Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Cultural Crouch

There's a nifty term. It refers to the inferiority fundamentalists are alleged to feel and overcompensate for, in the presence of better educated and more cultured secularists.

What has this gained them from their masters? By and large, condescending tolerance, tolerance as one might tolerate a flatulent spaniel that is, his aroma notwithstanding, an excellent retriever.

To which Richard John Neuhaus adds, at the First Things blog:

Of course the cultural crouch is hardly unique to evangelicals. Consider the number of folks who admit that they’re Catholic and then quickly add, “But I’m a Catholic who thinks for myself.”

Then he goes and ruins the zinger by zapping it to an anti-creationist Jesuit priest. Did and undid.

Still, it's worth parsing. How do our relative social standings affect the opinions we hold, and how we react to others'? We're all familiar with the respect given to the opinions of celebrities and academics on matters well outside their bailiwicks. Most of us have felt, however fleetingly, that our bedrock opinions aren't so bedrock, when questioned by someone whose approval we seek. And most of us have caught ourselves running on about matters that we don't even really have opinions about, only reactions. But just how does class figure in as to who gets listened to, and who gets dismissed with a snort? It'd probably be a sobering experience, to fully realize just how much we pay attention to someone's haircut, clothes, and degrees (or insufficiency thereof), and how little to their ideas.

Myself, I'm at peace with the idea that I'd probably get a good verbal birching from H. L. Mencken, were he alive and happened to notice me. If I want to be high in the world, I have to let the people who are above me be high, too. But, as I grow older, I don't feel much compulsion to seek validation for my attitudes, from people who don't share them. It's always nice when that happens, though, of course.

Societies run into trouble when the cognoscenti start assuming agency over everyone else's affairs. But that's another post.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for stopping by! Please keep your comments civil and on-topic. Spammage will be cheerfully removed.