Friday, August 19, 2005

Liberal Elites?

What IS it with conservatives and their pejorative use of "liberal elites"? I hear this term being bandied about in reference to coastal city-dwellers and academics, mostly. The claim is a textbook straw man argument, but let's play along for just a moment. "Liberal elites" are supposedly "openly contemptuous of traditional American virtues such as faith in God, patriotism, and self-reliance which they are intent on destroying."

(Incidentally -- I've scoured the web looking for a widely-agreed upon definition of precisely what constitutes a "liberal elite", and not surprisingly, have found none save for the above. Conservatives could just as easily use the term "polka-dotted bloisybonks" for all the evidence provided that they exist.)

These allegations are pure bullshit. The primary opposition liberals have to "traditional American virtues" is the insistence that the right wing define everyone's values, as a matter of law, no less. "Faith in God" is shared by liberals and conservatives alike, the difference being that conservatives want to define God for everyone, too. The only "patriotism" liberals tend to abhor is the rabid flag-waving kind that's more jingoistic than noble. "Self-reliance" is just as attractive to liberals as it is to conservatives, except that liberals believe how we treat the least of us is a measure of who we are as a nation (conservatives apparently prefer the "Fuck 'em if they're unemployed" approach). And unless liberals are willing to just roll over and let the "traditional values" crowd reconstruct culture and law in one fell swoop, they're apparently "intent on destroying" America. Um.... yeah, ok. Could this argument BE any more sophomoric? My imagination doesn't travel such a pedestrian path, so it's hard for me to say.

As to the supposed purveyors of "liberal elitism" (city folks and the Professor set), I have a few questions of conservatives:

Since when is being educated something to sneer at? Is it the big words that make you nervous? Are you suggesting that the Hamburger Helper approach to socio-political critique is somehow superior? Watch Fox, add Tradition and let simmer for 10 minutes? How is it that we value college educations, insist that all of our children get them, and then piss and moan when the college educated then question the status quo? Don't we send our kids to college precisely to develop critical thinking skills? Then why do conservatives then bitch and moan when those skills are put into practice?

Indoctrination and stubborn adherence to the "way it's always been" is the purview of organized religion, not academia. Academics challenge absolutes, question established norms, and broaden understanding in the process. That's their job. It should then come as no surprise that there's a dearth of conservatives in universities. Folks that venerate the status quo are typically disinterested in new perspectives, progressive change and discovery. This is what makes them conservatives by default, and conversely, the very thing that defines liberals. That universities are stuffed to the gills with liberal professors should surprise no one except dimmest among us.

And why is it that the political opinions of people living in densely populated, ethnically rich communities are somehow "less American" than those of the average mid-west rural resident? City folks have critically valuable contributions to the political process, for obvious reasons: they have to live with and thrive amongst diversity every day. They don't have the luxury of an insular existence in which every neighbor shares their every perspective. They don't get to rest on the laurels of a WASPy worldview, because a walk down any city block will put them face-to-face with a multitude of races and nationalities, each with its own value set and ethical framework. As a result, successful metro living demands tolerance and cooperation. Nevertheless, conservatives would have us believe that the Bible-belt worldview is somehow "better". Ok, well, let's take a snap shot of one of these communities:

Wide-Spot-In-The-Road, Oklahoma: Population 957. Ethic mix - 98% white, 2% latino. Religious mix - 80% Protestant, 10% Catholic, 10% vaguely Lutheran. Only one stop light on Main street. Dry county, replete with blue laws and Bingo night at the Elk's lodge every Saturday. Most of the town attends church on Sundays, and everyone goes on major holidays. Unemployment rates are about average, and the bulk of residents are farmers or factory workers. Crime rates are low, most folks don't even bother to lock their doors at night. Virtually all are members of traditional nuclear families, with relatives living close by. All in all, a very Rockwellian existence. It sounds kind of nice, actually, if you're into a quiet life. I have nothing against these people, nor do I think their views are any less valuable to our political landscape than their hustle & bustle city-dwelling cousins. Hell, I LIVE in one of these small towns (after having spent most of my life in Los Angeles) and understand their appeal.

But according to right-wing pundits, we're to believe that the value set born of these communities should form the exclusive underpinning of our laws, customs and policies? That it's reasonable to expect that this group is wholly qualified to address racial tensions? Gun control laws? Religious tolerance? Homosexual rights? Public school curriculum? Welfare policy? Reproductive rights?

This is an incredibly obtuse view. Our legal system did away with white-male-only juries because of their incapacity to act as peers to defendants. How is it that this same incapacity isn't recognized when glorifying the value set of one community over all others? Folks from the Bible-belt often literally cannot conceive of the issues faced by their metropolitan cousins, and making their perspective the benchmark is bound to result in de facto discriminatory policy. You simply cannot speak to what you do not know.

I'm going to give far more credence to the definition of "tolerance" as espoused by a New York City resident than I would of one made by a Cedar Rapids local. I'll defer to the concerns of a Stonewall riots veteran before I'll listen to the World According to Reverend Phelps when it comes to discrimination against homosexuals. And I'm going to be far more inclined to take the advice of a Detroit social worker regarding welfare reform long before I listen to the virtues of funding cuts exalted by a Salt Lake City dilettante.

Perspective, people, perspective. Recognizing the inadequacy of a homogeneous worldview does not constitute elitism,
moral relativism, or secular humanism. Instead, it acknowledges the impossibility of satisfying a population of 295 million people with pedantic morals, customs and laws. And if conservatives want to criticize liberals for taking a condescending view of people that fundamentally don't grasp this fact, then fine. Insisting that we can force the 21st century genie back into the bottle and legislate a return to 18th century culture is pure stupidity on the face of it, and advocates of such a notion deserve to be called the fools they are.

13 comments:

Lily said...

Back talk from the small town housewife.....
While I generally applaud your effort and agree with a good portion, there is something nagging at me. The contrarian side cannot help but point out that what you wrote sure smells like textbook liberal elitism!! Complete with condescending snipes about not liking the big words.. As you know, many people with large vocabularies are pretty conceptually ignorant, or socially inept, or have the emotional IQ of a housefly...often very smart educated people can write volumes but cannot sort their own mail or cook dinner. Perhaps partly, it is because mundane tasks are beneath these EDUCATED sophisticates. They mock small towns and lament their lost diversity. Certainly they are free to move back. Autonomy is a great thing when recognized.
And certainly nobody needs to think of children, stability, extended families, etc. compared to the draw of the well paying city! Why stay put anywhere? Why expose a child to familiarity, stability, community ,TREES- when they can breathe pollution waiting for mom to finish yoga before dashing to Starbucks!! At least there, children cannot easily be shielded from diversity by parents that hide them from their hick neighbors!!! ... (thankfully compensated for by watching Dora while we blog. )
And see, I find a decided lack of diversity at many of the universities you speak of-hardly a minicosm of an ethnically/intellectually diverse world at large! And yet you claim the tolerant liberal elitists hide out there.. Its called tenure. Tenure to a liberal means freedom to teach REAL ideas. Tenure to a conservative means having a student assistant do the teaching while students pay full price for this dedicated professor. (a joke) BUT-Wonder why they would prefer an environment presorted by admission standards???? Sounds oddly like a community with no low income housing or rentals! A presort, a filter. But what of the noble quest to challenge their open minds? I find that to be a bad example of busting the mold. Perhaps we liberals protest too much???
As for me, I prefer less soap box, more sand box. I think the argument can be made that talk does not equal action, intelligence without a component of sharing is self serving and unrewarding at least where I am concerned. See, so much of this type of chat is sterile, hypothetical. Fixed in labels and immovable pigeon holes. Us versus them. Stale.
I cannot articulate it as well, possibly because I am a housewife in a small town, but somehow it almost sounds like you wrote the type of rant that your critics are talking about, complete with attachments of validity (i.e someone who participates in Stonewall has more 'validity' or 'credibility' to their position on homosexuality-- dangerous waters to tread, I think, too much of a blanket statement for my comfort- you are drawing conclusions based on measures of authority, and this also undermines the very nature of your position on this as you just got done talking about authority and the status quo, you cannot in good conscience assume a stance that presupposes one person more qualified than another to opinionate simply on the basis of participation in an event. If I have an abortion, do I gain legitimacy in your eyes to comment on choice? if I am homeless, can I better understand social programs? THAT is sophomoric! Ascribed authority is suspect, as is most authority.
This notion of authority you describe actually bolsters the "religious right" who would say a priest has more validity to comment on the status of my soul- I shudder at this notion of default authority and invalidations based on PRESUMED experience! Brrrr.
It is sensible, definitely written well, but only because the fact bases have predetermined parameters set by you.. in essence, you make your case well because you have defined your case!! This is not very different than what "they" do. Assuming for example a "small town" homegeny based on limited variables assumes an inherently limited view that may or may not exist- in a sense, you are generalizing in much the same ways as "they" do about "others". Elements of truth exist within many stereotypes, but is seems silly to dispell them by supporting them!
I mean, what assumptions could you make about me? Given what you have said, I'd be curious. I have years of education, big schools, work experience and yet have a tight traditional family dynamic- I am, in essence, a stay home housewife. I have been a PTA President at the same time as chairing politcal groups, a girl scout leader in between protests... events do not define me, neither does my geography. And I permit myself to change my mind. I am neither a Republican nor a Democrat- and I have a range of opinions that didn't occur to me overnight. I cook and I clean and like fresh herbs and matching towels and I defy you to say I am politically disengaged. Or non-spiritual. While I bake brownies, I listen to Democracy Now. You have to rethink your strategy with this line of thinking. What people are you talking about, and with whom do I stand? Can I be an apologist, and be sure to tell everyone I USED to be in NY, I USED to...blah blah so as not to be swept into your dustpan??? Am I less intelligent because I often choose active, engaged parenting when it comes to responding to societal attitudes? If I read less but live more, am I beneath you? How does one assess elitism from the onset?
That said-
I once met a man who said he could hardly stomach talking to anyone because their stupidity was irritating. I wonder on what basis such a man would draw such a conclusion? Pocket litmus paper, dabbed on would-be friends' asses??? A sense that he not only was superior but possessed the near-instant power to ascertain the mental ability of another? Perhaps he could have said "I am irritated by people who reveal that they do not process things as I do." I would respond that I question the process of anyone who draws such categorical conclusions, but since he apparently found me to be idiotic, I've not had the chance for that statement!!! Arrogance is bullshit, no matter who you are in my book. I welcome the opportunity to know all kinds and can get along with most and inform my thinking, and wonder about the intellect of those that shun anyone who thinks differently or associates that with an inferiority as many on both sides do....
You cannot assume, for example, that liberal elitism refers to a blanket unaffected scorn of educated big word weilding brats. Some define liberal elitists as people who have the advantage of free time, (a resource) to pontificate and wax poetic in a self congratulatory manner, thumbing their noses because they do not have the realities of the day to day pressures many 'small town' 'hard working' people face. It often refers to people who yes, value thinking and dialogue, but who ALSO so dearly love the sound of their own voices that they prize it and give it an importance that is way out of proportion with the demands on their daily lives. They prize their lovingly nurtured POSITIONS while life carries on over their heads...
We can make many negative generalizations about these types too. For example, what about the people who subject their children to the city experience simply because they want to make more money, and move their children away from their extended "small town" families to follow better paying jobs, in essence putting careers and ego ahead of most else? I do not consider these city liberal elitists to be more informed. Some conservatives do not feel that your particular characterizations match theirs. Just because you define it that way does not make it so. Labels do not dictate our behaviors. Does our Republican government not spend, spend, spend? It doesnt measure up with the script, you see. Neither does religion, geography, population density, or per capita degrees. It just reduces us from people into POSITIONS.
My point being- and I say it so much you'll probably slap me- is that I think generalizations and predetermined debates do not offer much in the way of growth. From either side. I agree that there is a degree of suspicion surrounding people that challenge the "status quo" but I ALSO do NOT necessarily think that change is necessarily for the better, that all things should be viewed on their merits and more thought needs to be given to unintended consequences.
Is it better to be well educated and politically astute but one's kids are off playing in traffic while we craft a witty piece? Proportion, with less emphasis on putting people into extreme categories i.e. city vs. small town, liberal vs. conservative. See, these little digs are senseless in my opinion because they no more define REAL people in REAL life any more than your Rockwellian analogy. How can you debate the merits of things that are largely hypothetical?
When you refer to them as on a pedestrian path that you are above- THAT is elitism. The presumption, by implication or overt- that your reasoning process is better, preferred, or superior simply because you believe your conclusions to be so- is misguided. We may agree on the destination but we do not agree on the route. That is taking an imagined category of people, a hodge podge of people you either know for real or anecdotally, and then placing yourself above their reasoning because you ASSUME their reasoning is as you described above. I politely suggest that this is not always the case!!!!

Cantankerous Bitch said...

I think you may misunderstand my rhetorical target. My angst is directed toward those that rail against the supposed "liberal elites" as if there's some kind of band of latte-sipping demigods controlling the mass media, educational institutions and every square inch of the coasts.

I'm pissed off at the pundits, here, Lily. Not the small-town folks. If calling out the conservative pundits on their bullshit makes me an elitist, then I guess I am, after all. On what basis should I give them a wide berth and refrain from voicing my opposition? That even assholes get a voice? Well, they do whether I'd grant it or not, but this rant is my answer in response.

Likewise, I'm not defending city life or condemning those that choose to avoid it. (I mean, seriously, what would be the point? I LIVE in a small town, having fled the big city myself). What I AM objecting to is the insistence that the Heartland is somehow "more American" by default, because our city-centers are supposedly chock full of these alleged "elitists". This is complete and total horseshit, due, greatly in part, to the innate limitations any one demographic group has in their world view. I've offer detailed thoughts on the potential shortfalls of the mid-western perspective because that's the one we're told is "inherently superior". This entire rant is a rebuttal to that assessment.

Snip - And yet you claim the tolerant liberal elitists hide out there..

It's not "my" claim. There's been news in the press lately - that the right wing pundits have latched on to with glee - that says the average university is populated almost solely by liberals, and it's offered as a sneering critique of the entire institution of higher learning (at least in their present political makeup). These "dastardly liberal professors" are being described in keeping with the lofty, condescending egg-head cliché, and in my experience, this is directly opposite from the professors I've known both personally and as a student. I'm objecting to the blanket characterization, and if in so doing, I've offered another blanket characterization in defense, then I've been sloppy and will aim to revise this entry accordingly.

As to authority -- Yes, I'll stand by and defend at length the authority of a Stonewall vet (i.e. gay person that's had to deal first-hand with gay bashing and prejudice, whether institutionalized or circumstantial) over that of a homophobic theocrat when it comes to gay rights. If this makes me a snob, fine.
And yes, I think that if you've personally had an abortion, your contribution to the debate is measurably more meaningful than some pedantic right wing extremist that refuses to see anything outside his own Bible-based view.
Further, yes, I trust the input of someone involved in social services about their ideas on system improvements more than I trust some wealthy fat cat that's never had to avail himself of those services and sees these programs as a useless drain on his profit margin. By the way -- my priorities here are based on what I've actually discussed at length with all of the above character examples. These are not merely fictional presumptions.

Lily, you're exactly NOT who this rant addresses in any measure. And you'll forgive me if I don't respond to your gauntlet about what cubby hole you may or may not be comfortable in. The objects of my criticism have been established: conservative pundits. If anyone fancies themselves able to comment on politics and social dynamics, without appreciating that there is value to be had from the full spectrum of the population, then fuck 'em. If I'm the bad guy for feeling that way, well, so be it.

Snip - Some define liberal elitists as people who have the advantage of free time, (a resource) to pontificate and wax poetic in a self congratulatory manner, thumbing their noses because they do not have the realities of the day to day pressures many 'small town' 'hard working' people face. It often refers to people who yes, value thinking and dialogue, but who ALSO so dearly love the sound of their own voices that they prize it and give it an importance that is way out of proportion with the demands on their daily lives. They prize their lovingly nurtured POSITIONS while life carries on over their heads…

And railing against these types is perfectly fine with me. I would, however, demand a little less hypocrisy in the criticism. In the pundocrity, however, if you've noticed, liberal pontificators are vilified, while their conservative cousins are not. And I don't understand why, for example, the Arianna Huffingtons of the world get bashed relentlessly while the Bill O'Reillys get a free pass. Both are creatures of the same general mold, despite the vast differences in their political persuasions. Still, Arianna gets smeared as some kind of "fringe-dweller", but OReilly's words are treated as "mainstream". This is absurd. And far too many folks in the middle of the political divide accept this qualification without question. I simply find this infuriating.

I think you mis-characterize my point and my goal with this rant, Lily, I really do. I've sought to explain in detail why I feel the veneration of the midwestern mindset as "more American" than any other is a faulty assertion.

If you want to spank me for failing to criticize why exalting only the metro set would be equal folly, then that's fine and it's duly noted. This has been a specific rebuttal to a conservative colloquialism, not an object lesson on why generalities are bad. I'm running with the assumption that our readers already understand that particular axiom.

At the risk of being redundant, my vitriol is directed at the pundit set who, in an effort to support their assertions, would carve us up into distinctly separate groups, assign value to the opinions of each, and dismiss out of hand, the contributions of anyone not in the "Approved Demographic". If I'm some kind of elitist for condemning this behavior, that's fine. What would you have me do? Just roll my eyes and fail to object to this kind of nonsense? Sorry, but that's not who I am.

Lily said...

Well no- I would NOT have you do THAT. I would never advise anyone to do nothing. Your rebuttal is targeted at certain KINDS of pundits, conservatives, etc.- arguably the lazier ones- but in my opinion does not speak to the more educated ones who have serious responses to some of these matters. Are they found in two second searches? Sometimes not. There are some very compelling arguments regarding elitism in general, and my purpose was simply to suggest that it does not help to say things about not understanding "big words" because that is exactly the type of "one tracked" indicator I refer to. I think you know where I stand on many issues, and when you say "well it wasn't directed at people like you" I disagree-its fodder for the cybermill- and I also do not think that participation in certain events qualifies many to speak more intelligently about them. An open mind seems key to bridging the divides among people far more than honoring authority based on experience with events. Granted I do think people who have been discriminated against offer a perspective that differs from somebody elses but I don't think participation alone is key- what about people who respond to discrimination or homophobia in negative ways- am I to extend that same credibility to them? A victim who victimizes may have experience but NOT insight or clarity. There are people that march in every demonstration for peace, but beat the shit out of their kids. Hypocrisy abounds as you know, and I simply question authority based on experience minus extension.There are people who have been victims who chose to respond by victimizing others and that is of course a whole other matter but represents a phenomonon that impacts that position. The example of Stonewall and a religious zealot represent extremes. My caution is not against making such comparisons but in ascribing authority to participants in general ways.
A rage against labels is not just a rage against those who use them most openly or obnoxiously- when you discuss "their" definitions and seek to dismantle their views, that is what I mean about setting specific parameters on a discussion. You can do that, you are the writer. And as a responder, I felt that I DID have the right to give my opinions and reactions. I am not into attacking people or their resources or advantages or intelligence- or comparing one group against another or assessing my ability next to somebody else's. Watching FOX is not the point, it is my ability to process what I hear.
I have benefitted from conversations with people that can defend their "right wing" criticisms very effectively and who are not defined by the Dobson/Heartland/neocon mold. It helps to be open.
If such words do not apply to me, they likely do not apply to other people that defy characterization too- that was my point, that we are not of such limited dimensions, that it is not a choice between the enlightened path or that of the "pedestrian". We walk many lines on many issues and often are experts on none.
My perspective is also decidedly anti-ego, anti-narcissism, and reflects my spiritual sense which of couse influences my thinking on matters of snobbery and punditry. I have trouble getting past the irony of much "elitist" selfishness. If we are truly seeking tolerance and respect- it needs to start in our own conscious decision not to fling mud despite being in the presence of those who would. Joining in transforms nothing, and if we agree that change needs to happen, we also need to make the leap that a paradigm shift is in order. Why keep doing the same old bullshit, expecting change? Why act like the people we take issue with? Why talk about arrogant people who impose their righteousness with a tone of arrogance?

Cantankerous Bitch said...

I discuss what I do, in the way I do, as a result of my experiences. Namely, that an appalling number of people honestly think outlets like Fox News really ARE "fair and balanced". They're being fed propaganda on a daily basis and swallow it whole with shocking regularity. Maybe you're fortunate enough to avoid encounters with these folks. I've not been so lucky. And I base this conclusion on conversations had and witnessed over the last couple of decades, especially in recent years since the emergence of Fox, Limbaugh, Malkin, etc.

In years past, I've taken the calm, reasonable, mediating approach and really gotten virtually nowhere. A pat on the head, a polite smile and a swift change in topic was the typical reaction. This may be due to the quality of my arguments, the receptivity of my audience, or a combination of the two, but regardless - the approach (which I suspect has been far more effective for you) has simply not worked for me. Bizarre as it may seem, I find more receptive audiences when my language is a bit bombastic, when my tone is more confrontational than amiable. We can lament this condition at length, but the result is the same: it's led me to develop a certain argumentative written style that I utilize here with abandon.

Let me reiterate my overall intentions with this little corner of the 'sphere. I use this space to rant about the BS that I see. If it's insightful strategies that readers want, there are far more qualified people than I to provide it. This is why I list who I do in my modest blogroll. Readers are invited to visit DailyKos and RedState for the best & worst of the left and the right. A visit to the handful of centrist blogs I link to is also encouraged for a view into what's happening between those two extremes.

Virtually every political perspective is represented in this range of sites, and they host (or link to) some fantastically brilliant people, including some that I hope will eventually develop into party leadership sooner than later (to say nothing of the current participation of some of our Congressional reps). Yes, there are plenty of ranting fruitcakes, but that much is true anywhere. I post those links so that sagely discussions can be found in the venues best suited for them. Perhaps as time goes by I'll have more to contribute in the arena of solution birthing. At the moment, however, this is my channel with which to vent frustration and angst at what I see and hear every day.

I don't present this blog as a vehicle for change, nor have I ever pretended to. If this comes as a disappointment to any reader, I'll offer consolation and enthusiastically suggest alternative blogs that might better suit those appetites.

If (when) I feel I'm in the position to start commenting on party strategy, I'll likely create an entirely separate blog altogether. While I may appear at the moment to be a one-trick pony, I can confidently assure you that this is not the case. Until such a time, however, I'll reserve this blog specifically for my "cantankerous" side and let it act as the channel it is. Given the alternative, I don't think screaming at "Bush-Cheney '04" drivers on the freeway is a particularly wise thing to do, despite its potential comedic value for like-minded observers.

les said...

For an entertaining and less civilized rant about the "liberalman" straw man, see: http://driftglass.blogspot.com/2005/08/liberalman-liberalman-liberalman.html (sorry for the ill-formed address). I think in one way the conversation between CB and Greenlily here is symptomatic of what the Bitch is trying to say; there is no vast liberal elite conspiracy out there decrying the small town values that Greenlily espouses; there is no vast academic conspiracy turning all the college kids into sneering leftist automotons. But here's how the conversation goes, over and over: "there's nothing wrong with being educated", followed by "how dare you sneer at my high school education"; "it's not unAmerican to be a skeptic/atheist/agnostic" followed by "how dare you attack my faith"; "I'm not evil if I live in a city" followed by "Why expose a child to familiarity, stability, community ,TREES- when they can breathe pollution waiting for mom to finish yoga before dashing to Starbucks!! At least there, children cannot easily be shielded from diversity by parents that hide them from their hick neighbors!!!" Etc., et fucking cetera. Near as I can tell, the conservative (or whatever it is) response to any statement valuing an idea, life style, position that differs from theirs is to scream "you're oppressing me." There is no room for difference; and unless I misunderstood it, that's just what Greenlily is doing here--CB didn't say "you're wrong", she said "I can be right, too"; and that's just not acceptable to too many so-called Americans. There is an army of conservative "pundits" and radio voices screaming about the evil liberals plotting to take over America and its values--few of whom live in rural anywhere--to the extent that politicians of any stripe are afraid to hear the word in their general vicinity. Well, they can piss off.

Cantankerous Bitch said...

Les,
In her defense (though she certainly doesn't need my help there), Lily's point to me is often "Don't Bitch, DO!", and I've always thought it advice worthy of heeding.

However, in this particular case, unless I can magically acquire the power to fire any of said pundits, I'm not sure how else to respond other than bitching. Is that a failure of my imagination? Perhaps.

les said...

I don't know about failure of imagination; after all, dialogue is one of the things we have to do, especially with the "moderate" republicans. And part of that dialogue, or the necessary precursor, is debunking the "evil liberal conspiracy" bullshit so that we can talk about issues without straw arguments and "I won't listen to you oppress me" knee jerk responses. What, after all, constitutes "doing" in the social/political arena--much of it is reasonable and hopefully persuasive exposition of ideas, hopes, positions; and that can't happen when one side responds to any disagreement as an attack. That's especially true if the issues are large. One of the biggest advances this society has made is moving important difference-resolving to the realm of civil discourse; that's one of the things we do.

Lily said...

Now Les and others, my point was to say that permitting anybody to define me or my ilk is offensive and I think my point is often to rage against generalizations and stereotypes because in my view, that is not dialogue. CB and I agree that their perception is often wrong. That's not the thing. I felt the points were well made as they usually are by CB but I wanted to address the fact that making comments like "pedestrian path" or fear of our big words...these kinds of comments do not further anyone's case against elitism. To say people are stupid and believe FOX news is..to borrow her terms- kind of pedestrian- its the same criticism of the right again and again, a better indicator for example to me would be the way we just rolled over on vehicle fuel efficiency standards. See, incessant "FOX news" bashing is-again in her terms-sophomoric- we know that these entities are moronic. And repeating that ad nauseum does little in my eyes compared to a donation to Democracy Now and NPR or an independent news outlet like alternet. With the FOX type stuff, there is no big mystery. Thats like screaming that the people on Jerry Springer or ProWrestling aren't real. Yeah...no shit, Sherlock! There is no point in repeatedly characterizing them that way. I will go out on a limb and say that many of these people are quite aware that they are not well informed, that they prefer CSI to "NOW", that they hardly read papers or much of anything. You are not enlightening them on their ignorance. See, thats not the thing. The problem is that they don't give a shit! They are not people pretending that they are informed watching FOX, they are often people who say "I can't be bothered with all that...analysis, I don't give a shit, and the less serious the better!" They are not lamenting their lack of media fairness anymore than they cry about exploitation through the doors of walmart. You have to get at what will make them give a shit, or help them see a motivation to give a shit. Without that critical piece, it is useless. Tell the soccer mom that she pays $2.79 a gallon for her SUV because of the removal of CAFE standards from the energy bill. Don't stand there and tell her she's a freakin moron and doesn't she know what that is and blah blah.. tell that soccer mom WHY the government does not want her to know this information. To me, thats dialogue, that does not insult or presuppose superiority of position. Throwing in all the baggage dilutes the point!
I am not apologetic of my opportunities, and the conversation you described is a bit off the mark and does not in my view summarize the concerns between CB and myself. To state that I attacked does nothing to respond to the point which was to say that insulting groups of people constitutes a reduction of who we are, we are diminished and rendered no better. This dialogue you speak of-civil discourse- is not furthered when people assume that those who disagree do so because of stupidity or a limited vocabulary. If you read through again, you will see that it was not crafted nor presented in the way you describe.
And yes- she is right that I would rather "do". Instead of talking about morons that watch FOX news, I worked to sponsor a media forum that examined FOX news. Instead of cursing at people with "W '04" bumper stickers, I smile and sweetly say "Wow, I must be in the company of a corporate executive!" And when people talk about liberal elitism, I do not respond by telling them their arguments are sophomoric or they cannot grasp my big words. I simply ask them how they managed to meet us all in their spare time-because "they" will define us however they want and we do not need to play that way, always on the defense, disputing their terms. They know they have abandoned hard working Americans and their only defense against logic is to sneer that we are as out of touch as they are, that we are detached, elitist, ivory towered, theoretical, academic, spoiled, that we on the left know nothing of real American issues. See, that way they can reveal us as self serving academics unconcerned about real solutions. We allow them to make "liberal" a dirty word, and they know that as we defend the charge we often reinforce it. It comes from the same trick bag as "Tax and Spend Democrats". Same tactic. And we will invest time responding while they laugh as we protest a little too much!
My point to Bitch was that looking at simplistic indicators like where we get news or where we live is senseless. She knows damn well I am a liberal elitist, hate FOX, with a decade of college and a plan to go for more. Sadly I do drink latte's and run to New York when my brain gets fuzzy. I have academic parents and yes- grew up with big words. And damn me, today I was in The Gap. But I know that this does nothing to bridge differences- and I acknowledge that this is not her intention with this blog anyway. As she correctly points out, this is not the place for thesis writing, there are many out there qualified to write in that vein.

Cantankerous Bitch said...

I won't belabor this thread much more, since I think you and I have staked out our mutual positions quite clearly at this point.
However, as long as we're taking dialectics to the Nth degree, I have one remaining quibble that's worthy of mention.
There's an assumption in your rebuttals that exposes the same kind of generalizing you scold (rightfully, I might add, in all fairness): That I say exactly the same things in person to a "Fox News Viewer" that I do in a blog. This is not only untrue, but is just a bit unfair, as it fails to acknowledge that I have the capacity to realize that messages need to be tempered for their audiences and venues.
Strictly speaking, there's little reason to bestow benefit of the doubt, and you may be justified in making this assumption given lack of evidence to the contrary. However, such an assumption renders me a caricature much like the ones the ones you abhor, does it not?

Lily said...

No it does not render you that way, Bitch! I respect your comments, and you know that I am trying to make a point here, not attack YOU. I told you, that I am weaving in and out from both sides, a bit of blogsport. To try to get at the matter! These are tricky questions, and one cannot see the picture without getting dirty. That is often how we clarify our positions and over time, process many layers of perspective. I am simply trying to show another way to approach it, as this way seems to force people to lock horns and tangle with little resolution. There is no left and right for some of us, that is an artificial construct that polarizes on SOME issues. But there are many where we agree. Or where we disgaree with our own... but we are locked into a staredown. I am surprised you seized on this last issue, I thought the big BIG issue was authority and validity. See I think default authority and validity of opinion factor very much into the problems we have with discussing elitism.
But I do NOT think that you lack the capacity for determining what to say and when. How curious of you to say that. I can only offer -to that remark- that in "real life" I tend to ASSUME intelligence even in the face of "indicators" to the contrary and talk to people accordingly, and hopefully not in a way that presupposes ,well, anything. I am guilty of many idiotic things- and hope that I am not judged by those alone. In admitting my contradictions, and hypocrisy, I seek only to show that this is inherently human and we have to consider that! We have pro-life politicians having abortions, CB! That is why i harped on "authority" and hypocrisy. We are more complex beings than these dialogues would have many believe, is all, often we are walking contradictions, hypocrites- yes, we are. And I am. That was what I hoped to convey. And so the generalizations are irrelevant. I have an education and yet I cannot work the damned DVD player. I have to work very hard with my home life to find time, I have to really work at what may come much more easily to you. I know the temptation to escape to "dontgiveashit" land is very strong. I succumb sometimes.
I also know how easily we lower ourselves to judgement. Judging the person who does not make time for information is like judging the person who does not make time for church- we do not know what leads people to make their choices and nobody should impose those choices... or assume that they know whats best... and for either to attribute it to subjective judgements is silly.

Cantankerous Bitch said...

LOL I ask for sport value only, Lily, since as I said in preface, I think we'd both made our respective positions clear.
It was just another joust for fun. Sorry to have ruffled your feathers.

I've no arguement with the bulk of what you say here, short of the information/church analogy. While I take your point, I think information gathering is a higher priority to church attendance, not because of my own dislike or organized religion, but because information awareness is critical to the voting process whereas church attendance is not. Our voter turnout levels in presidential elections are abominable, and even worse still for mid-terms and local elections. This means we are not participating in the democratic process the way we should. And I think this problem is compounded by the MSM pundtiry feeding cliches and stereotypes with increasing frequency. If these cliches are the only bits of information people get, they either decide that participating is pointless, or shuffle off to the polls with a head full of crap. And my frustration over this was the primary point of the original rant.

Lily said...

You and I think that way about news and participatory democracy but we can respect that some people think of church as related to the damnation of their souls, We might find that incredulous or wonderful, point is we must have the cultural competence and "tolerance" (hate that word) to see validity in other lifestyles. I do not think mall shopping, getting my nails acrylicized, or watching E! is MY idea of a good use of time... BUT I see more harm to Democracy in imposing cultural/ethnocentric norms than I do from ignorant people staying away from the polls!! They tend not to vote to MY liking anyway, let them stay home. (ok, weak joke!!!!) No feathers are ruffled -- I can assure you. THIS stuff doesn't ruffle me in the slightest.

Cantankerous Bitch said...

-grin- Yeah... I hear you. I've occasionally made snarky comments about the simultaneous blessing/curse of voter turnout...