In the Middle Ages the Catholic Church called them heretics. They were excommunicated or burned at the stake.
Hitler branded them “Jews” or “
Why? Because these people sought answers by asking questions. They challenged the accepted wisdom peddled by ideologues and entrenched interests. They fought against false facts and simplistic prejudice-based solutions which used the time-honoured scapegoat method as a solution to social problems.
Nowadays such people are dismissed as “the elite”. They tend to live in cities because urban areas are the perfect incubators for the exchange of ideas and information. So, they are called the “urban elite” or “metropolitan elite”. Their opinions are dismissed even though they have devoted years of their life to study and travel and learned the value of working with different nations, races and cultures. They base their decisions on facts backed up by science, logic and mathematical proofs.
The problem is that this intellectual –“elitist”—approach to life’s problems is increasingly banging up against the brick wall of the “gut instinct” coupled with a deep-seated faith, strong prejudice and a growing fear of identity loss. The result is a tendency of a growing number of people to dismiss the opinions of the expert elite because they clash with their “feelings”. As leading Brexiteer and Britain’s current Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, said during the Brexit campaign: “Experts? The public are sick of experts.”
Expert logic clashes with what the non-expert population want to believe because what they want to believe is more familiar, comfortable and reassuring than what they need to believe. Climate change is not really happening because it would destroy popular beachfront homes and require people to make painful adaptations to their tried and tested fossil fuel-driven lifestyle.
The expert elite complicate life by refusing to accept simplistic answers to complex issues. A wall along America’s southern border will not solve America’s drug, immigration and crime problem. Withdrawal from the EU will not revive the glory days of the British Empire or transform Britain back into a homogenous white population where everyone eats fish, chips and mushy peas.
One of the ironies of the current situation is that the charge against the elite is led by people who would otherwise be branded as charter members of the very elite that they attack. This is because they have learned that playing on emotions by dismissing or twisting facts is the current best route to their goal of political power. Eton and Oxford-educated former British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is a classic example. He is a brilliant journalist. His political career has spanned support and opposition to the EU. But his best chance of securing the tenancy to 10 Downing Street is an alliance with the Brexit forces.
Donald Trump is the billionaire son of a millionaire property developer who was educated in private American schools. His politics have veered from liberal Democrat to far-right Republican; from thrice-married misogynistic playboy to evangelical Christian. The one constant in his life has been the pursuit of money and power for the aggrandisement of Donald Trump.
These men peddle simplistic solutions to complex issues and deride the intellectual elite as unfeeling, out of touch or just plain wrong. Their vitriolic attacks enable an army of ideologues to hide behind the cloak of anonymity provided by social media to issue intimidatory death threats. They open the door to Russia and China destabilising democracies with fake news. For these and other reasons, I am applying for membership of the metropolitan elite.
Tom Arms is editor of Lookaheadnews.com