The weariness of being elite.

It is tough to be an elite. While we bandy the word about, we are really complimenting the people we deride for being elite. And yet we get defensive when we are accused of being one of those elites. Maybe those who think elitism is a state of mind are right: If you think you are, you might be.

I had always assumed that the elites were people most of us looked up to. Mind you, we look up to different people for different reasons. The athlete who makes an accomplishment is only king until his or her best is bested. The person with all the money might be elite until he or she is indicted for fraud or some other skulduggery. Actor, author, barkeep, communicator, doctor, engineer and the list goes on, but the elites can be variable. It is not just that they are better, or richer, or talented or erudite, or smoother, but they stand out in the crowd.

I remember when young and impressionable, I met John George Diefenbaker, whom, as prime minister of Canada at the time—was soon to be replaced by Lester B. Pearson—whom I also met and liked. I considered them both elites.

When I met John Wintermeyer, who once led the Ontario liberals, I was meeting a man from an old Ontario family. He was a true gentleman. I determined then that political leaders should be, and I emphasize the ‘should be,’ someone you can look up to. Oh, has that ever changed!

After having an interesting chat with Justin Trudeau over dinner one time, the wife and I spent considerable time discussing our thoughts. We were both convinced that he was far more like his mother than his father. We both thought highly of his father. Watching him later in action with a crowd, I realized he had something of an on/off switch, a handy item for a politician.

Listening to populists such as Doug Ford in Ontario and Donald Trump in the United States, railing against elites, I tend to be defensive. Yet if railing against real elites, they would include the Brit royals who are bred and trained to that aura of superiority.

I guess it is all in the attitude. Elites do make good subjects for whipping up images of privilege.


Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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