I used to not give a damn about elitism. When I stepped into college, I didn’t understand that much about what people were talking about. Secularism, populism, alt-truth, and post-truth. Sex and beer. Economy, law, and metaphysics. I went on the ride of learning, but along the way, I’ve also learned that acquiring knowledge is different from obtaining societal empathy.
After all, I still didn’t care about elitism—until I noticed how new shame cultures emerge. Take for an instance a person buying an expensive latte or wearing branded clothes—more likely, he or she gets called an elitist. And when they say elite, some people don’t mean its denotative definition, but a whole different context with that added pinch of bitterness. But see, there’s something wrong with dubbing people as elitists or burgis based on simple remarks of their lifestyle.
This case of shaming isn’t as commonly talked about as discrimination towards the less privileged is; but the judgment still exists. Perhaps we think that just because the rich are “on the top of the pyramid” it already means prejudice doesn’t reach them. From this, we all see how labeling and stereotyping has shattered the human perception, same as how class has become great walls right even before world leaders began building them. The culture war has been existing long before now, but it has only worsened.
Class struggle cannot be resolved at the expense of another.
Author Andy Crouch argues in his article The return of shame that the omnipresence of media has opened up a deadly game for people to vie for inclusion of selves and the exclusion of others. Suffice to say, more and more cases like this arise these days, especially online (thanks, social justice warriors). People hate against the wealthy, white, or influential and insultingly call them privileged—assuming they’ve done something downright dreadful to humanity, blaming them for the terrible way of the wheel and for the unearned advantage they enjoy. It’s safe to say that the main reason we’re fond of the thought of shaming the rich is because we think we should serve social justice only to the poor—that when we conceivably pull them down, we impose equality. But perhaps not. Maybe we don’t really put an end to class struggle by doing this, but instead we extend it across the other side of the spectrum.
At the end of the day, we can’t just hop onto the ride of generic sympathy—the blame-the-rich-for-the-poor mentality—because truth is, we can’t resolve the problem of inequality by leaning on another form of class shaming. It would be a delight to inject equalitarianism, which doctrines spare us from the repulsive fundamental worth or social class. But all the same, it would be hard to change the way we strive to classify people because of the judgmental culture we both developed.
We can already see right from here how bleak it’s become in a society if we continually fight against the stigma of gay-shaming, body-shaming, or poor-shaming, but still accept shaming the rich. We hate the concept of privilege so much that we are blinded by it, because we thought it was all cheer and beer, shine and wine to be in the embrace of affluence.
At this point, there’s a call to stop seeing only dollar signs on their faces and quit naming them after their social constructs. We need a society capable of recalibrating its perception to wealth, and somehow, strive together instead of feeling resentful over each other.
One does not need to give a full-blown damn about elitism to realize that shaming any person for any reason is destructive. If we truly want to break the wheel, we might as well remember that a class struggle cannot be resolved at the expense of another. As soon as we stop shadily throwing the brand of elitist at whomever and whenever we like, and as long as we try to refrain checking on each other’s privilege as an insult, only then the blame game ends.
But until then, don’t join that anti-sosyal social club.