May 26th, 2005


On speaking from experience


This may be too abrupt for clarity (and sound snarkier than I mean to), because I'm buried in the book right now. But two disparate thoughts collided and turned out to be about one thing. They are: 1. A well-meaning but ill-informed rant I read against "elitism," and 2. My wondering why I often get along better with people with whom I have the deepest possible philosophical disagreements, than I do with people who ought, theoretically, to be compatible. Anyway (taking out the personal element) it led me to a thought: a recognition of the most undeniable "elite class" of all...and the fact that so much of the world's current danger comes from failure to listen to this "elite." It should be obvious (but apparently isn't): the most important elite in the world is people who speak from experience.

Caveats. This isn't a right-left, liberal-conservative, Democrat-Republican thing: there are people with valuable experiences to share all over those misleading maps. Nor does experience make one infallible, obviously; and nobody can know all of even his or her own area of expertise, much less of everyone else's. Finally, it does happen (however rarely) that some genius shows up with little experience but real insights to share. Okay? Okay!

The distinction I'm drawing here is between people who have respect for (and some experience of) reality, and those who don't. And (just to be impolite for once) IMO the vast majority of opinions in the world (most especially in so privileged a country as this one) are held by people with neither. When such people end up with real-world power, we are well and truly boned.

So here's to those in the reality-based community: right, left, center, whatever, to whom we are all in debt. With such folks you can at least converse intelligently; so much of the rest is noise. :P

93 93/93 -- AJ

P.S. Larry Heinemann's C-SPAN appearance over the weekend also contributed to this post, thanks to its classic discussion of why soldiers in mortal danger do not, in fact, get loose bowels, Hollywood writers to the contrary (Heinemann is a Vietnam vet, and perfectly wonderful writer of many years' standing). I didn't serve, but I've been close enough to that sort of danger a time or two to know he's exactly right.