Intelligence and Snobbery

We seem to say that being more intelligent is better.  After all, we’d rather be a society of education rather than one of ignorance.  But there’s a price with education, at least the academic kind that I’ve noticed.

I think with intelligence, snobbery goes up.  We can talk about the cliché here: most intelligent people are associated with the “finer things in life”: eating caviar, listening to classical music, always wearing suits and ties, using credit cards all the time, etc.  But let’s face it, being intelligent is great.  After all, we joke about how ignorance is bliss.  We would rather be in a culture that is educated and knows more about the world.  But you know, it seems that the price of intelligence is snobbery.  Intelligence carries a certain “I’m better than you” attitude and “that’s because I have a degree, and you don’t!”  Since when did intelligence mean that you lose your humbleness?  J.S. Mill was accused of being elitist because his utilitarianism downplayed the “lower” pleasures.

For example, in the past, I was trying to find another job because working as an adjunct isn’t making it.  Everyday I’m searching for jobs and I always don’t apply to these certain jobs because “I’m better than that” or “I’ll be surrounded by people who aren’t good enough.”  Well, after thinking about it, that’s so arrogant of me.  In grad school, I worked at Starbucks while everyone else had their teaching assistantships.  For the first few years of teaching, I was working at Hollywood Video.  You know what?  I actually enjoyed working there.  So why this snobbish attitude?

When I buy groceries, I think that the cashiers are “dumb” because they couldn’t cut it at college.  But you know what?  I bet half of them are in college and this is just a way for them to make money.  At restaurants, I sometimes think that the staff has one of the worst jobs.  But I never thought that maybe some of them actually like their job.  I often associate car mechanics as good with cars, but not really smart with books.  Not true.  My professor has actually told me that he met a mechanic who reads Heidegger for fun.  For fun!!  Wow.  I think to break this mold, intelligent people need to break their snobbery and do something humble.  What examples could they be?

  1. Get a part time job at something that you would consider low maybe.  I once heard about a professor that worked as a janitor at the very university he was working at.  He said it kept him grounded in the realities of the world.
  2. Maybe volunteer.  By getting involved with other people with no monetary reward, you begin to learn that there are other types of rewards besides money.
  3. Interact at coffee shops, or better yet, bars.  (Unfortunately, this can backfire.)  Go to places where there’s tons of people and just socialize and talk.  It’s something simple as discussing what’s going on in your town.  I’ve had a professor that still does this.
  4. Never go through drive-thrus at fast food places.  It creates a barrier between you and the food-bringer.  You seem to have a one-up status and they are considered low.  Get off of your ass, go inside and order.  You’ll be talking to a real human being.  It’s still a fresh start.
  5. Finally, if you get the idea that you’re better than the other person you’re dealing with, or if the other person is just plain stupid, try to look at the bigger picture and see why they’re in that position.  Maybe they’re doing that because they’re in college anyways and they need the extra money.  Maybe their stuck in a dead-end position and this was all that life could offer them.  Maybe they were just unfortunate.  Maybe college isn’t for them.  Maybe they’re still happy.  Maybe it’s because you were very fortunate to be raised in an environment where you were lucky enough to go to college.

With all that said, going to the operas and ballets are fine.  But once in a while, have a beer and a hot dog at a ball game.  Intelligence is divine, but the simple things in life is the very stuff of life.

About shaunmiller

I have just completed a visiting position as an assistant professor at Dalhousie University. My ideas are not associated with my employer; they are expressions of my own thoughts and ideas. Some of them are just musings while others could be serious discussions that could turn into a bigger project. Besides philosophy, I enjoy martial arts (Kuk Sool Won), playing my violin, enjoying coffee around town, and experimenting with new food.
This entry was posted in Culture, Education, J. S. Mill, Respect. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Intelligence and Snobbery

  1. thekillerj says:

    Dude, I like this post. I catch myself doing the same thing sometimes, at least in my head. I’ve already made a concerted effort to change that about myself. I like to talk to people. When I come across somebody where the intellectual and/or academic playing field is in my favor, there’s already a perceived imbalance by both myself and the person. This happens at the place where I work, quite often. Sometimes just taking the time to get to know somebody you wouldn’t otherwise associate with helps this. Ask questions about their life. Show genuine interest, you’ll grow as well.

  2. Handsome Matt says:

    If we look back at education, it was to make everyone better at what they do. Somewhere along the way we lost sight of that, and started believing that doctors were innately better than factory workers.

    I know of a doctor who is fascinated with high tension linemen. He believes that the people who work on high tension lines save more lives then he does.

    I suppose the only people I don’t like, and might look down on, are those who are ignorant by choice. And I met more of them in college, strangely enough, than anywhere else.

  3. Pingback: What I’ve Learned this Past Year — 2010 Edition « Shaun Miller’s Weblog

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