Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Elitism – For Better or Worse?

Elitism can provoke strong responses when mentioned in conversation, the majority of people speaking about it negatively. Culture, certainly within Britain, has become so inclusive that the very thought that someone might be better or more worthy than another person is considered conceited and more than a little offensive. Honestly, I have to agree with this assumption.

However, there are those who argue that some people are simply better than others. Admittedly, and I admit this somewhat shamefully and yet somewhat happily, their arguments are not simply bigoted statements. Basically, one can convincingly argue that one person is more worthy or valuable than another person.  The most convincing of these arguments is “meritocratic”, which is to say that it judges an individual’s value based on their merits, that is to say what they have achieved and, to varying extents, what they can potentially achieve.

However, though the concept of a meritocracy seems far fairer than, say, a hereditary system such as the absolute monarchy or an aristocracy, if we do not assume that all people are of equal worth, then we would not assume that all merits are of equal worth. As the worth of a merit or the strength and value of an achievement cannot be measured numerically, we are left to devise some way of comparing merits which can be vastly different in nature.

One way to regard it would be through a manner similar to Wittgenstein's “Language Games”, which would be that merits of different kinds should only be compared in value to other merits of the same or highly similar kinds. For example, we could compare the value of charity work of one kind or another which is done by one charity with charity work of another kind done by another charity, but we would not be able to compare such charity work with the value of, for example, producing a great work of art. Similarly, we could compare two painters or two paintings by the same painter, but we could not accurately compare the work of a painter with that of a musical composer.

I find these arguments as dangerous as compelling, for elitism and the creation of a conceptual elite can have dangerous consequences and the positive discrimination given to the elite quickly becomes negative discrimination to those outside of it. Yet, it seems to be evident that, whilst each person has some skills and evidently most people (if not all) possess varying degrees of multiple skills, there is a certain kind of person who possess an above average ability within an array of skills. The Renaissance Man seems to exist. The reason that such a person is special is because this is a rare thing. Fundamentally, not everyone is this kind of person. Therefore, meritocratically, some people are more valuable than others.

Yet, though I do agree that some people are more skilled than others, I do not not think that this makes anyone fundamentally superior to anyone else. Though not all people are equal in terms of skill, each person is precious and equal to all other men in terms of value. Potential, productivity, skill, these are exceptionally important and should be fostered, but they are not the entirety of what grants a person value. People should be granted this rank of valuable automatically and it should be stripped under so light a circumstance as being “unskilled” or “not as skilled as another” or “being below average”.

The value of a person should be placed in their intentions and motivations, not their efficiency and ability. The value in another is a matter of heart.

No comments:

Post a Comment