If you fragment society far enough, then everyone is on his own. I’m not suggesting that this will happen. Indeed, I’m pointing out that politics has never been – and will never be – a one way street. We will unite again. We’re just searching for the way.
The amount of social divisions these days is enormous. Old versus young, higly educated versus poorly educated, rich versus poor, super-rich versus the others, muslim versus the others, blacks versus whites, pro-EU’s versus anti-EU’s, pro-Trumps versus anti-Trumps, those who have an instagram account versus those who don’t, those who trust science versus those who don’t, those who are tolerant of refugees versus those who aren’t… Even male versus female seems to be back on the table.
In the Netherlands, now about eight weeks from the elections, this is leading to the constant emergence of new one-man parties. I’m guessing that 5 have dissociated from bigger parties in the past few months. Some fight for Erdogan, some for black rights, some for ‘the people’, some for ‘the Netherlands’ and some for ‘local social economies without refugees’. But they all have one thing in common: they’re against the elites. I think it would be clearer if they’d call them ‘the aristocrats’, but then again: hey. Let’s figure out who they mean.
My first question would be: am I part of the elites? Am I the evildoer here? After all, I’ve had a good education, have quite some knowledge of and insight in science and politics, live in the capital of one of the wealthiest countries in the world and currently even have a job. I worry about climate change. Am I the evil elite? Are you?
Question two: hey! But those guys and gals who talk about the elites, aren’t they also the elite? Aren’t we drowning in the fact that all those people who show their rostrum in a video that’s watched over a million times is automatically part of the elite him or herself as well? All those writers who are read by thousands of others? Isn’t there some kind of elite there too?
Question three: hey! But if it’s always the elite talking about the elite, then aren’t we just witnessing elites accusing elites of being elites? What’s the point of that?
Here’s where I’m glad I once brought in the term smurf-intensity a bit over a year ago. A term that nobody really understands, yet everyone is talking about as if they do, has a high smurf-intensity. Elites is becoming one of them.
The word is reaching hipsterish proportions in the sence that it is becoming uncool to be part of it even if we all secretly want to. But who belongs and who does not is unclear, even if we all have a sense of ‘rich and exclusive’ when we hear the word.
I’m getting the feeling, recently that the elite is becoming a tool for division. If you don’t trust someone, you just declare that person some kind of elite, and by that suggest that you have ‘the people’ behind you. It is happening all over the place in the Netherlands. Trump does it. Zizek does it as well. Accusing an amorphous little group for the trouble we’re all causing every day.
Can we blame the elite? Maybe. Should we? Perhaps. Do we know who they are? No. Do we know how to talk to them? Even less. Can we trust people who think they do? Probably not. So how is this whole ‘elite’-discourse useful? Little.
Unless, of course, you, reader are willing to step forward and declare yourself the elite, declare yourself responsible for the course we are heading in. Unless you declare that the entire 21st century West is the elite, gnawing on the final remaining bits of our livelihoods, knowing that our clock is ticking. But perhaps you’d say we’re not to blame. That we should look for the true devils . Give them a name and a face we can behead. An account we can expropriate. The elite of the elite.
It is a curious word, this word elite. A true political trend. Probably not a one way street. It never is. But I’m afraid we’ll be hearing it for a while.