Elitism, Esteem, and You

Jimmy Kimmel has made something of a hobby out of exposing elitist douchery for everyone’s amusement. He’s done it at New York Fashion Week, and also at the SXSW music festival, which I find much more amusing. If you’ve had the misfortune of never seeing this, do yourself a solid and watch one or both of these videos, you deserve it:

Hilarious, right?

The degree to which people will flat out lie in order to seem informed or hip to the undercurrents of their chosen scene is borderline insane. Elitism and the current brand of self-esteem we all use compliment each other nicely. Knowing about the newest, hippest, most fashionable underground music/films/books or most up-and-coming designers makes us feel special. We have knowledge that others do not, which puts us in a position of superiority.

The more dickish among us can further leverage their feelings of self-worth by talking down to people who are not aware of the most recent trends. A quick scoff and condescending chuckle directed toward some obtuse person who doesn’t have a clue (about whatever meaningless bullshit you base your self-worth upon) goes a long way toward validating our inherent coolness and ability to know about the next big thing.

This is a double edged sword (as many are). If one goes about manufacturing self-esteem through being ultra cool about whatever particular interest one has, then having your knowledge bested by another is detrimental to your feelings of self-worth. It also challenges one of the fundamental things we have been told our entire lives – we are special and intelligent and of infinite worth/wisdom/judgement/whatever.

We will not stand for this. Even though we know the truth – that we don’t know shit. But they don’t know that, so sometimes we lie. We lie to look cool. We lie to look intelligent and relevant. But mostly we lie to maintain the delicate illusion of our specialness.

When confronted with this situation, I do my best to be honest about it. No, I haven’t heard of this band/film/book/whatever, tell me about it. This accomplishes a couple of things pretty quickly. Most obviously, it helps me to gather information about a new thing that I may really like, which is always nice. The other thing it does is allows me to effectively judge whether or not I want to continue talking to that person. If they are a prick about my lack of knowledge, chances are, we weren’t going to get along anyhow. Feel free to use this strategy in your own life.

The other (really important) thing to consider before you decide to lie in order to maintain an air of superiority is that you are probably just going to make an ass out of yourself. Sure, it won’t be as awful as in these videos, but you are still going to look foolish or seem ignorant. I know when someone is talking out of their ass about a subject I know well, and so does everyone else. Maybe try to remember that next time you want to be the smartest person in the room.

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