Joy (cithra) wrote,

ruminations on cultural dynamics

Smugness or an insistence on being special has never won anyone any friends. No one likes to be treated like a second class citizen, and too often the unspoken converse of "I'm special" is "and you're not." Saying "we are the chosen" automatically creates a concomitant group of not-chosen, and members of that second group are not liable to look upon members of the first with favor, particularly if there aren't a lot of obvious differences between the two groups.

I think this is a big part of why early Mormons were driven west. There are aspects of LDS theology that are unusual, but no more so than some of the other religious sects that sprang up in that general time period. But Mormons have a belief that they are a chosen people, and early members had more and less florid ways of expressing that sentiment, not all of which were terribly kind to the non-chosen. Why treat fairly with someone who makes it plain they think they are better than you? Few attitudes arouse unthinking ire so rapidly. Special? I'll show you special...

I think there may be an element of this in anti-Semitism as well, and in anti-intellectualism. It's related to "ugly American tourist" syndrome, and probably is a thread in/around imperialism and the notion of 'white man's burden'. It's problematic because there's no ready solution, and I'd wager that half the time the people radiating smugness aren't even aware of it - it's kind of a by-product of their world view, part and parcel of pride in self and esteem for one's heritage or abilities.

For example, I know I'm an elitist snob about matters of intellect, and I know it hasn't won me any friends over the years. I can even come up with a couple of specific instances where it's earned me enemies. But I'm proud of being smart, and it informs a good deal of my self- and world-view, and so even when I'm trying my hardest not to be supercilious or dismissive I don't always succeed.

I don't know. Just thoughts...

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