Friday, June 26, 2015

Examining Prejudices

Without examining, at least at present, the fairness of my prejudice, I will simply note it: when I encounter less-educated people, I expect their political and social opinions to be unsavory, derived directly from The View, or bad Sunday School, or HuffPo, or laundromat rumors.  They are powerless, they don't understand what is happening, they might vote but otherwise have no understanding how to influence their culture, and they can't even get their own self-interest straight. I don't worry about them, I don't think them dangerous even if they have money and businesses, and I think whatever evil they bring to the culture can be dealt with gradually and kindly. They either irritate me or bore me.

But when I encounter people who have some education and status, who have some idea how systems work, how power is distributed, and have the verbal cleverness to put their opponents down and put in a good word for their friends, I consider them very dangerous, possibly evil, and self-righteous enough that they cannot be reasoned with, and must be simply opposed.

Note that this is the opposite of the conventional wisdom, which regards the former as dangerous barbarians who should be disempowered in every way, and the latter as reasonable folks whom one can work with.
“I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of "Admin." The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid "dens of crime" that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices. Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the office of a thoroughly nasty business concern. CS Lewis, Preface to The Screwtape Letters.
I admit it. I want you to hate them too.


Grim said...

Confession is good for the soul. I won't actually undertake to hate anyone on your account, though, for which I hope you'll forgive me.

My own sense is often closer to pity, as if I met someone who couldn't hear Bach or see the color blue. The snide attitude that accompanies their particular ignorance -- or not really ignorance, but incapacity, insensitivity in the strict sense of the term -- is irritating, but it really makes only them look bad to me. To me, but not to others; most others seem to take it as a proof of their terrible cleverness. And that has produced many tragedies in this country, including a few this week.

bs king said...

I feel like we need to swap sources for a day. I would have described the conventional wisdom as exactly what you just said. My anecdotal proof would be the "just ignore the bullies"/"don't feed the trolls" mantra that permeates so much of people's advice when you run up against the uneducated with lousy opinions. I cannot ever remember anyone describing an educated person with an idea they didn't like as "reasonable", or remember a time when people didn't minimize the impact of the undereducated mouthing off. This is certainly prejudiced selective remembering on my part, but I think grace is only given to either side when they agree with you or at least play for your team.

Your prejudices and my prejudices seem to be in opposite directions. To be fair, that's why I like talking to you.

Christopher B said...

I try to take What's the matter with Kansas as a cautionary tale. It seems to me that many people derive a certain psychic satisfaction from expressing their political views and especially from seeing them validated in various contexts. (I won't exclude myself from this analysis). I'd caution against going down the rabbit hole of deciding that someone is establishing an opinion from ignorance, either of facts or self-interest.

But I do agree that the most dangerous people are those who have convinced themselves they reasoned their way logically to beliefs they hold on faith.

Sam L. said...

Oh, yes, Tommy Franks asks a question that shows he has made no effort to comprehend why Kansans do things he doesn't understand.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

bs king - I thought powerful people kicked folks who liked the Confederate flag quite a bit this week, regarded them as ignorant, and wanted them silenced. They might be justified, but it's still the powerful kicking the weak.

bs king said...

I was not disagreeing that educated folks do kick non-educated folks, I was disagreeing that the cultural consensus is that this is okay. I saw quite a bit of pushback to the "powerful" this week, and it came pretty much without delay (the phrase "cultural fascist" was tossed around quite a bit).

Additionally, the flag has flown at the South Carolina capital for 50 years. The best stats I can find from prior to this week suggest that only 21% of southerners actively supported this being flown on state buildings. The fact that a flag that not too many people advocate for could fly for so long suggests to me that actually our bias is towards not letting the educated kick the under-educated unprovoked.

In South Carolina more recently, far more people support keeping it up than actually like it (by a 2:1 margin), which again says to me most people root for the underdog.

I would not argue with you that there are liberal elites who do want to silence the barbarians, but I honestly think they don't even come close to making up the majority of people. I do take the phrase "conventional wisdom" to equal "the opinion of the majority", which may not be how you meant it.

james said...

"I honestly think they don't even come close to making up the majority of people"

Likely correct. But how do I learn what the majority of people think? Here in Madison the majority vote for left-end Democrats, and a substantial minority think the Democrats are too right-wing. Eavesdropping on conversations doesn't tell me much about even the rest of Wisconsin, much less the rest of the country. The big media outlets skew things in predictable directions, but finding non-echo-chamber sources for the missing pieces isn't trivial.

bs king said...

James - agreed, and I was attempting to make that my original point. I can't prove it's not the majority (though underdog theory says the preference runs deep), but the opposing thesis is equally unprovable.

Again, I'll admit maybe I'm biased. I'm in Massachusetts-land-of-the-Kennedy and the town next to mine can't get it's local high school to stop using the Confederate flag as their mascot (it was the official mascot/symbol until 1994, now an alumni who owns the house next to the field displays an enormous one that is visible during all the games):