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Categorized | Personal, Society

Intellectual Elitism

How can you make people enjoy learning when Intellectual Elitists like to point out what others don’t know and rub their noses in it?

I define intellectual elitism by judging people by what they know instead, particularly against the standards of personal biases. I find it deeply rooted in an overwhelming desire for validation and praise, even at the expense of others. I see it as a problem because, such a predisposition leads to dismissing ideas as they are being formed and communicated. That snap judgment, based on incomplete information and with such absolute certainty, is inconsistent with aspects balanced and impartial intellectual pursuit. A key symptom and clue of an intellectual elitist is that, they have early on stopped listening and they never criticize their own understanding.

Spotting such people is not that difficult, face to face I find them when it is difficult for me to express my ideas and how they interrupt me in the middle of explanation with an oversimplified assumption of what I was leading to. This is not to be confused with people who try to help others with the best words to contain their ideas. In a conversation, the other speaker chooses not to relate ideas in a middle ground by listening and empathizing in order to use the optimal verbal method for the other person. Not all key names and individuals count as name dropping, it becomes clearly so when they rattle off a long list of names for the sake of supporting their ideas instead of expressing the underlying logic of their argument in a moderate length.

Although I disdain them, I should empathize with them. It takes one to know one, and I am guilty of Intellectual Elitism at times. Such desire to dictate and lecture is a vanity developed when I worked hard to acquire knowledge and I am accustomed to the positive reinforcement of authority and the praise of others. This desire becomes stronger especially when it is not to my strengths and the effort was a challenge.

How I can change to be less of a hog for attention, is about looking at myself with an outside perspective and using the same critical manner I would use to tear down an opponent’s argument at my own pettiness. It’s kind of hard to do, and having good friends who tear you a “new one” and teach you not to take yourself too seriously helps immensely. Self deprecation or Humility has a practical use in learning, it allows me to criticize myself and remember I still have so much more to learn. Such a virtue should be carried over to how I treat others and their views… I try and do it often enough but I’m human after all.

Of course, having such empathy and disgust to Intellectual Elitists in myself does carry over when I see it in others. If I’m disgusted enough at something, sometimes I can’t help but draw attention to it and make an example. Unfortunately this is not the best way, criticism without trust or credibility is just outright verbal attacks. I may not know some people, but I pretty sure they don’t know me either. When broad judgments are made by them regarding what I know, instead of what was said, especially when I barely had anything to say, the proper response is verbal retaliation. Same thing goes with how I should address others, I should avoid making sweeping statements when I really don’t know the person if I don’t want it to be interpreted as an attack.

The old rule parents would teach, “when you have nothing worth saying, don’t say anything” applies more specifically when dealing with such people. Sure they ate up my time, but there is no point in trying to win the value of that sunk cost. Leaving for greener pastures is the best possible course of action, although there is no rule of thumb on how rudely or politely I’ll leave. After all, I wouldn’t know much benefit of the doubt I would have wasted dealing with such people and how I will ever feel at the point of being fed up.

The proper atmosphere, to my point of view, is one that makes everyone feel okay to ask questions that they would otherwise feel stupid to ask. Such nice people to talk and exchange ideas with tend to present themselves with some humor and would at default assume the best of people. They also pay attention and ask good questions about the ideas discussed, stopping to test each other’s understanding, like someone who makes sure he is walking at the same comfortable pace and the other person. They often ask what you mean by your terms, they are not quick to let their own assumptions about the other’s use of language.

In such an atmosphere and around such people, learning becomes easier. Such a circumstance allows me to see the different strengths and potential of others, and thus learn to value and respect them more.

DISCLAIMER: The opinions in this post do not necessarily represent the position of the Filipino Freethinkers.