He said he was opposed to snow sports on principle. The only reason he concluded anyone would do it is to show off how much money they have.
And I countered that this is a matter of location. You don't live near good skiing. But if you lived in, say, Hailey Idaho, you'd go skiing three times a week even if you were buying your groceries with WIC's help, because in Hailey Idaho, skiing is less expensive than going to the movies or any other form of entertainment around and everyone inherits a pair of hand-me-down skis.
This got me thinking about the nature of elitism in general. I have never liked the word because it is used as such a blunt tool. Everything can be labeled elitist if you can't have it or don't see the value in it. And that self-oriented use of the word totally eclipses the idea that it might actually be valuable to preserve an elite tier of things.
You wind up with serious intellectual problems that are structural in nature. You substitute injokes and cliquishness for hard and interesting work. You toe the line of popular culture instead of actually being avant garde.
It's funny, the way the word elitist cuts two ways. And I wonder how these two spheres of elitism, the actual value of something that is legitimately better and the in-crowd effect, work together.
There are known problems with this idea that anyone can agree that some things are simply better than others. We all went to college. We all know that in order to rank stuff, someone has to be the ranker. And we all know that while the Bush Administration is brimming with folks who are willing to step in and make these choices...
...liberal, thinking people tend to avoid assigning hierarchical value like the plague.
It's potentially a stupid thing to do. You might leave something out, or otherwise expose yourself as a philistine. It was so easy to be an elitist when we believed in objectivity. But in a world without objectivity, it seems smarter to be an assigner of qualities who can see the value in anything. It's best to avoid elitism.
Like a sampler of world cuisine, the art appreciator is supposed to have a broad palate. And I'm no Hilton Kramer. I don't have any bones to pick with this broadness per se. Art should be a place where you can see things that might blow your mind, but may not be entertaining. Art should be a place where you might have to stretch yourself in order to get what you see.
The thing that I am curious about is how this very openness becomes its own elitist dogma.
I see this at the park all the time--people look at the art in the park according to their real-world rules, in which they assign a certain amount of value as a matter of practicality, so that they can navigate and understand the world and their place in it. When confronted with something that makes no sense, like a piece of art, located in a public park, that is made of a material children find irresistable, on the ground, in unstable condition so that children can pick it up and play with it...
...they make a judgement. They say to themselves that it's obviously OK that their children are jumping up and down and pulling at this thing until it breaks. If it wasn't okay, then the sculpture would be out of the way of the children, or made out of a different material. And the fact that it's not withstanding the treatment their children are dishing out is not proof that it should not be touched. It's proof that the sculpture wasn't executed well. They don't have any problem seeing that this sculpture failed in this context for simple reasons.
This drives the administrators of the park (including myself) crazy! Don't these philistines understand, we say amongst ourselves, that it's not a playground, that this is art and should be respected as such?
What I find funny is the way this type of situation inverts the direction of elitism. I am the elitist one in this instance--I am the one shining down some rule that makes no sense, and that provides this sculpture with special privileges that are not even appropriate in this context. And the parent, or the judger, is the one who is just being as broad and sensitive as possible to what is actually around them.