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re: a wall of text on the subject of elitism

07/06/2010

(aka. an explanation of why I hate the way the word is used)

There have been some excellent posts about “elitism” recently, my favorites being Tamarind’s and Vixsyn’s two-part post.  I agree very much with Vixsyn on the concept of it and with Tam on the linguistic part of it.  I -hate- the way the word “elitist” is used, especially when it is tried to be used as an insult.  The political climate and the media of the last 10-15 years has turned the concept of being elite into something they feel we should be ashamed with.  I refuse to allow that sort of rhetoric into my past-times as well.  It makes me sad that both Vixsyn and Tamarind fall into the trap of “WoW elitism is different from that horrible RL version of it!”  That makes me very sad.

elitism
1 : leadership or rule by an elite
2 : the selectivity of the elite
3 : consciousness of being or belonging to an elite
elite
1 : the choice part
2: the best of a class
3 : the socially superior part of society
4: a group of persons who by virtue of position or education exercise much power or influence
5: a member of such an elite —usually used in plural

We’re going to get a bit personal here, but I want to explain why it is that I am a proud RL elitist.  When I had to find a surgeon for a rare condition I had almost five years ago, I had a choice.  I could go with a doctor who had never dealt with my specific disease or I could hunt down one of the two elite musculoskeletal oncologists in my state that had dealt with cases like mine.  Elitism was exactly what I wanted, what I needed at that point.  Leadership by an elite surgeon.  I didn’t care if the doctor was the kind of person I could hang out with on the weekends; I wanted someone who was so skilled at their job that they could look me in the eye and say “I will fix this because I am -that damn good.-”

It isn’t just in medicine where I want that.  My car deserves the best mechanic, my finances the best accountant and my government the most elite diplomat I can find.  I don’t -want- to sit around and drink beer with my senators.  What I want is for them to do their jobs so that my family is safe from threats foreign and domestic.  But it’s like definition #3 of elite up there blinds people to what being elite really means, as if the economics of classism has taken over the good parts of being elite.

None of this has to do with WoW too much, does it.  In the end, I suppose I’d just rather people be accurate with what they say, especially when it comes to insults.  If someone is being a “holier than thou” snob, then call them a snob.  If someone is being an idiot, call them an idiot.  There’s no need to call them “elitist” or “casual.”  Neither are actually insults!  Can’t we work to keep them that way?

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9 comments

  1. …I’d add something here, but you (and Vixsyn and Tam) have pretty much covered… everything I could’ve said.


  2. I have been called elitist and I have called others elitist. I have been called elitist for a lot of the reasons that have already been covered, so I don’t feel that I need to get into why that all happened. But I do feel I should explain or describe what has led me to call others elitist.

    Now granted, I’m probably using the word wrong or differently from how it should be used or how others use it. I own that, right off the bat.

    My opinion of people being elitist is when they use factors in game to treat people differently or beneath them on a social scale. Having better weapons or better performance does not give someone the right to treat you like less than a human being. You can still greet people when you see them, thank them for enchants or other favors, etc. It’s when people act socially stunted because of their success that I throw that word around.

    Just my two cents. 🙂


    • It’s more the word that I’ve started to take real issues with, as the usage is so -broad- in WoW and generally used incorrectly.

      I suppose you could say I’m a “dictionary elitist” when it comes to the game in that I hope the people at Blizzard designing the game mechanics know more about said mechanics than anyone else. LOL


  3. For some 400 years the word ‘dick’ was primarily a rhyming nickname of Rick and was otherwise synonymous to ‘fellow’. Around the turn of the twentieth century the word came into use as slang for penis. Now, if I refer to my Uncle Richard as Dick he doesn’t assume I am insulting him because Dick was a perfectly acceptable nick name for him when he was younger. If however, I call my brother-in-law Dick, whose name is also Richard, he immediately assumes that I am referring to him with the vulgar slang for penis. You see words are not constrained to the definitions that are given them when they come into use but are defined by how they are used.

    Your plea seems to be to stick to some purist, or otherwise outmoded, understanding of elitist/elitism/elite when the words themselves (outside of WoW) have long held a negative connotation. Especially to those who are not among the ‘elite’. Vixsyn’s article does a great job of explaining the etymology of the term within the WoW community.

    The larger problem is not the pursuit of a player to be elite among their peers but rather with the elitist attitude. The notion that someone is lesser than another based on their gearscore. All the while, the “lesser’s” main is strutting humbley through Dalaran in BiS with a fistful of server firsts. The fact that elitism in WoW has adopted such a highly negative connotation certainly does no prevent those who excel at the game from doing so, it simply means will have have to find another word to describe an otherwise invaluable resource.


    • It is very much a semantic problem for me when it comes to using “elitist” in such a manner. The behavior that you’re describing is not in question; we’ve all seen it. It is the use of a word that does -not- mean what people ascribe to it that I have problems with. Anyone standing around going “wut is wrong with yur gearscore scrub” is an idiot, a jerk and a snob. Why do we have to force a word onto that behavior that doesn’t fit, when there are words that -do- already?

      This goes hand-in-hand with using “gay” as an insult, in my mind. While word usages change over time (as in your example) that does not mean that these changes should always be embraced or even tolerated. That is why I take a firm stand against the whole “gay” or “ghey” usage altogether. My stance against “elitism” and its incorrect usage is more cerebral, but I still do it.


      • Actually, what you’re making a stand against is correct usage.


  4. Elitism was exactly what I wanted, what I needed at that point.

    Actually, Elitism would have totally screwed you.

    What you did was selected a doctor on the basis of their *qualifications*. Elitism would have been selecting a doctor on the basis of which university they went to or who their parents were.


    • My doctor is elite by parts 1 and 2 of the definition. You are referring to parts 3 and possibly 4. Elite = crème de la crème = what I wanted = what I got 🙂


      • Which demonstrates only that dictionaries are not a useful way of understanding the actual meanings of words.

        Dictionaries, by their nature, are flawed attempts to *explain* what words mean within a limited space. There’s always ambiguity.

        Selecting a doctor on the basis that they have specialist knowledge is not elitism, because you are not selecting them based on their membership in a group, you are slecting them based on their *actual abilities*.

        Exams aren’t elitist. Job interviews aren’t elitist. Elections aren’t elitist. The Olympics aren’t elitist. They all select on the basis of *ability* not on the basis of *membership of an elite*.



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