On Elitism

Last week I wrote about populism, the thing that has made us believe as a nation that elitism (of certain sorts) is the worst sin that could ever be committed. This week, I’m going to talk about the awful sin itself.

Before I go on, let’s define that term. It can be the best or superior members of a society or group, or it can be a small, privileged, and often powerful group, according to Webster’s. On the web, it’s defined in various ways, from a small group of people with a disproportionate amount of public decision-making power to selected as the best. I’m going to be elitist here, and select the best definition for my purposes from the above: the last one, selected as the best.

It would seem these days that we have a problem in selecting the best in our society. We demonstrate an aversion to claiming anyone is better than anyone else, or that people should receive different results based on what they do. Indeed, our reaction to that kind of thinking is becoming violent; from Junkanoo practitioners to the employees of large corporations to the parents of schoolchildren, we Bahamians appear to believe that we should be rewarded for who we are, not for what we do. A competitor threatens to sue to change a competition’s results; individuals involved in a labour dispute sabotage the city power supply; a parent threatens to kill the administrators and blow up the school that has not permitted his child to move up to the next grade. The underlying thread in all of these issues is the belief that someone owes me something, not the concept that what I get is a reward for what I do.

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