Rural disdain of “elitists”

There has always been a deep disdain of people described as “elites” in the Western world. In the USA, Richard Hofstader wrote about the phenomenon in his 1964 book.
This article in Salon discusses the paradox that while there seems to be an often-expressed animosity from rural people towards “elites”, they seemed quite willing to vote for Donald Trump, a city man born into family money who, in every respect, behaves like an elite business leader. There are also numerous other politicians who, while they occasionally pretend to be outsiders, in no way meet that definition. As the article points out, Newt Gingrich is, by any logical definition of the word, part of the East Coast elite.
What seems to be the case is that there is a distinction that people can make between people who are part of the elite (who they do not necessarily dislike) and people who they consider elitists, who they do dislike.
The conclusion of the article, which backs up Hofstader, is that the view of intellect that many Americans hold is a functional one, measured by capitalist success. For example, Donald Trump is not an “elitist” because he is assumed to be a successful businessman. On the other hand, college professors and scientists are “elitist” because they appear to demonstrate intellectual capacity, including reading books (which a significant percentage of Americans never do) and seemingly not much else.
I continue to find that worldview both strange and self-defeating. I was raised in a blue-collar household in public housing in the UK, by two parents whose educations had been disrupted by World War II. My father left school at 14, and could barely read, and wrote non-cursive all of his life. Yet neither of my parents sneered at “elitists”, and they persistently and consistently encouraged me to gain a high-quality education. I never heard hostility to intelligence and education from them. I am becoming more and more convinced that they must have been outliers, given the reflexive sneering hostility that so many people seem to have acquired in the USA towards education and intellect.
I intend to write more about this whole area in future.


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