‘Intelligentsia’

Since when did being accused of being a member of the ‘intelligentsia’ become a thinly veiled insult? When/why did intelligence and expert knowledge go out of fashion?

There’s always blustery letters on the opinion pages of the newspaper snarking about “those latte-sipping, small-l-liberal members of the intelligentsia” (paraphrased) and their goddamn smartypants ways. But consider the content of this sentiment:

1. The first is the most basic mistake one could make: Coffee is awesome. Trying to use the drinking of it as an insult is clearly illogical.

2. ‘Liberal’ definitions:

a. Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry.

b. Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded.

-From www.thefreedictionary.com, aka the first result I got after googling.

Can someone please explain how these values can be a bad thing, or how the opposite of these values (backwards, authoritarian, dogmatic, bigoted and close-minded) could be a good thing.

3. And we’re back to the ‘intelligentsia’ insult. Remember, kids, it’s not cool to be smart. Derp derp. Learning and education are a waste of time, and those smart people are funny-looking and use big words. We should just ignore them. Oh, except when we want to use modern medicine or technology, then it’s somehow totally fine.

4. Still can’t believe anyone could think that coffee-drinking is an insult. We live in a crazy world.

How did we reach this sorry state of affairs? Discuss.

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14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Acacia Pepler
    Jun 09, 2011 @ 15:49:23

    Tall Poppy Sydnrome, it’s always been the case that people resent those who seem smarter than they are, wanting to bring everyone down to the same level. And those Intelligentsia people, you know, they’re so elitist and all they care about is themselves, they don’t understand us normal people and therefore must be trying to take things away from us…

    Reply

  2. stephanie
    Jun 10, 2011 @ 14:33:05

    This post reminds me of the new diesel jeans ad – a company that is using the idea that ‘stupid = cool’ to sell more jeans. (http://www.diesel.com/be-stupid/) What an offensive idea. I’m so sick of the media (and society) aiming at the lowest common denominator.

    Reply

  3. stephanie
    Jun 10, 2011 @ 14:51:27

    Actually, to clarify my point, the aspect of the diesel ad I find offensive is the billboards they have put up around sydney, like this:

    and

    The actual video is kind of attractive, in the sense of thinking outside the box.

    Reply

  4. Marquis of Cups
    Jun 14, 2011 @ 06:39:44

    Yep. Every time someone says something like that it takes me back to Idiocracy. “He thought he was speaking elegantly, properly. All they heard was gay talk and sissy thoughts.”

    I think those comments are meant to refer to “hipsters,” or whatever. I’ve spent a lot of time in UNI around snotty people that sit around blessing us lesser people with their presence. Especially in poetry class. Then they have wine and cheese parties where they literally sat around looking up vague words and making fun of people they didn’t invite. I know. I was invited to one because my poetry made the cut into their group. Their work wasn’t any better than anyone else’s work. They just thought they were.

    But to marginalize everyone who’s intelligent into an aristocratic, pompous fool really doesn’t make any sense. Just another way to polarize and separate people into groups of “Other.” ~x

    Reply

  5. Marquis of Cups
    Jun 14, 2011 @ 20:58:43

    So true.

    Reply

  6. The Green Hat
    Jun 15, 2011 @ 15:08:09

    Have you ever had a chance to watch “The West Wing”, Jen? I think you would enjoy it for both the drama and the ideals. One of my favourite quotes is:

    Santos: “It’s true, Republicans have tried to turn ‘liberal’ into a bad word. Well, liberals ended slavery in this country.”
    Vinick: “A Republican president ended slavery.”
    Santos: “Yes, a liberal Republican. What happened to them? They got run out of your party. What did liberals do that was so offensive to the Republican party? I’ll tell you what they did. Liberals got women the right to vote. Liberals got African-Americans the right to vote. Liberals created social security and lifted millions of elderly people out of poverty. Liberals ended segregation. Liberals passed the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, Liberals created Medicare. Liberals passed the Clean Air Act, and the Clean Water Act. What did Conservatives do? They opposed every one of those programs. Every one. So when you try to hurl the word ‘liberal’ at my feet, as if it were dirty, something to run away from, something that I should be ashamed of, it won’t work, Senator, because I will pick up that label and wear it as a badge of honour.”

    Small ‘l’ liberals. Now sipping lattes.

    Reply

  7. Acacia Pepler
    Jun 16, 2011 @ 09:14:00

    If this was facebook, I’d like your comment Green Hat (Twin-Sarah, I presume?)

    Reply

  8. Jen
    Jun 16, 2011 @ 12:06:31

    Me too. (I wonder if I can get ‘likes’ installed on here? I’ve seen other blogs that have that option…)

    If the West Wing wasn’t ten bazillion seasons long, I’d definitely watch it!

    Reply

    • Nick Vaccari
      Jul 18, 2011 @ 21:45:58

      There are less seasons of West Wing that there are of Buffy, but who am I to critisise your taste in television…

      It’s seriously worth a look, I’ve watched the first two seasons and there is some great writing in them. You don’t have to watch the whole lot, the plot (though good) is superfluous to the brilliant political insight written with both humour and (dare I say it) intelligence.

      Reply

  9. Daniel
    Jun 23, 2011 @ 11:41:09

    I suspect you coffee addicts would like this video:

    Reply

  10. moonmanmad
    Jun 28, 2011 @ 00:53:05

    Oh small-l lord. There is so much here I need to respond to. But time is short for the moment. Trust me, I’ll get back to you on this.

    Reply

  11. moonmanmad
    Jun 28, 2011 @ 01:12:06

    There’s always blustery letters on the opinion pages of the newspaper snarking about “those latte-sipping, small-l-liberal members of the intelligentsia” (paraphrased) and their goddamn smartypants ways.
    Your Australian newspapers apparently bear little to no resemblance to American newspapers; our media love liberals, especially the ones who think they’re smart and/or worthy of elitism.
    1. The first is the most basic mistake one could make: Coffee is awesome. Trying to use the drinking of it as an insult is clearly illogical.
    I wholeheartedly agree. Maligning coffee in any way at all (and this includes failure to drop to your knees and wave your arms at Coffee in a worshipful way) is just plain wrong.
    a. Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry.
    I have to disagree with this definition of the word liberal; liberals are every bit as dogmatic and bigoted as conservatives; they just like to tell themselves that they’re not. Of course, so do conservatives. And people in general.
    b. Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded.
    Again, I have to disagree, at least in part; liberals aren’t tolerant of conservatives, their ideas (or any ideas that don’t align with theirs), the “white privileged male,” or the “dominant-power majority” (your words—on another site—not mine) at all.
    How did we reach this sorry state of affairs?
    Unfortunately, and despite our penchant for pushing forward into increasingly new areas of self-improvement and progress as a specie, humans on the whole tend to look for and gravitate to the lowest common denominator. For most people, thinking, using their minds, exercising their mental muscles, is “too hard” and therefore not worthy of doing. Sadly, it’s easier to be stupid and uninformed.

    Reply

  12. Trackback: Why I Get Angry « Seriously Whimsical

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