Pseudo Intellectuals and Pretention


I have a pet peeve, and I think it’s me. Have you ever had a conversation with someone and been appalled by what you heard and then suddenly realized, “Oh, my God, I sound like that!” with the follow up thought, “shoot me now”? Is there a worse eye-opening moment to be had? My latest revelation occurred the other week while I was enjoying a little after work relaxing time over a few beers at a local outlet of a chain eatery slash bar.

Now we all know that I watch crap tv and read crap books, and we all know that I have an aversion to people who think themselves fine writers and/or thinkers because they have access to a thesaurus and cable news (i.e. endless adjectives and other people’s ideas). How many times have I hammered the whole “never end a sentence with a preposition” non-rule that people hold up as gospel while looking down their pointy noses at anyone who does end a sentence with a preposition? So many. So so many. And in doing so, I’m looking down my pointy (if somewhat regal) nose at those who are simply ill-informed.

So we’re sitting there at this chain eatery slash bar and chatting hilariously about a variety of marvelous topics, when all of a sudden, like a pulsing radioactive bolt out of the serene blue sky (who says we can’t all write badly if we want?), I hear (and I quote), “we don’t watch anything at our house but PBS and Masterpiece Theatre.” With that tone, emphasis on “we” and “our.” Replete with that simultaneous downwards and sidelong I think I smelled something off-putting look that such people get when they make these declarations. Silence. Shock. My mouth may have dropped open a bit as my brain ferreted around for an appropriate and not war-starting response.

But you know me, and no such luck on the not war starting thing. So I ask with all due respect about this person’s background. For surely we have here a graceful and elegant member of the upper classes, someone so refined as to . . . well, as to not be sitting in an eatery slash bar gulping down the draft beer special of the day. What to my wondering ears do appear (only not appear, because I heard it, but you know)? But eight tiny peeps and a gulp and an ummm, followed by an apologetic biography of a totally upstanding and respectable middle class family, which I really already knew since I work with this person in a decidedly non upper class work-a-day environment, was sitting in a chain eatery slash bar with them, and was quite certain that I’m neither a graceful nor elegant member of the upper classes.

So what’s with the wannabe Masterpiece Theater set? The set with college degrees from solid, if mid-tier, colleges who imagine (as Sammy does in Updike’s fabulous short story “A & P”) that the upper classes are milling around in black tie, munching on herring snacks, and catching up on last night’s airing of a Jane Austen novel made “real” by the folks who think manor houses, large gardens, and frilly dresses capture the interiority of a complex character-based novel? And that’s not to suggest (though I suppose it does) that I see nothing redeeming in MT’s fare, quite the opposite, they do lovely work. But if that’s all I ever watched, I’d be completely out of touch with reality, and might imagine that I, too, was above such common activities as watching network television. And I might not see the irony of my sitting in a (let’s face it) common chain eatery slash bar and making these declarations.

Advanced education has its drawbacks, and I think that one of them can be the false sense of superiority that it engenders in some people. Obviously, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be educated, of course we should, but part of that higher education might come with some humility and self-awareness. Reading (literally) thousands of books–many deemed bad or pulp, most “classic”–doesn’t really make me or anyone “better” than anyone else; it doesn’t make me a kinder, more compassionate person; it doesn’t make me altruistic or concerned about humanity. It just means that I spent a couple of decades sitting on my arse with this book or that in my hands. Wouldn’t change it, of course, but I’m not improving the world, and I’m not curing cancer nor am I fostering global harmony and peace on earth. Funny how the folks who are working towards these things seem so . . . what’s the term? down to earth? That’s not quite right, but something along the lines of not snooty and nasty, with a false and somewhat sad sense of superiority.

I’m a bit out of practice in writing these things, and I can’t find the “bang, boom, sizzle” ending that I want. Maybe you can supply it and attribute it to me.


And yes, any excuse to show a photo of the delicious Colin Firth.


9 thoughts on “Pseudo Intellectuals and Pretention

  1. As for me and my house . . we watch crap tv like Rock of Love II, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, The Girls Next Door, or any mouth gaping, non-educational or classy thing we can find with our remote in hand =P

  2. Guess what movie I just left to check my email and such? Yup. . .Pride & Prejudice. Only it is the newer version and, in my opinion, there is only one Mr. Darcy. :0)
    Well, you know me. I get my portion of junk TV. But it entertains me and sometimes that is all I have left at the end of the day.
    There is nothing worse than a wanna-be that delights in making people look small by puffing themselves up.
    BTW – I’m glad to see you back.

  3. When I arrived here I used to have one decent Japanese channel that I really enjoyed watching while having breakfast, before heading off to work. It lasted two weeks and then somebody somehow managed to eradicate it. Now Iยดm stuck with 45 crap Chinese channels. How does it go,again? When in Rome, one would like to watch some Japanese TV!!

  4. “Advanced education has its drawbacks, and I think that one of them can be the false sense of superiority that it engenders in some people” Well put Fuzzy! I certainly do have problems with people who use themselves as the standard for measuring other people – such pride and arrogance never ceases to amaze me.

  5. One would think (and perhaps that “one” is only me) that those who are higher educated (not saying highly educated, ‘cuz that makes them seem even more pretentious and holier-than-thou… I think I digressed) anyway, point being (finally!) that those attending college tend to run into quite a variety of folks from all walks of life, a melting pot. And in that higher education and rubbing elbows with all the “walks”, one would learn a sense of open-mindedness, tolerance and worldliness…. or so I would have thunk. Nowadays, folks with a college education are a dime a dozen, can’t seem to even get a job flipping burgers without one… so what makes people so uppity about being educated?

  6. Fuzzy, you should have told Mr. Crust that you’d love to sit and debate the finer aspects of MT, but you had to stop at the store on your way home for a 6 pack, some pork rinds, and a bottle of hot sauce, because “Lost” was coming on in an hour! (God, you’d find me dead of starvation before I’d eat a bag of pork rinds. The hot sauce wouldn’t be opened either!)
    Higher education is wonderful. It doesn’t always create well rounded individuals. Case in point, my oldest brother. He has a PHD, speaks about 7 different languages, and doesn’t know which end of a screw driver to use!

  7. Laurie, I LOVE watching Rock of Love; omg, those girls! Gah!! Why oh why does Bret not just hook up with Heather and be done with it? I can’t stand that blonde who lives with her ex; what is he thinking? Gotta get in the mouth gaping stuff, I say. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Right, Nancy, and it’s that balance that I think is needed by people. And right you are (again) about how nasty it is of people to puff themselves up to make others look and feel small only to make themselves feel better about themselves. Must not be much there to begin with, I say.

    LOL, Fanta, sorry you can’t watch your show; can you find it online? Hope so. Huggs to you always.

    Thanks, Mee! It’s good to be back, and I couldn’t agree more with your comment! ๐Ÿ™‚

    That’s so true, too, Wendy, about college degrees being a dime a dozen and anyone and everyone having one . . . that’s a whole other rant!! And a fave of mine, as you know. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Well, common vs. book sense is yet another blog, Michael; some of the finest brains in the world can be a bit idiot-savant-like in their keen focus on only one set of knowledge/area of expertise, and honestly, Ph.D.’s tend to be so narrow and focused that their holders tend to forget all the other stuff of life. Again, a whole other blog.

    You guys are so great! get me thinking, and I love that!!

  8. Speaking as someone with a very advanced education, I will personally attest to the fact that my sense of superiority is quite real.

    And so, it appears, is yours.

    After all, isn’t reverse snobbery, as Joseph Epstein puts it, “a wish to assert one’s superiority to snobbery generally”? And doesn’t reverse snobbery “[itself] seem suspiciously like a snobbish act”?

    The key to realizing a dream is to focus not on success but significance – and then even the small steps and little victories along your path will take on greater meaning. This is the philosophy I’ve tried to live up to for most of my life. No, that’s not true. I just lifted this from an Oprah quotations website not five minutes ago.

    Remember: No one can make you feel bad but yourself. And people who are better than you.

What say you?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s