Saturday, June 14, 2008

Elitist "Trappings"

Some time ago over on moneylaw Jim Chen wrote yet another terrific blog Elitist Trappings to which I wrote an fairly innocuous comment. This was when there was at least officially still a race between Obama and Clinton and I observed that the candidate with the least elitist background overall (Obama but we are really splitting hairs here) seemed to come off as the most elitist. A comment on my comment questioned what I could mean by this. He or she wrote (who knows because people and law professors in general are such wimps that even when they say nothing controversial they say it anonymously):

"I'm not sure I understand Jeff's question. In what ways has Obama taken on "elitist mannerisms?" And, what exactly are "elitist mannerisms" in the first place? I would think that an overbearing sense of entitlement would be one of them, but Obama has exhibited that far less than McCain and even farther less than Clinton.

Unless you consider intelligence, eloquence, patience and a calm demeanor (not to mention graciousness and candor) to be "elitist mannerisms" and therefore a burden to him. I suppose in America, these are indeed burdens."

This is a good opportunity for me to explain what I mean by elitist mannerisms. (I note that the idea of "burdens' was not in my comment but in typical anonymous fashion this is once again the case of "hearing" something not said and making it an issue.) First, it is most definitely not, at least publicly, "an overbearing sense of entitlement." The whole sense of entitlement means not having to demand anything. You deserve whatever it is. In fact, one of the most important elitist traits is not showing emotion. If you show happiness, anger, disappointment, etc., it signals a weak spot and since for elitists life is one big negotiation you never show where you are vulnerable. Elitists always strive to appear to be patient, calm, and gracious. They let their workers do the dirty work.

All of those characteristics the anonymous writer values cut both ways. Sure it hard to say they are bad but they also mean you know nothing about the person. When I meet elitists I nearly always come away wondering what they care about -- what makes them happy, sad, angry. What do they really value? Is there any "there" there?

I am not sure the accompanying photo is supposed to be Obama for whom I will be voting. I just thought the caption was appropriate.

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