Saturday, 6 August 2016

Arrogance and Equality

The very worst thing with which one can be branded in keyboard warrior debates is ‘arrogance’. First of all let’s be clear that there is such a thing and that it is a very undesirable thing. It resides in an attitude towards others which is haughty, 'patronising' (another keyboard favourite, the true sense of which being that one speaks to others as a father might address a child and this, in a world where real fathers and real children exist), snobbish and, literally, condescending – talking down from what is considered to be a height above others.

However, in this age where “equality” is considered to be the most desirable quality in society and, consequently, egalitarianism to be the greatest virtue, and again, conversely, where ‘elitism’ is seen as the greatest sin, there is great confusion. People are terrified of being branded as arrogant and will even participate in an anti-intellectual race to the bottom in order to avoid it and to reassure others that they are free of this vice. They will go so far as to pretend that they are worse educated than they are and will deny knowing things that their education has taught them and books that it has introduced them to. This can extend even to their mannerisms and the way they speak.For example you will see well-educated young men and women aping Billy Bragg in intoning words which they grew up pronouncing as Liberty, Equality and Fraternity as Liber’y, Equali’y and Fraterni’y. They will also live in the ci’y. They do this because they believe that to speak in this way gives them egalitarian credibility. They are on the side of and standing shoulder to shoulder with the poorly educated and the poor. What they haven’t understood is that aligning themselves with a lower stratum of education or of wealth doesn’t do the trick and may even betray their own haughtiness and prejudices in that they have so signally and deliberately sought out people who, secretly and precisely (it is their perceived 'lowliness' in these respects that recommended them to them), they believe to be ‘beneath’ them. The use of the glottal stop is an attempt to disown an education of which they feel ashamed (which is a great tragedy) or a social cachet which they also wish to slough off seeing it as inconveniently according them the wrong social credentials.

In what, then, resides, true humility? It is, perhaps, in the realisation that virtue pays no heed to social class, education or wealth. You will find hugely attractive virtues, such as courage and honesty, amidst the poorly educated and the plain poor just as you will find exactly the same virtues amidst the Hooray Henrys (you will also find the opposite vices amongst the whole of society of course). To assume that all of the poorly educated or all of the poor have a monopoly on virtue and that all of the well-educated or rich are devoid of it is to make a schoolboy error of over-simplification. Morality has no class and even those who go far out of their way to protest and advertise their egalitarian humility may, unwittingly, and in doing exactly that, betray that they are the true snobs.

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