat (which is btw as insultingly patronizing as any pastoral fantasy ever is - and moreover wrong, as many first responders are well-read and world-curious, and some of them are gay, and some of them are even women) - part of this is the angst and insecurity of the WASP elite convinced that the peasants are a) having more fun, b) stronger and cooler than they are.
The rest of it is a deliberate "divide and conquer" ploy, just like the misappropriation of and misuse of the "political correctness" shtik...or the pitting of the different parts of the civil rights movement against each other back in the day by COINTELPRO.
The conservative movement is trying to hold on to their power like grim death. Frightened desperate people losing their grip on power will say and do anything - including lying with half-truths, or whole cloth. Often. (Meaning frequently.)Posted by: bellatrys at July 17, 2005 12:48 PM