Voices from Russia

Sunday, 12 March 2017

How Intellectual Élitism Divided America Since the Vietnam War



It’s a problem that America must address and soon. In a Constitutionally classless society like the USA, intellectual snobbery/élitism is often a default form of pervasive bigotry allowed to permeate society. People more notice other forms of monetary and racial discrimination; so, they come under more frequent criticism. Unlike modern Britain, pre-1917 Russia, or pre-Revolutionary France, the USA’s foundation was on an ideology of classlessness. However, here’s an inherent contradiction. The human world, like the animal world, both consciously and unconsciously ranks things. Primitive societies rank people by their usefulness. Such societies value the strong are over the weak amongst men and the fertile over the infertile amongst women. Feudal societies tended to make things easier by dictating one’s worth by birthright. One can say the same of the Hindu caste system, only with an added spiritual component. However, in a society like America, one can make up the rules of snobbery as one goes along.

During the US Civil War, people had to grapple with racial snobbery, something which in parts of the USA lasted in a formal sense into the 1960s. During the so-called Gilded Age of the late 19th century, wealth was a go-to form of snobbery, although the Federal Income tax and later, the Great Depression, tended to mitigate the public display of such attitudes by the early 20th century. However, since the time of the Vietnam War, intellectual snobbery became the defining movement in all-American snobbery. The 1960s was an era when most Americans had decent economic living standards and it was an era where southern segregation ended, white kids listened to black music, and America’s external might appeared to be strong.

In spite of this, the Vietnam War helped solidify a plague upon American society that exists to this day. During the war, the draft brought many young American men into the armed forces. One of the more common ways to avoid serving in Vietnam was going to a college or university, for being a student exempted one from the draft in essence. Because of this, there was a supposedly equal society where those outside the university environment died in the rice paddies of Southeast Asia whilst college-educated young men partook in the pleasures of the affluent American 1960s. Although Richard Nixon ended the use of drafted soldiers in 1973, America has yet to recover from the ingrained intellectual snobbery born of the Vietnam draft.

Because all societies, including communist ones, have various types of snobbery, it often requires a new snobbery to replace the old. Because many of today’s wealthy in the West prefer to make money and not spend it, the idea of Gatsby style snobbery looks set to remain in a bygone age. Because black and white culture is increasingly integrated, it’s hard to think that a white kid listening to primarily black hip-hop music would be conspicuously racist. Yet, intellectual snobbery remains. Not only this, it’s actively cultivated by the liberal élite. Rather than concealing their snobbery like a wealthy man driving a cheap car or a racist pretending to be neutral on the subject they actively promote it.

Hillary Clinton calling Trump supporters a “basket of deplorables” was a crucial example of this as was Meryl Streep’s speech at the Golden Globe awards in Beverly Hills. One sees this snobbery everywhere from the liberal British comedian Dom Joly ridiculing conservative social-media users who don’t use spell-check to US commentators like Bill Maher and Stephen Colbert who continually deride Trump voters as “stupid rednecks”, as though their votes don’t count because of the baseless assumption that they aren’t highly educated. Even if all Trump voters were poorly educated, why should this matter? Modern democracy is about people having representation in exchange for taxation. In the 20th century, the franchise broadened to include all adult citizens except the criminal. It isn’t about how intelligent, how rich, how white, how black, how female, or how tall one is. Furthermore, an elongated and expensive education is no substitute for common sense, psychological maturity, and experience in the real world.

When the war ended in 1975, many Vietnam veterans came to resent the war and oppose much of what it did to society. In this sense, Vietnam veterans adopted the same “opposition with hindsight” attitude to the war as the rest of America. Yet ultimately, the liberal movement didn’t attract many of these men. In many cases, however, the conservative movement of the post-Vietnam era did. The veterans couldn’t relate to the college-educated snobs who wrote hippy rock songs about the war while smoking pot and impregnating the local women, while they, the draftees, were in Southeast Asia being shot at from the trees. Even though many of these college/university students were anti-war, their daily realities were far removed from the men who actually fought the war. Many of the soldiers felt that many college-educated individuals in the anti-war movement condescended towards them, and not even attempt to understand, let alone relate to them. This is why many of these men voted for the hawkish Ronald Reagan in his landslide victory of 1984. Where Reagan’s liberal Democratic opponent Walter Mondale was unintentionally condescending, Reagan was a masterful communicator who had a way of making people feel included irrespective of their status in society. Until the liberal élitists learn this, they may be out of power for a long time. The liberals did as good a job at losing as Trump did at winning. Liberal élitism remains a key reason for both.

10 March 2017

Adam Garrie

The Duran



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