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What’s an Elite?

Jack Robinson

December 26, 2013

I was sitting in the library minding my own business. I really was. Fred and I were reading magazines, nursing a Winan’s hot chocolate and ignoring each other. I couldn’t help overhearing the conversation at a nearby table. I really couldn’t.


They were discussingthe Elites of our society — in particular the educational elites. They talked about how these educational elites thought they were better than everyone, how they ran the country and put us into such a mess. I wondered who they were talking about. My wife was in higher education. Most of her friends were, or are still. Fred taught college, too. I wanted to introduce them to “Fred the Elitist,” who retired from the Marines as a Sergeant Major — but then I would have had to stop ignoring him. I wanted to tell them that since I’ve been married to Sharon I’ve been surrounded by nice middle-class people in higher education who mostly just took education seriously. But Elitist? They didn’t fit my definition. So I went looking. Who are the Elites in this country? I went to Wikipedia and looked up Educational Elites. There was only one definition and it was panned for having no proof, only opinion. Most people wanted it removed. It was by Thomas Sowell, a “senior fellow” at The Hoover Institute, a right-wing think tank. On the inside cover of one of his books he thanks them for paying him such a good salary while he wrote his books. He really did.


So who are the Elite? All the other places I looked agreed with this definition: “… in political and sociological theory, a small group of people who control a disproportionate amount of wealth or political power.” Well, that eliminates all the people I’ve ever met in education. It really reallydoes. Almost everyone I found who wrote on this subject pointed out that the power elite in this country are the rich, the managers of large corporations and those who run government. (Most congressmen are also millionaires with ties to corporations.) This troika runs the country. Not the voters. Not us.


These Elites’ concerns are the deficit, taxes, government regulations and cutting social services. OK, now a quiz. What have the congress, the media and all the talking heads been stewing about? What has been the “answer” to our economic and social problems? Austerity for everyone but them? You got it. Never mind the joblessness, the low-paying jobs, the disparity between the rich and the rest of us. Health care? Forget it. In their comfortable minds it’s not about folks having enough money tospend to get the economy moving and create jobs. It’s about their platinum plan to make us tighten our belts while they continue to collect their tax breaks and subsidies.


This small group lives in a different country than we do. They knew their own exalted position in society as kids and they learned to recognize others in this mutual exalted position. They accept one another, understand one another, tend to work and think alike. They live and work and vacation in their exclusive places. They marry each other. The tracks of their lives are laid out for them. Education is critical. They attend prominent prep schools which open doors to the top colleges and then these college and their exclusive clubs and fraternities lead them to membership in exclusive adult clubs in major cities. All these connections along with their family grease the skids to their membership in the power structure of this country.


Scientists did a study several years ago where they tracked kids from their private prep schools through their fraternities and exclusive colleges and to their jobs in the upper reaches of law or business. Not once did most of them ever have a conversation with anyone outside their lofty circle. They really didn’t. Not one.


So we can understand why Mitt Romney, when he tried to be one of the guys at a NASCAR race, said he had a friend who owned one of the race teams. He really did. This is his Normal, the way he talks to one of the guys at his club. The power elite don’t know us and don’t want to. They don’t need to. The less they understand, the more they can ignore our lives. They simply don’t share any of our concerns. They have constructed their own private gilded world. We are not in it.


We are simply expenses they have to manage and people they have to keep misled and misinformed.