Tuesday, May 18, 2010


I have a speculation, an hypothesis. I stress that because I have not data to support it, and I'm not sure how one would even acquire such.

I have commented often that standard-issue elite liberals socially enforce tribal discipline with condescension. It is a warning that one might next be socially excluded. I likely have given the impression that this condescension is always delivered with a sneer, whether orally or in print. Much of it is, but that is not universal. There are earnest, wide-eyed liberal folks who don't necessarily mean to condescend, and have no trace of it in their tone. They are just commenting, with general bonhommy (reference?) about how the general mass of humanity needs to be educated about their particular cause, and we need to raise awareness about this or that. They are not aware of any especial contempt for the great unwashed, they just don't know, not like thier good friends who have read the right books.

So just keep that piece in mind when I suggest the following.

Who would be most vulnerable to being affected by such condescension, whether said meanly or earnestly? The vague discomfort of sensing a world of the intelligent, good people almost in reach - but one you could be turned away from as not quite good enough? Young people, certainly, but also any outgroup, especially minorities. The Jews have developed an American strategy of "we'll beat you at your own game," and in many ways taken over many of the wittier, more cosmopolitan high spots. Not only do we get it, we get it better than you. We can grab these spots and set the rules.

I would think African-Americans, especially bright and educated ones who hover at the brink of acceptance into the elitest - most righteous, most thoughtful - would be highly susceptible to the promised charms of entry into the inner circle.

Perhaps I am projecting. I was a bright child of divorced parents in an era when divorce was not mentioned aloud, who always felt I had something to prove, and for whom entrace into an inner circle could be very sweet. I was vulnerable and susceptible, and perhaps I assume too much about others. But it intrigues me.

It is much easier for me to shrug off the condescension of liberals because I proved I could do it. I don't have any fears that I wasn't clever enough or socially aware of subtle cues that progressives identify each other with. I did it, and I have to tell you it's not that hard to be a liberal. It is far more socially demanding, sensing the room and knowing where to get reinforcement for your sense of superiority, than it is intellectually demanding.


boxty said...

I think both the left and the right do it but on different issues and maybe with less vinegar from the right.

Reminds me of a sermon from a few weeks ago on Ephesians 2. Specifically the "circumcised" Christians felt self righteous towards the "uncircumcised" because they weren't following the law. In the same regard, the "uncircumcised" could easily become self-righteous if they didn't keep their motivations in check when dealing with the "circumcised."

P.S.: Thanks for answering my question from a few weeks ago on another thread.

Donna B. said...

You didn't quite make it into the group that prided itself on being rude, crude, and socially unacceptable?

I'm only half joking because I never felt as if I were a member of any group. I've been an outsider all my life... I realized this during my high school years.

In some ways I am envious of my little sister who is... who can be... a complete liberal progressive type. She can form alliances with others that I cannot. I see that others are also able to form alliances with what I call the ultra-conservatives that I can't do either.

I dislike extremes, yet I also dislike the middle at times. Some issues are not amenable to ambivalence.

who, me? said...

In addition, it's probably a matter of temperament and personality structure. Especially the Myers Briggs Intuitive Feeler [NT] types are extremely sensitive to what they think others think of them. It is apparently experienced as "caring about others," but in my observation it is primarily "caring about [what others think of me]." Some of them appear almost phobic about threatened rejection or "appearing unfeeling," eclipsing much interest in the innate logic or actual consequences of a position.

Thinkers [T]'s often experience their lack of these proclivities as comparative outsiderdom, but, even when they want to, can't capitulate to the tribe in the same way. Fact-and-sensor types [S] generally employ a little more scepticism on Big Ideals.

However, the vulnerable groups you identify seem to be affected regardless of type. It's just that the T and S types experience mismatch earlier.

Retriever said...

Romans 7:19 New International Version (©1984)
For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing.

A hypocrite is different from a sinner. St Paul reminded us that we are all sinners. Many people on both sides of the polical spectrum are gleeful over the sins of the publicly righteous. We rightly hate Pharisaical types who condemn us mere fallible mortals because we cannot maintain their apparent high standards. But none of us could stand too much scrutiny. Eliot opined that "Human beings cannot bear too much reality"

Also. I find personally that I most vehemently condemn sins I struggle against myself. If one flirts at a party w a handsome person but manages to escape without doing anything about it, how vehemently one will condemn philandering politicians the next day.

Mary S said...

Bonhommy or I think bonhomie: bonhomme good-natured man. It is used commonly in french countries and I can recall saying it as a child. It has a special reference for children, during ice carnival season in Quebec. A bonhomme was a snowball ban (with obligatory scarf and tuque) and I recall having a key chain with the character on it. http://www.carnaval.qc.ca/en

I am not commenting on your post because it is of the style, that I enjoy thinking about, before saying anything.

Ben-David said...

Don't kid yourself - many otherwise accomplished Jews are still desperately insecure about their position.

Many liberal Jews feel a squeamishness about supporting Israel that can still be traced back to ethnic/minority shame.
Israeli=Jew=not "in"

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Mary S - I was far less cosmopolitan on that bonhommy reference. That's how Eeyore says it in Winnie-the-Pooh.

Ben-David. I have known this, but it is far less pronounced in a hospital setting, so I keep forgetting it.

Sam L. said...

Most of us have graduated from high school, but there seem to be many who are still stuck in the middle-/junior-high/high-school clique mindset. Which seems to be what you describe. ("We are the in-crowd; you could be in with the in-crowd if you're good enough, or accepted if you're subservient enough.")