Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Rejecting Elitism

Talk about elitists gone wild. Check out the youtube highlights and accompanying article below:

Hatred for “Wife Swap” husband still grows


This whole Stephen Fowler story resonates with me. Over the past few years I’ve happily immersed myself in the sweet, asphyxiating waters of elitism. I’ve used my education, my money, and my presumed knowledge of the world to define who I am and to exclude those ‘unfortunate’ souls who seemingly lacked the intellectual and/or cultural capacity to be in the same room with me.

I deeply regret that attitude. I really do.

But nothing, it seems, is beyond the redemptive power of simple living. I’ve been humbled by this process. I’ve learned that status, money and book smarts pales in comparison to common sense and decency. I’ve learned that people who live in so-called “fly-over country” (you know, the real America that lies somewhere between the East and West coasts) have much to teach someone like me. I’ve learned that the most essential news about this country and the world at large does not always appear on the front page of the New York Times.

In essence, I’ve learned that I know nothing. I find it somewhat ironic that embracing simple living has led me to a Socratic conclusion that is, itself, a product of an intellectual elitism I no longer value. Ironic indeed.


Anonymous said...

In my own journey, the humility your are describing was the first step in having my soul healed, and in beginning to become whole...which is itself a lifelong process.

It's only when we realize how very little we really know that we are able to admit the we have a lot to learn, and then we can get about doing so.

It's a big step you've made in my opinion.

BTW...something else you may be interested in that I thought I'd pass to you.

If you want some very deep insight into why and how our society is structured the way it is, watch this series of fascinating videos by John Taylor Gatto. Each is only about 5 minutes long, so they are in nice bite sized chunks.

Most of what you are rebelling against has roots in the twin forces of industrialization and it's offspring...compulsory schooling.

I'll let Gatto* explain...

John Taylor Gatto on Education


* You just have to love the picture on his home page.:-)

Anonymous said...

Just a little comment from this side of the Pond about the guy in the Wife Swap programme.

Please, you guys over there in the US, do *not* assume this person to be in any way indicative of the vast majority people of the UK. They're much worse...[only kidding].

He's clearly a rude, patronising, condescending prick. I know my own country's accents very well, and his indicates he is extremely upper-middle class - probably about 2 or 3% of the general populus. I suspect long-term 'family' wealth, expensive education, and only encountering 'normal' people when he has them wash his car, mow his lawn, or change the oil on his car.

Assh0les are not exclusive to any country.

This guy would be the perfect subject for a reality TV programme where he has to live on minimum wage or unemployment benefit for a week or two. We have such progs here in the UK, and I'm guessing there's something similar in the US. See how smug the bastard is after that.

Despite the above, I *would* however be quite prepared to believe that he played along and 'acted up' somewhat - those TV boys need their show! And I suspect that a truer representation of what really happened languishes on the cutting-room floor. It's TV, remember - not reality, despite the genre's name.

Enjoying your blog, Jack. Keep it coming :-)

Heather's Moving Castle said...

I do not watch Wife Swap much, but that one REALLY takes the cake. I can't believe they aired that! My hubby and I were asked to go on there a few years ago and we said no. We needed the money, but not enough to do it. LOL.

I can't wait to see the JTG links posted by Steve. I bet they are vids I have seen, but maybe not.

Glad you're not an elitist anymore. LOL.

Anonymous said...

Not a product of intellectual elitism, co-opted by it. "Regular" people say the most enlightened, mind-blowing things on a regular basis, in plain, easy-to-understand language, whether any of the people with all the buying power are paying attention or not. That's the big secret! Glad you're figuring this stuff out. It's fun to read about!

Ms Hen's said...

Jack...sounds like you are growing up to be a very mature man with a high E.Q. (emotional Quotient).

I said it to you before.........you are blessed to have that law degree.........you can do so much GOOD.

But to find a balance.......some people do too much good and drain themselves that way too. (Martyr complex)..

And some run from society obligations and feel empty too.

I tried the other month to do some volunteer work that was draining me.. so that was being a martyr. I do other simple service ..

All about balance..

And it sounds you are on a great path in life..........

Use that degree in the future (when you are ready ) to do good; to make a small dent here and there... (little things add up nicely.. and more in the role of simplicity).

bill h said...

"In essence, I’ve learned that I know nothing."
Well said Jack. I love the quote from Pascal who said, (i'm paraphrasing) There are two sorts of ignorance in the world. the ignorance you have at birth and the ignorance you achieve after years, when you realize how little you know."

I think of Socrates quote, the unexamined life is a life not worth living."

the older I am the more I identify more core beliefs, the more critical they become to me, but in everything else, I realize how little I really understand and this is the source of some very appropriate humility.

Well said sir.

Anonymous said...

thought you might find this interesting ~


Dogen -

...The second awakening is to know how much is enough. Even if you already have something, you set a limit for yourself for using it. So you should know how much is enough.

The Buddha said, “Monks, if you want to be free from suffering, you should contemplate knowing how much is enough. By knowing it, you are in the place of enjoyment and peacefulness. If you know how much is enough, you are contented even when you sleep on the ground. If you don’t know it, you are discontented even when you are in heaven. You can feel poor even if you have much wealth. You may be constantly pulled by the five sense desires and pitied by those who know how much is enough.

This is called “to know how much is enough.’”

Anonymous said...

As someone who has lived all over the country, I find the phrase "real America" as patronizing as "fly-over country." The coasts are also part of "real America," as are Alaska and Hawaii. The entire nation is real.

Jennifer @ Conversion Diary said...

This is a great post, Jack. You're really on the right track. Thank you for sharing your journey with us.

Anonymous said...

Jack, Your learning process is fantastic. Keep seeking opportunities to be happier with less and less. And look for those "Mr. Bojangles" that hide behind their dirty coats and broken grammar. They will teach you to dance!

I am reminded of a story of a friend of mine. In college I went on a spring break mission trip. He went on a mission. I asked what he spent his spring break doing and he said, "First I bought an old t-shirt, shoes, and pair of jeans at the second-hand store. I went to the train station and bought a round trip ticket to Chicago. When I arrived, I put my coat, return ticket, wallet, etc in a locker. A week later I returned to the locker, got my things and returned to school. While I was there, I made friends, learned a few bird calls, saw some street art, slept under an overpass, found a shelter, and collected enough money to buy a burger at McDonalds. I had a great time!"

I love his story. Never had the courage to try it quite like that, but I have ventured off with only the cloths on my back for long stretches of time. People are interesting, generous, and surprising regardless of their amount of formal education or money.


Jack said...


I would tend to agree with you, but it is hard to see where I will end up since I am right smack in the middle of the process. I will take your word for it. I'll check out the videos, but probably not till tomorrow afternoon...too much going on till then. Thanks for the tip!

@Anonymous #1,

What's funny is that the fact that he is British never came into the equation, at least for me. And believe me, there are plenty of pricks on both sides of the pond. I can attest to that. You think he might be oxbridge per chance?


Are you serious!? Wow, imagine what could have happened...

Jack said...


Thanks for the kudos. And, as always, good point.

@Ms Hen,

Balance is the basis of all my future plans. And that includes my future career. Hope all is well with you.


It's cool you can bring up Pascal into the discussion. On my end, maturity may be knowing that there are very few certainties in the world and that one should spend the rest of one's life exploring the nooks and crannies that lie between those certainties.

Jack said...

@Anonymous #2,

Could you repost the link? When I try it it says that the link is broken. It is clearly to a the MRO but not sure if you are referring to a particular article. BTW, if you are Buddhist do repost regarding best resources for someone just learning about the religion. Totally interesting.

@Anonymous #3,

Good point, though I think the distinction is semantic. Of course the coasts are also real America. But given the perceived cultural imbalance in this country I find the use of the phrase appropriate.


It's good to hear from you. It's been awhile. Thanks for commenting.

Anonymous said...

oops, here's a better link to dogen ~


and here's some very good resources





and very fine article, imo ~


(in preview it looks like some of these links are too long for the posting box...if so i'll try to figure out something)

Anonymous said...

Eagles may soar, but weasels don't get sucked into engines.

New Dawn Law said...

Jack, help me stop the madness!

it's not about money, its about class warfare!





Anonymous said...

Granted I'm only halfway through the YT video, but I do not think it can get worse than @4:13, where this person actively teaches his children to laugh at a fellow human being. I pity this man, but I pity his kids more. Thank you for sharing this.

Jack said...


That's a pretty cool story. Not sure about the sleeping under an overpass, but can see the interest in it.


Thanks for the links. And no worries, the ones you emailed work just fine.


How poetic.

Jack said...


Gotta tell you that your comment was on the cusp of being an ad, but decided to give you the benefit of the doubt.


Isn't it awful?! I cringe every time I watch that thing.

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