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The One Per Cent

Dreamed 2014/5/2 by Wayan

International banning sign over a gear-head. No intellectuals allowed! Dream sketch by Wayan.

A sociologist reports on a subgroup of England's rich and privileged. They literally embody the Occupy Movement's notion of the 1%; almost exactly 1% of the population, they feel superior, take their privileges for granted, and treat the 99% as lesser beings...

Nothing new in her portrait of economic elitism; no secret that the rich are arrogant. It's her analysis of brains that troubles me. This subculture isn't the top 1% intellectually, but really is smarter than average; and I can't help noticing two casual judgments about their giftedness by the sociologist--who is, herself, after all, in that other 1%, the Mensa minority:

  1. Most of her One Percenters inherited their comfortable places, but she assumes their superiority is always unjustified, that none are as clever as she is--and thus, none could possibly have earned their money by using their gifts constructively. Not one?
  2. She also writes as if bright 99 Percenters never have trouble balancing their elite interests with egalitarian ideals, that the bright fit right in--pretty much vanish--if you take money out of the picture. Egalitarianism is the simple truth, not needing any examination. Money alone makes her One Percenters look clever and polished; all nurture, no nature. As if intellects don't differ at all! Or if the bright are innately different, they're jes' folks plus brains on the side--like fries on the side.
    Now maybe some gifteds do fit in, but not all; and for the severely gifted (geniuses or prodigies), I know firsthand that she's wrong. We struggle to communicate even with the (intellectual) 1% and essentially can't communicate with the 99%. Ability and disability are equally isolating. The different--of any kind--face challenges. And denying the existence of a difference is crazy-making for the different.
What's the difference between her One Percent's sneers at the masses and her sneers at them for their pride?

Seems to me, you need to face your strengths, not just your weaknesses--for effective action, for sanity itself. Push egalitarianism too far, deny your brains, and you end up baffled why you can't fit in, can't communicate. "There must be something wrong with me..." Hello, isolation and depression. Or you try to dumb yourself down so you can pass: self-lobotomy. Good luck with not being yourself!

Realistic superiority corrects that; to cope with the gap, you have to admit it's real.

And I wake. All that was part of the dream.

A NOTE TWO YEARS LATER

I just read White Trash: A 400-Year History by Nancy Isenberg. My dream looks a lot like a critique of it--or rather, of Isenberg's treatment of two minority groups I'm in, autistics and prodigies.

Isenberg implies that innate mental or temperamental differences are just elitist propaganda verging on racism--that alcoholism, stupidity or giftedness CAN'T run in families, MUST be environmental. Better education will make us all Einsteins. In her zeal to show us White Trash are a minority vilified by the elite (true!) she comes close to declaring my smaller minorities fake, claiming we're myths invented by the elite (false!)

Isenberg carefully details the interaction between racism against Indians and Africans and the denigration of White Trash--she never denies racist oppression to strengthen her case that poor whites got a raw deal too. She deserves points for fairness.

But where I, born a freak, different from birth, have personal experience--she seems in denial. Either gifted geeks just got privileged educations, or if we are innately clever, we'll just form a clique and keep the masses down. In reality, much social, artistic & scientific progress and reform comes from the gifted, and a disproportionate amount from prodigies (of all races & social classes), often against elite resistance; many geniuses paid a heavy price for it. In Hereditary Genius, about the first book on intelligence as such (now decried as racist, along with nearly all research on the very concept of IQ) Francis Galton reported 15% of his geniuses saw jail time. Sound familiar, ghetto residents? Of course his stats were 19th Century. Intellectuals are safer now, what with the Stalinist purges, the Nazis, the witch-hunts, the Cultural Revolution, and the Khmer Rouge! Persecuting intellectuals is a pan-cultural sport. But denying their very existence as such... that seems new.

I'm used to neglect; even The Bell Curve had not one single page on prodigies, nor one on autism and its interactions with severe giftedness. But White Trash goes further than Bell Curve's mere neglect. When a study of one defamed minority calls my minority a propaganda tool, a LIE--I can't help reacting.

My dream looks a lot like a critique of this idea that innate differences don't exist--but it's not a reaction to White Trash. I dreamed it two years before reading the book.

Dreams can, I guess, whiff bad ideas floating in the wind.



LISTS AND LINKS: sociology - social class - giftedness & genius - autism & geeks - pride - individualism vs. conformity - rejection & outsiders - dream advice

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