Re: RARA-AVIS: Hear, Hear! - Where does snobbery come from

From: Jesse Willis (
Date: 21 Jan 2004

Some extemperaneous meditations on snobbery:

I try not to be a snob, but occasionally I do venture close to being one. I was never a fan of rap music, or as its now called "hip hop", but my disinterest in it never went quite so far as snobbery. I thought of the people who enjoyed it as predominantly undereducated, perhaps primarily urban and definitely youthful, and my conclusions on all this were at most that that being undereducated was bad, in a vague way it was perhaps because it made you want to listen to rap! Now that is scary because it is almost a vicious circle, and those are always dangerous. But then I recently watched the movie "8 Mile" and I learned a lot about Hip Hop. Nothing has dramaticly changed in my view since, I still think of the people who really love hip hop as being undereducated at best and naive or dim at worst. But being exposed to a true talent, namely Eminem in that movie "8 Mile" has made me think more than ever that being a snob is a mistake.

Perhaps snobbery is a twin of moral disgust? If it is its not an identical twin, unlike moral disgust , snobbery is usually tempered or diluted by an indifference to the "suffering" or the "wallowing" of those being judged. Snobs feel no strong need to show those they judge as lesser the error of their ways. They are often content to be blissfully ignorant of the subject to which the are being snobs.

I think Frederich Nietzsche came up with an interesting psychological explanation for such self justifified "lording it over" when he layed out the pattern of master and slave morality. Nietzsche argued that there are two types of morality, master morality and slave morality.

Master morality is an attitude where "good" and "bad" are equivalent to "noble" and "pathetic" respectively. The master creates value by simply stating: THIS IS WHAT IS GOOD BECAUSE I SAY IT IS.

Slave morality is somewhat different however, it cannot exist wihtout master morality. It takes whatever situation the slave (or modernly the victim) is saddled with and turns that into a virtue. For Nietzsche, who was specifically interested in explaining the origins of Christian morality, those slave virtues are the opposite virutes of their Roman master's virtues. The virtues are sympathy, kindness, and humility. Essentially embodied in the line "the meek shall inherit the earth". But if any of you have seen the movie "8 Mile" you'd see a terrific exposition on how being a victim can be turned into a virute. To come from a broken home, to be poorly educated, live in a trailer park slum and to be involontarily jobless is turned from being a neagtive into being a right of passage... a "look at what I can endure" badge of the hip hop scene.

Now think of antisemitism. Antisemites do not always believe that Jews are trying to control the world
(become the Masters), but they do in nearly every case strongly resent the idea that Jews are "the chosen people". Now what does the phrase "the chosen people" mean? Its not a claim about the rest of the world. Not in the way for example Hitler argued that the Aryans were "the master race" (in a way meaning that Aryans would be "the MASTERS of to rest of the world"), instead "the chosen people" is an affirmative claim about Jews for Jews; meaning "You Jews are chosen by your God". But seeing as resentment is THE key to unlocking all forms of hatred the phrase takes on a menacing meaning. Escpecially when subsequently non-jews have come to worship the same God.

So how do I tie all of the above together? I first think that the lesson to be learned is that if you haven't really done your homework you should shut up. The wise man is always advised to be aware of how little he knows. I've seen the tv show FAMILY MATTERS, and read HARRY POTTER, personally I find both extremely boring. But after seeing "8 Mile" I've come to understand how some of the unseen dynamics, essentially the virtues of the hip hop world, can combine to make soemthing heretofore unintelligble, not only intelligble but also possibly interesting. Harry Potter is not a great novel. But if 11 years old and you have issues about power, school and like an adventure story then it is going to be readable and enjoyable to you. I still don't understand why anyone would watch Family Matters (it ran for an astounding 9 years!!!!), about this last one I think I'm going to have to remain a snob, and I'm not even sure I'd want to be cured of it!


--- Bludis Jack <> wrote:
> Kevin Burton Smith responds to Mark.
> Mark asks:
> >Could it be that those making these claims feel
> insecure about enjoying
> >genre fiction and feel a need to elevate any
> they do enjoy to give it
> >legitimacy?
> Kevin responds:
> Yes, and those who in turn automatically sneer at
> academics are just as full of it. Snobbery cuts
> both ways.
> ----------
> It's about time that someone point out that out.
> (I went through a period of reverse snobbery
> myself.)
> Welllll . . . maybe I haven't lost it
> completely--but I'm trying.
> Jack Bludis

===== SFFAudio: Table Treasures & Gifts:

__________________________________ Do you Yahoo!? Yahoo! Hotjobs: Enter the "Signing Bonus" Sweepstakes

# Plain ASCII text only, please.  Anything else won't show up.
# To unsubscribe from the regular list, say "unsubscribe rara-avis" to
#  This will not work for the digest version.
# The web pages for the list are at .

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 21 Jan 2004 EST