Beard Activity

Unabashedly Elitist

I spend about 30 hours a week, on average, on IRC. For those of you who are unaware, that's "Internet Relay Chat". It's sort of like ICQ, except everyone can hear what everyone else is saying (for the most part). It's very noisy, but can be a very productive way to get support for things like programming languages, network administration, and other similarly nerdy things. I'm sure non-nerdy stuff goes on as well, but let's be honest. I'm just not interested in that.

As I've been doing this IRC thing for the better part of 10 years, I've managed to build myself to a position of some degree of power and respect. However, somewhere along the way, I became a much angrier person on IRC than I generally am in real life. I'll consistently lose my temper with people who appear to lack the ability to think for themselves. Time and again, I've been accused of being an elitist. However, when I openly admit to my accusers that I agree with them; that yes, I *AM* elitist, they always seem to get a little bit upset. I've come to the conclusion that the reason people get so shocked by this is because they don't understand the difference between inclusive and exclusive elitism.

Beginning at the most fundamental level, elitism is "the attitude that society should be governed by an elite group of individuals."[1] I can't understand how someone would object to having society (any given society) being led by those elements of that society which are deemed the most capable. Hence my assumption that people object to elistism merely because they feel that elitists are neccesarily exclusionary. However, this simply isn't true. To return to IRC as the model for the larger concept, I feel very strongly that IRC channels should be led and maintained by those who are the most capable in the subject matter that the channel is focused on. However, I also believe with equal vigor that anyone can become elite at something if they really want to. Therefore, it is my opinion that the only thing stopping you from becoming "elite" at something (and thus joining the 'governing group' of that society) is your own level of commitment to that thing, whatever it may be.

Of course, I could be wrong. Sometimes I think Paul Graham may have a point when he says "I've found that people who are great at something are not so much convinced of their own greatness as mystified at why everyone else seems so incompetent." [2] But I'm not ready yet to say that I'm really "great". I feel that I've simply learned how to think my way through a problem. (More on that later.)

Over the next couple of weeks, I'm hoping to write some articles that will be my little way of sharing (with anyone who is interested) those things which I consider important steps along the path to elitism. Join me, won't you?

[1] Definition from Wordnet 2.0, (c) 2003 Princeton University